Saturday, October 4, 2014

How Puzzling!

I’m glad to say it’s been a busy week editing, without much time for either reading or writing. On this Sunday afternoon I have time to take a breather and reflect upon... jigsaw puzzles.

This is a love from my childhood and teenage years that has extended into adulthood. There was a hiatus in there of perhaps twenty years during which I kicked the habit, but I have fallen off the wagon in recent months. It all began last year when I visited my daughter in Melbourne and she had a puzzle on the go. This was followed up by a Christmas present or two that were—you guessed it—jigsaw puzzles. Since then they have appeared from time to time as gifts, or I have indulged myself. There was a time when I would embark upon a three-thousand piecer, but these days (partly due to space requirements) I have to be content with one thousand pieces. It’s a nice size in terms of both time and space.

So what is the attraction?

As with many things, it is initially the challenge. I’m not so keen on the challenge that I would like to reconstitute a polar bear in a blizzard. It’s always more fun when I there are features on the pieces that can help locate its position, in addition to its shape. There is the final satisfaction when the puzzle is complete; and many minor satisfactions (about 1000 of them) when each piece finds its place.

I find the process strangely meditative. My mind can wonder far and wide while a part of it becomes attuned to shapes and colours. It can also become a little obsessive: just one more piece! There were many times in my teens, particularly during the school holidays, when I would be up until three or four in the morning, searching for that ‘one more’ piece.

I do have some system when I do a puzzle. I have to start with the edges. I could spout some ‘philosophy’ at this point about the value of working within a framework. But I won’t. If there are large patches of sky or some other fairly uniform colour, I like to do these early on, to get them out of the way. I like to leave the more interesting features to last. I would find it a little tedious if I had to finish with a boring, uniform feature. I’m sure there is a philosophy here, too, and that some people will find intriguing clues to my personality.

Aside from these systematic elements, my approach to the puzzle tends to be multi-faceted. Sometimes I will look for a piece to fill a space. Sometimes I will look for the space a piece fills. Sometimes colour is the key; other times it is shape. Whatever works best and is most appropriate at the time.

I am not now going to wax lyrical, in a Forrest-Gump-ish fashion, about life bein’ like a jigsaw puzzle... It probably is and it probably isn’t. Personally I think life is much more like an artichoke.

Feel free to philosophise or analyse my personality if you wish. Right now I have some pieces just begging to be put into place.


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