I have always loved jigsaw puzzles. My Mom and I would spend hours in the winter evenings putting together 1000’s of pieces, Mom always choose quite hard puzzles, large puzzles, fun puzzles, beautiful puzzles, interesting puzzles.
Puzzling was serious business and a little silly in our house. 100 teapots, a collection of cottages, an eagle flying high, a picnic…
If you ever saw us puzzle together you would laugh, like a well oiled machine we would begin the process, you see we had a system, we would dump out the pieces, then sort through every one of them turning them right side up and separating the straight edge pieces, the outside pieces from the others. Then together we would work on the frame.
I loved the sorting, not just finding the outside pieces but the separating colours, sky pieces, people pieces, reds, purples blues… finding the pieces with the line through, finding the all the cherry blossom pieces. It was therapeutic, rhythmic. Mom would put me on special missions. To find one piece out of 1500 that had a special green in it. “see like the one right here?” I loved that. I became good at it. I took pride in finding pieces that would add to whatever scene she was working on.
I graduated in my puzzling to do the “easy bits” the obvious pieces. I always “let” Mom do the sky and she always let me do the easier parts, the fun parts, the old church house or the kids at a picnic. She would do the “boring bits” but she loved it and was so good… seeing the shapes, the nuances of colours and shades that I could never see. It was a bonding time for us. Dad never got it, he’d scratch his head as he walked by mumbling “please would someone go for a walk with me?” Usually, his only participation was to swipe a piece at some point, which he would gleefully produce at the very end, laughing and putting in the last piece. We tolerated this, enjoyed it even.
I still puzzle, not as frequently as I’d like though. I did a couple this season, thought about how I love to do the sky now, how I do it first not last. How I have learned to not just look at the colour of the pieces but at the shapes, the shades…
Isn’t that so like life? One big puzzle, way easier once the frame is assembled, finding the purples, the hues the colours of your life and bringing them together. Assembling home pieces, career pieces, finance pieces, family pieces, the God pieces, trying to make sense of it all. Sometimes forcing pieces that just don’t fit. That we know don’t fit. Sometimes knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt when something does fit. Other times searching for pieces we cannot find.
The moments when we think, ahhhh here’s that piece, that’s what was missing. Going on little missions to find one piece, one special piece with the special green on it, so we can complete the picture. As we grow and learn realize we are not totally in control of our picture or all the pieces, how many pieces we put together, and understanding more deeply the shades and the nuances, the shapes beyond the obvious.
Some puzzlers will glue their finished work together and frame the finished puzzle as a tribute the labour and love that has gone into the piece. Others, like my Mom and I will take it all apart and put it in a box for another night another time. Some puzzles have become old friends, we have put together over and over, knowing their shapes, the colours so well.
I like both options, and feel life is a little like that. Sometimes picture perfect. Sometimes all pulled apart. Some completed pictures of days gone by on the wall for all to see, never changing, other put back in boxes for another time when perhaps the pieces can be dumped out and put back together again.
Often times like a good book, it feels a little sad to put in the last piece, brief satisfaction then back in the box, onto another puzzle, another theme, another aspect of this life which seems a dream. The dream that ends when the puzzle is in fact complete. For after all in this big puzzle called life once that last piece goes in there is no going back in the box. Glued together forever, boring bits, easy bits, colourful bits and all.