“I just built a bird!”
“Hey, I just built another one bird!”
Between late Christmas morning 2020 and the evening of January 4, 2021, a 10-day period during which a Christmas gift to my wife Susan – a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – was laying on a tall, low coffee table in our living room, I heard this phrase – “I just built a bird!” – about 50 times.
What can I say ? Suzanne likes birds.
And she love puzzles.
Hey, I’m not complaining.
Susan’s happy, triumphant and slightly silly way of declaring her little moments of victory made it clear that she had a very good time. Which, let’s face it, is the whole point of puzzles. To have a good time. Getting away from the world and creating something beautiful out of a bunch of broken pieces. To move step by step towards what promises to reward us with a small but satisfying sense of accomplishment. Starting and then finishing something that, if not particularly difficult, requires at least a high degree of focus and determination, and is usually best enjoyed as a joint project.
And yes, although Susan built the majority of the birds in the puzzle, I certainly “helped”, and given that the whole world began to feel as if it was teetering on the brink of epic ruin and disaster, a bit of focused fun and friendly (if slightly competitive) puzzle building proved to be the perfect solution to give both of us some positive (even needed) mental distraction.
Building birds, it seems, is very good therapy.
And yes, a good time too. What my grandmother might have called a “simple pleasure”. The COVID quarantines have certainly increased the value of simple pleasures. In an article last May in AARP magazine, it was reported that during the first months of the pandemic, sales of puzzles increased 370% over the previous year. During a recent exploration of the puzzle tables at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, bookseller Ross Lockhart confirmed that sales of puzzles, especially during the holidays, have been the strongest in years.
Our household certainly proves the point.
Indeed, combined with another one intricate puzzle our family tackled just around Thanksgiving – “Shakespeare’s World” – I believe helping Susan with these consecutive puzzles will live long as one of my all time favorite puzzle building memories.
For the record, the bird puzzle in question – titled “Rainbow of Birds” – featured exactly 54 feathered creatures of various species, each in its own cozy camera cube. Together they occupied a large 26-5/8 inch x 19-1/4 inch rectangle that was nine nest boxes wide and six nest boxes deep. A quick bit of math suggests that 54 birds built from 1,000 puzzle pieces means 18.5 puzzle pieces per bird.
This, I must say, was not an easy puzzle.
It was a surprise, actually.
After the aforementioned Shakespeare-themed puzzle, I didn’t think any puzzle product might prove as difficult, otherwise Following so, that one. Produced by the UK’s Lawrence King Jr. Productions, ‘The World of Shakespeare’ is Bard’s London’s vividly painted portrayal of Adam Simpson, but with a fantastical twist. It combines delightfully historic details – the Globe Theatre, gentlemen in pumpkin slacks and ladies in dresses, the looming Tower of London, several heads on pikes, random piles of freshly fallen horse droppings – with characters colors from Shakespeare’s plays. Romeo shouts poetry to Juliet. Toga-clad conspirators stab Caesar in a garden. The fairies frolic suggestively in a forest. Kate, in a small boat on the Thames, artfully debates a pompous Petruchio, also in a small boat on the Thames.
There is a parcel go through this puzzle.
“I found a severed head!” Susan would say, after identifying a particularly elusive puzzle piece, countered by my equally exultant exclamation, “I found Bottom’s donkey head!”
Turns out I was wrong. The room I had found was just a commonplace horses to manage. Susanna is the one who finally found the donkey’s head.
Did I mention that Susan is really good at puzzles?
She really is.
Susan grew up with puzzles as a sort of family holiday ritual. When we first got married, we were going to his mother’s house for Christmas, and sure enough, there was a card table in the living room with a half-built puzzle on it. It’s like the old saying, “A family that builds puzzles together probably all have a high IQ” Did I mention my wife is smart? She is very clever. She is good at recognizing shapes and patterns. She’s one of the few people I know who, if you show them a picture of a movie star’s nose, can probably tell you what celebrity it belongs to.