On March 13th, 2020, the last day before the country locked down for the pandemic, I completed an epic “quadtych” wooden jigsaw puzzle — Artifact Puzzle’s Chinatown Quadtych with artwork by Rachell Sumpter. I have gotten back into puzzling in the last few years after a long dry spell. I really enjoyed puzzles in my younger days, before I had kids, pets, and a demanding job, and then I drifted away for other hobbies like photography.
I remember in college I spent a month in Baltimore with my Dad and stepmother during winter break, and they dragged out a box of Victorian wooden jigsaw puzzles that my great-uncle had collected. My then-boyfriend and I spent the month doing them, and they were devilish! The pieces didn’t interlock but rather just nestled up to one another, and every time one of us inadvertently jostled the rickety card table we would curse heartily, and then have to start all over again. (Plus, there were no pictures on the cardboard boxes — so one box, titled “Good Old Frick” turned out to be a long-horned cow standing in a field.)
To some, doing jigsaw puzzles may seem a little nerdy, but the pandemic has made puzzling — like making sourdough bread — cool and trendy. An article in Psychology Today explains the allure of jigsaw puzzles during challenging times:
“In times of emotional uncertainty, it is amazingly therapeutic to be able to work something out outside of ourselves and watch the pieces come together before our eyes. In a funny and quite literal way, puzzles remind us that even though things can be jumbled, by focusing on small areas, we can bring them back together again. They provide hope and optimism at a time when life feels fragmented, confusing, and uncertain.”
And so, I have spent the pandemic doing puzzles — I prefer the wooden ones because they go together in a very different way than regular puzzles. You don’t necessarily start with the edges, they have whimsically-shaped pieces, and the artwork is amazing. I like to listen to podcasts or audiobooks while I puzzle, and the combination is extremely meditative. Luckily, my husband prefers crossword puzzles, so we have happily co-existed during lock-down with no need to get competitive.
Early on in the pandemic, my fellow puzzle addicts and I exchanged puzzles, leaving bags on each others’ front steps or porches. A neighbor did some pandemic cleaning and purging, and gave me a huge bunch of puzzles that I stashed in the trunk of my car. I called everyone I knew to stop by and grab a puzzle or two. I felt like a puzzle dealer!
We started a collection of circulating puzzles at my library a few years ago, and they have been incredibly popular with our patrons. Even during curbside when they can’t browse the collection in person, we’ve set up a system where they can request them and pick them up on the curbside table.
To ensure that I’ll never run out of puzzles to do, I even joined a puzzle club — they send a shipment of wooden puzzles every few weeks, and when I’m done I send them along to the next person. Such a great idea!
I feel blessed to have been able to do the things that provide relief from the pandemic, the news, and the weather — walking, reading, photography, cooking, and of course, puzzling.
Until next time.