Thursday, December 24, 2020

Finding the Pieces

And so, my first Winter Vacation in over 40 years where I don’t go from the 150 miles an hour of the Winter School Festivities to the lazy 20 mph ramble through the countryside of vacation. Nevertheless, the extended family time (all Covid-tested and approved, of course) in a vacation home grabbed just before the further restrictions, indeed feels like a change in routine. And the pool and hot tub certainly help make it feel like vacation!


Amidst the long-list of relaxed-scheduled activities was the family hovering around the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle we had gifted our daughter Talia on her recent birthday. How fun was that? A lot, especially that satisfying moment of putting in the last 10 pieces. 


I already have my routine of Solitaire and Acrostics, pointless, but mind-sharpening and meditative activities that nurture our linguistic and mathematical intelligences. Now thinking I could easily add jigsaw puzzles, the feeding of the visual-spatial intelligence and exercise in a different part of the brain. 


And naturally, my metaphoric mind makes yet more connections. The image that accompanies us at birth—our innate genius, our daimon twin, our Soul’s template, call it what you will— is scattered into a thousand pieces when we’re born and we spend the rest of our lives trying to re-assemble the pieces and figure out precisely where and how they fit in the big picture. Minus the box cover to give us hints (though perhaps such images appearing in our dreams, both the night and day varieties). Every experience offers the possibility of seeing whether this piece fits with that piece and some innate sense of what feels right, what shapes, images, colors clearly belong together and the good sense to put those that don’t fit aside, waiting for their eventual place. For all of them— the successes and failures, the intimacies and betrayals, the people we think we like and the people we think we don’t—all have their necessary place in the puzzle. 


As good an image as any and of course, when putting a puzzle together, one thinks nothing about any of this, obsessed as you become by simply finding the next piece. But at the end of the 4-nights of intermittent activity, I did wonder who first had the idea of the jigsaw puzzle and whether it really was made with a jigsaw (the answer to that one was “no.”). Naturally, Google and Wiki were there to scratch my curious itch. Looks like it was John Spilsbury, a London cartographer and engraver, who produced the first commercial versions made from wood around 1760. From wood to cardboard and by the 1900’s, such puzzles became a common pastime.


And then come the astounding records:


Largest Number of Pieces Commercial Puzzle:Produced by Czech company MartinPuzzle and contains 52,110 pieces showing a collage of animals.


Largest Number of Pieces Puzzle: The jigsaw with the greatest number of pieces had 551,232 pieces and measured 14.85 × 23.20 m (48 ft 8.64 in × 76 ft 1.38 in). It was assembled on 25 September 2011 at Phú Tho Indoor Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by students from the University of Economics. 


Largest Puzzle in Size: The world's largest-sized jigsaw puzzle measured 5,428.8 m2 (58,435 sq ft) with 21,600 pieces, each measuring a Guinness World Records maximum size of 50 cm by 50 cm. It was assembled on 3 November 2002 by 777 people at the former Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong. 

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