Monday, October 13, 2008


I've never much been one for puzzles. Boring, besides being a waste of time. Well, I left all of my games back in NY and Judith only has a few intense ones. So when her sister Nat came over for dinner we pulled out her puzzle globe of the world. Aha! A chance to show off my geographic smarts! if there were a puzzle I'd actually be willing to do, this would be it.
We spent the better part of a few hours working away on this puzzle. Nat claimed Europe and I seemingly claimed the rest of the world. Judith pooled together pieces of Russia and China, systematically dividing up things that seemed to go together. We had a great time and by the end of the evening we had the seven continents put together as well as good sections of Indonesia and the various islands of Oceania.
Good enough for me, I figured. Impossible to figure out the oceans anyways. I looked at what we'd done and took note of how large the waters were and how little land there seemed to be.
We put aside the puzzle with plans to finish it another day.
I came back to is a few times, filling in borders, figuring out the pieces that were a little more obvious.
Last night James came over for dinner. After a yummy banoffee pie we all settled down to work on the puzzle again. By this time there were only blue pieces seemingly with no significant markings to tell them apart one from another. Some parts seemed to be most definitely missing--a part of the puzzle that clearly had words on it and no puzzle pieces remaining with words! Judith seemed excited and suggested that we put pieces together based on trade routes and longitudinal lines. I found myself feeling frustrated and annoyed--enough already. This part is so boring and I don't even think it is possible to do without looking at the numbers on the back. However, to avoid being unsocial I worked away at it with them, grumbling only ever so often.
We got quite far, and this morning I felt the overwhelming urge to finish it. As I looked at the seemingly indiscriminate pieces I became more convinced that many pieces were missing and that the puzzle was incompletable without them.
I would take the ocean pieces and try to match them up with trade routes. A few had dark blue dash line on them--signifying one of the tropics. But I would go to the few sections where the tropics weren't filled in and find that my pieces, the ones that obviously went there, didn't fit.
I was discovering, in wonder, that even though I knew where certain pieces went, they wouldn't fit. They couldn't fit until I found another piece that bordered them. Or, that pieces which obviously DIDN'T fit, once another bordering piece was placed, in fact did fit, and perfectly. Soon my excitement at placing all of these little details and moving them around until I could see where they belonged felt more rewarding even than fitting the pieces together in the beginning that felt obvious to me but were a result of my love for world cultures (the stans? the countries of Central Africa?).
It is easy and sometimes fun to figure out our lives based on past experience. Oh of COURSE I know where that piece goes, I recognize the nin as being part of the name Benin. It feels good to know that the things we have learned are still in there somewhere.
It is through these learned experiences that we build the foundation of our lives. The basis of the puzzle. From there, we start exploring. And we may find it boring or frustrating. "I have no frame of reference for this! I don't know what or where this is and I have no way of figuring it out!" "This absolutely MUST fit here, but it doesn't! This makes no sense!" "Obviously pieces have been lost, there is no way to complete this puzzle." But if we keep at it we find ourselves surprised and even at moments filled with wonder when things in fact do fit together but in ways we never would have expected. THere is the joy in those moments when a bordering piece has been figured out and you can finally place that section that you KNEW fit there, even if you couldn't figure out how.
And when you actually put it all together, and step back and look at your creation, you are amazed at the process and the outcome. Yes, everything DOES fit together, even more ingeniously than the obvious ways you would have tried to fit them together. All in the right order and in the right place.


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