I started doing jigsaw puzzles during the shut-down period of COVID. I hadn’t done them much before then, and hadn’t stuck with the pastime since re-engaging with the world outside my house. Yet on vacation in quiet upstate New York, I rediscovered what I enjoy about puzzles and have started a new one back at home.

One thing I enjoy is the collaboration of doing a puzzle as a joint effort. In New York, it was my husband and I working on the puzzle as others were cooking or watching a show or doing whatever they were doing. He putting in a piece here, me putting in a piece there, my mom fitting one into place now and then when she stopped to study the puzzle with us for a minute. I like the shared experience. The come-and-go of it. The unpressured attainment of a goal that is not grasped at but arrived at in no particular time frame.

Which brings me to the glorious feeling of accomplishment. When doing a puzzle, you get this small sense of accomplishment happening over and over again, each time you fit the right piece into the correct spot. On top of that, my mom has bought us these beautiful Liberty Puzzles that are made of thick wooden pieces that slide together in a deeply satisfying way. It literally feels good when you slip them into the right space. Then the grand finale, when that last piece completes the puzzle. Ahh! The culmination of the incremental steps into the final achievement.

This puzzle also made me aware of how much our experience is a matter of perspective. I was certain this piece was a ladder, but it was in fact a dock. I am certain this piece is grass, but it is a green house. I think this is how to look at the piece, but it is upside down. I love the lesson that we can be utterly sure of something and also be completely wrong. How important it is to stay open to reinterpretation as we gain more information. Stay willing to rotate a piece to see it from another angle. How satisfying it can be to be wrong about something and find a new answer that actually fits. Where our certainty did not fit. Where the attachment to flawed knowledge only prevents us from reaching our goals.

And then there’s this…puzzles are a great way for a halfhearted football fan to spend Sundays with their family while they cheer and bemoan their teams and fantasy players.