“Norwich, Vermont” is the name of the jigsaw puzzle my mom and I spent much of two days putting together this past July 4th at a cabin in Blue Ridge, Georgia.
The cabin is the one that several friends and I have co-owned for over 10 years now, and this isn’t the first or the last puzzle to be assembled on a table out on the front deck with the lovely view of the north Georgia mountains in the distance.
I think I gave my mom this particular puzzle last Christmas, and we had stashed it away at the cabin for just the kind of getaway we (and two of my sisters) enjoyed over July 4th. The breeze blowing off nearby Lake Blue Ridge was lovely, and except for preparing and enjoying a mid-day meal at the other end of the deck, there were few interuptions to my and my mom’s collabortive puzzle-assembling labors other than sporatic birdcalls and the occasional rogue firecracker.
At some point during our putting together this puzzle, it dawned upon me that puzzle-assembly has the same effect as sitting down and sketching a scene does. Both of these activities slow down your brain enough to the point that you begin to notice the staggering amount of data contained in a chosen-to-be gazed-upon landscape. With drawing and with puzzle-assembly, a given scene’s incredibly wide array of colors, textures, and details reveal themselves in a way that is radically different from what can be taken in with, say, a quick glance from a moving car – which is the way most of us see most landscapes (and was, incidentally, the way I saw Norwich, Vermont when I once actually traveled through it).
I spend a good deal of time when I’m at the cabin lounging in a hammock and staring up through the trees at the sky (or, more likely, nodding off for yet another nap). And, as everywhere and always, I spend a lot my time at the cabin immersed in a book. This past weekend, however, I realized that puzzle-assembly can be just as relaxing as reading or napping, and doing that with someone else is certainly less of a solitary way to merge oneself with the present moment.
I turned 63 on the 4th and my mom turned 84 late last month, and we both feel lucky that our eyesight is still good enough to pore over jigsaw puzzles for hours at a time. I look forward to working more puzzles as a pleasant way of spending a bit more time with each other, and I also hereby resolve to try to train myself to look at things more…thoroughly, like putting together a landscape puzzle forces you to do.