Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Puzzle

We got this puzzle on Koninginnedag (the end of April) this year. Second-hand, of course, from the vrijmarkt (think of it like a city-wide yard sale). I don't really remember how much we paid for the puzzle -- not very much, I'm sure -- but it seemed like a nice little find. A 1000-piecer, with a painted image of the Dam, in central Amsterdam, as it would have been in the 1600s. For whatever reason, puzzles of Amsterdam are not very common...

I sorted through the puzzle pieces for a little while a few months ago -- you know, putting the edge pieces in one pile and the sky pieces in a different pile and so on and so forth... But really, the puzzle just sat on a shelf for half a year. That is, until my parents came to town (in the second week of November). Since my Mom likes to put together puzzles, and since a puzzle can be a good down-time diversion that offers an alternative to television and allows for casual conversation, we set up a card table in the living room and started working on the puzzle in earnest. Well... maybe not "in earnest." Maybe just a little bit here and there. But still, by the time my parents left (two weeks ago, now), we had basically passed the "point of no return" as we couldn't bear to simply scrap the work that had already been done (perhaps 10-15 percent of the total puzzle). So we kept the card table up in our living room and kept chipping away at the puzzle from time to time.

Marci pieced together all of the people on the plein... I built the paleis, in the left foreground of the picture... Over time, the picture slowly started to take shape. The chaos was ordered. The jaggedy surface was smoothed out. The holes were filled in. The confusing pieces (a person that actually turned out to be part of the building, or such) slipped into place, often in unexpected ways. The piles of pressed cardboard pieces became a piece of art.

By the time Marci left, a week ago, pretty much everything had been assembled except for the sky (it's always the sky, isn't it?). Unfortunately, a full quarter of the puzzle (if not a third of the puzzle) is composed of drab whitish-grayish-bluish sky (very true to the real skies of Amsterdam)... But I didn't want to give up on the puzzle. I didn't want the card table to stay up in my living room for another month, but I wasn't going to let a stupid puzzle beat me! So I kept chipping away at it. In between tending to the needs of the kids, or while I would be trying to think in the midst of my writing project, I would systematically work through pieces of the sky -- painstakingly bringing everything together. It was only this morning that I started to feel that the end was near.

But now I can say that I've done it! I finished the puzzle today... or at least I mostly finished the puzzle today.

The truth is that I came up one piece short. Our masterpiece is actually only 99.9% completed, and we will never be able to say that we completely conquered the puzzle. For being a second-hand puzzle, bought on Koninginnedag, for the price we paid for it, verification of 999 out of 1000 pieces actually isn't so bad... But the lack of completion still bothers me.

And if you've every worked on a puzzle yourself, I'm sure you know what I mean.


At 12:29 PM, Anonymous Linda said...

Way to go, Eric... that drab blueish, grayish sky had to have been challenging. I do feel your pain regarding the missing piece. It happened to me once during our traditional annual Christmas holiday puzzling time. As a matter of fact, because I wanted to mount this particular puzzle, I actually made a puzzle piece (via cardboard, colored pencils,...you get the idea) in order for the reward of completion.
From one puzzler to another...

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Stef said...

"Our masterpiece is actually only 99.9% completed..."

You write a blog about puzzles. I read an analogy for our incompleteness this side of Heaven.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

Both readings are correct. There was a literal puzzle, that literally came up with 1 out of 1000 pieces missing... But then of course, there are other parts of life that come up feeling the same way, too -- so the puzzle can be a good metaphor.


Post a Comment

<< Home