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Puzzles

My wife gave me a puzzle at Christmas. It has 750 pieces. I can’t remember the last time I set out to construct a puzzle at all, much less one with that many pieces. My 88 year-old mother works puzzles but she prefers the 60 piece versions. She doesn’t like the ones with animals. And by the way, if you want to know what mom likes, uh, just ask her.

The picture, cut into all these tiny bits, is a view of the New York City skyline with the Brooklyn Bridge as the focal point. It’s obviously an old view, one that includes the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It’s always a little eerie to see the towers in a picture or movie or television show. But there they are in the picture on the outside of the box. It’s eerie, but I kind of like seeing ‘em. Lots of “re” there. Reminders, remembrance, recovery, resolve.

I’ve had a mild fascination with the Brooklyn Bridge since I read the incredible account of its construction by historian, David McCullough. I’ve read almost everything he’s written – books on the Johnstown Flood, the building of the Panama Canal, Harry Truman, etc. I read “Truman” during an extended recovery period after surgery in 2009. It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 pages and I don’t think I skipped a single one.

The story of the building of the Great Bridge was amazing and I highly recommend it. At the time it was built, there was no structure in New York City or Brooklyn as high as the two towers that still stand on each end of the bridge. The combination of vision, ambition, science and business that brought this marvel of engineering into being is awesome in the truest sense of that overused term.

So, last fall, when we were getting the itch to visit NYC again, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge was on the list of things to do. We took the subway to Brooklyn on a cloudy Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and took the long stroll across. It was spectacular.

That, to some degree, gives reason to why she gave me this particular puzzle. Again, it’s been a while since I did one of these things.

So, we upset the everything-always-in-the-right-place equilibrium of our house, cleared off the dining room table and emptied the box.

I took my time putting it together. At times, I would look at the sections where progress was being made, then at the scattering of homeless pieces and think, “Man, there have to be some pieces missing.” We got the border done first, but even that seemed to present a problem. The border pieces are flat on the bottom or top as the case may be, right? Well, about eight pieces that fit together at the bottom did not lock into place in the only place they could possibly go!

I guess I’ve spent so much time in church over the course of my lifetime that most everything “preaches” to me.

Here’s the deal.

There are some puzzle pieces that look like they fit. Heck, they actually do work . . . sort of – they sort of fit. The problem is, as all the other pieces find their places, the ones that sort of fit mess everything up.

They look ok until you get in there (in my case, with a good pair of glasses!!) and check it all out. Then you can see a tiny discrepancy and you realize the piece is in the wrong place.

Is there a perfect way for everything to go, or when we get a little off track and make some mistakes or impulsive choices that can never be made right, does God, then, set us on a good path again, just different from the first path?

I don’t know. I just know the big picture will be right if we make sure all the little pieces along the way fit into the right places. The big pic won’t be obvious until all the little pieces find the right fit.

One of the hardest things for me is to take care of what’s right in front of me. I have the punishing tendency to play the life-tapes too far back, relive some painful episode, then relive it again and again. Or roll too far forward into the undone, the not yet, the maybe it will happen or maybe it won’t, the what if?

Last summer I played golf with my two sons, Neal and Adam. For a lot of reasons, it had been a long time since we’d done anything like that . . . just the three of us. We met at the golf course early to hit a few balls before our tee time. At that hour, the driving range looked right into the rising sun. I hit a few shots, tried to follow the flight of the ball then closed my eyes rather than look right into the sun. I started to concentrate on what was happening at my feet – right in front of me. When I was able to see a few shots land, I realized I was hitting the ball pure and crisp. I couldn’t (never could and still can’t) do anything about what happened to the golf ball after it left the clubface. All I could do was concentrate on the constants, the things that were in my control, the one thing that was right in front of me. The results were good and for the whole round, I played a few shots over my head and put up a pretty good score.

So the one-piece-at-a-time thing just might work pretty well in a ton of applications.

And in the end, the picture just might be a work of art.

Wayne Watson
January 2012