Photo courtesy of the auther.

I remember as a child assembling large rounded pieces of cardboard into pictures of animals.  I think they were exotic African animals.  Little did I know that I was being introduced to jigsaw puzzles!  (Apparently the Jigsaw puzzle was invented in 1760 by a cartographer and engraver, John Spilsbury, to teach geography!  Doing puzzles became a popular activity in the 1800’s.)

My next more extensive experience of  jigsaw puzzles was during my years at Campion College at the University of Regina.   One day Nancy, our librarian, put a 1000 piece puzzle on the table in the third floor staff room.  At different times of the day, lunch time especially, there was activity around the table.  In a couple weeks or so, it was completed.  Then another puzzle would appear!  I enjoyed joining those puzzlers.

During this past COVID winter, Oliver, our Jesuit regent,  plopped a 1000 piece puzzle of “Sugar Shack”, a beautiful Trefl Puzzle of Miyuki Tamobe, on a table in the dining room.  It caught the whole community’s attention and time.  It was completed with a celebration of the placing of the last piece.

But that was not the end! I now think that I may be turning into a Dissectologist, or at least an amateur one.  (There is a world wide club for those who enjoy jigsaw puzzles–  BCD an acronym for Benevolent Confraternity of Dissectologists– and there are puzzles that range in size from 500 to 40,000 piece.)

Oliver, our Jesuit regent, must take responsibility for my current ‘condition’.  To date the following 1000 piece puzzles also have been completed (mostly by me!): a Cobble Hill puzzle, published in Poland,  Barbara Behr’s ‘Fruit and Futterflies”; from the Eurographic Fine Art Collection, William Morris’ ‘Tree of Life Tapestry’; from Eurographic Seed Catalogue Collection (Smithsonian) both the ‘Flowers’ and the ‘Vegetables’.

Currently on the table is the sixth puzzle called ‘Roses’.  The plan is to acquire yet a seventh puzzle for the summer, the fourth of this collection called ‘Fruits’!

And so I ask myself, what’s with my sudden interest in puzzling?   Is it because of our year long COVID experience?  Is it because I am in my ‘elder’ years?   ‘Experts’ say that doing jigsaw puzzles sharpens the brain by utilizing both the left brain (logical) and right brain (creative), and that puzzling puts the brain in a kind of meditative state.

They also suggest that it improves hand-eye coordination, increases problem solving skills, besides improving visual perceptive skills.  I am glad they claim that puzzlers are less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimers.

I don’t know whether these arguments for the benefits of being a Dissectologist are true. I just know that doing puzzles is pleasant.

As a diehard introvert, to settle down for twenty minutes to an hour periodically, quietly sorting the 1000 pieces of the puzzle into piles of colours, designs, borders, shapes, patterns, and then, studying the picture on the box, to put them into their pleasant order, is just a simple relaxing pleasure.

Frank Obrigewitsch, SJ, is pastor of St. Ignatius parish in Winnipeg.

  • Susan Mary Garbett-Snidal
    Posted at 01:30h, 01 October Reply

    I have just rediscovered my interest in jigsaw puzzles! I purchase my first one in years and am looking forward to starting. I am happy to hear that my hobby may have some benefits, beyond just enjoyment–although that alone would be fine. As right now is a very challenging time in my life, I anticipate the meditative, or at least the distracting aspect very much. Thank you very much for this uplifting post!! I enjoy being one of your parishoners!

  • Donna Zeolla
    Posted at 06:39h, 01 October Reply

    Fr. Frank, I loved this essay. Often I read Ignatian, am touched by the ideas and so often they are yours.

  • Robert Czerny
    Posted at 07:37h, 01 October Reply

    To add to the challenge of a jigsaw puzzle, do it without looking at the picture on the box. A friend introduced me to this special form of torture (and he’s still a friend).

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 08:26h, 01 October Reply

    Thank you Frank!

  • Enid Robins
    Posted at 11:30h, 01 October Reply

    Me too! Love them…

  • Viola Athaide
    Posted at 11:50h, 01 October Reply

    It’s a thrill doing a jigsaw puzzle. On occasion, a completed puzzle like the Taj Mahal has been glued to cardboard, and framed for all to see in our home. Happy to know that there are others who enjoy jigsaw puzzles.

  • Frances Cheung
    Posted at 13:43h, 01 October Reply

    “… just a simple relaxing pleasure” – that’s just how I felt. Thank you Fr. Frank.

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