Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘jigsaw puzzling

Everything Fatigue

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I can totally relate to the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine suffering metal fatigue last weekend. I’m feeling a bit of everything fatigue lately, although, I do my best to avoid raining debris all over people around me, unlike that airplane in Denver Saturday.

I’m clinging to my thread of sanity with a weary, wavering grip. There is a climate calamity unraveling right in front of our eyes that appears to deserve a lot more change to our ways of life than the slow-responding societies around the globe are revealing any willingness to undertake. Communities are burning, flooding, freezing, suffering drought, or reaching intolerably high temperatures –sometimes experiencing an unlikely combination of the extremes– but I still climb in my gas-powered car and drive an hour to work like always.

It just feels wrong.

It also feels dangerous. Yesterday morning, I had a close encounter that used up some of my limited luck on avoiding a collision on the interstate. I commonly operate in cruise control mode with my car holding the speed and distance related to the vehicle in front of me. A business panel van passed me on the left and then slowed down entering a curve in the highway. My car maintained the cruise speed and caught right up beside the van in the turn as it slowed, at which point he decided to move into my lane.

I hit the brakes and swerved as little as possible, having no time to look to the lane to my right for clearance. My lunch tote on the front seat instantly relocated to the floor below.

It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to honk my horn to alert the other driver to my position. I suspect the assumption was that I had been passed and was no longer a concern. It wouldn’t surprise me if the other driver wasn’t even aware of having slowed at the curve.

The event provided me an unwelcome shot of adrenaline and triggered visions of a fate I flirt with two times a day, four days a week. Haunted by a belief that anything can go dangerously wrong at any time when commuting in traffic, I’m feeling the fatigue of having tolerated the risks of this trip for too many years.

I’m fatigued with the pandemic, its death toll, and everything related to coping with the ever-present threat of spreading the virus.

I’m even growing fatigued with our latest jigsaw puzzle. We picked one with way too much solid black background that is cut entirely of one primary classic puzzle piece shape: four arms, a knob on each end, two cutouts on each side. The only variation is the size and shape of each of those features.

It is very possible I will give myself permission to give up before placing every piece. That just depends on whether searching for the barely perceptible features of each completely black piece distracts me from the other angsts nibbling at me and releases the blessed endorphins when I stumble upon ones that fit.

Endorphins do wonders for fatigue.

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Project Endorphins

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During the winter, I like to assemble jigsaw puzzles. With the pandemic forcing us to stay home, I have more opportunities to puzzle. Now that Cyndie has developed a new interest in puzzling, I am all the more enticed to feed the passion.

But I am torn. I have another project that is competing for my attention at the same time. I’ve started another wood sculpture out of a section of one of our ash trees that was cut down last year.

Last night, it occurred to me that working on shaping the wood gives me the same mental rewards as putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It’s tactile. It involves transforming something into a visually appealing end result.

If you have seen the Pixar/Disney computer-animated comedy-drama film, “Soul,” you will understand the euphoric trance of being “in the zone” of our passions.

Working to shape the wood with rough grit sandpaper, I felt the familiar euphoria of pleasing progress that was just like the reward I get from puzzling.

It’s also a lot like devouring a good book. You don’t want to put it down. You are willing to sacrifice sleep to continue progress. When you are away from [the book/puzzle/sculpting], all you want is to get back to it as soon as possible.

You want more of those project endorphins.

I want more of those project endorphins. Who has time to eat? How am I supposed to go to work?

I want more time to be in that euphoric zone.

For both projects.

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Written by johnwhays

February 2, 2021 at 7:00 am

New Puzzle

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The urge has been rekindled in a big way lately. Jigsaw puzzling has become a daily craving once more. Much to both our surprise, Cyndie has picked up the bug as much as I and for the first time in all our years together, we are sharing the joys of assembling the scattered pieces.

I recently received a hot tip on another chicken puzzle, this one by the Cobble Hill Puzzle Company.

With an all-white border, we are again foregoing the usual norm of completing all the edges before moving on to other details. I’m finding it wonderfully liberating.

An anonymous quote included among the many on the puzzle:

“A true friend is someone who thinks you are a good egg, even when you are slightly cracked.”

Yeah. Like that.

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Written by johnwhays

January 19, 2021 at 7:00 am

Isolated Festively

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Over a holiday weekend that historically would have us venturing sixty-some miles to the west three times in two days to mingle and nosh with Cyndie’s relations, the Christmas of 2020 in all its pandemic isolation reduced our travels to one time to exchange gifts at her mom’s house. Distanced, masked, and without risking a shared meal, our children met us at Marie’s house in Edina on Christmas eve day for the briefest of gift exchanges.

Little did we realize before setting out in the moments after our township road had finally been plowed around 11:00 a.m., we were in for some of the riskiest driving we’d experienced in recent memory. From local roads to the interstate highways, the surface was frozen and slippery. Almost every mile, sometimes more frequently, we spotted vehicles buried in the ditch.

Approaching a speed that would require the use of brakes in order to slow down was taking chances that threatened an unwelcome hell of post-storm autobody appointments, not to mention bumps and bruises, or worse.

Every overhead message board flashed warnings of crash delays ahead. As we waited in one backup, a full-size fire engine forced its way ahead and crossed all lanes to block the two left-most. We crawled ahead to where the sight of a big rig was perched on the cement barrier dividing east and westbound traffic, front tires high off the ground.

Later, another backup wrapped around a helpless pickup in a center lane, lacking enough traction to make any progress up the slight incline.

Cyndie’s expertly cautious driving got us there and back without incident.

Back home with presents in hand, we settled in for three days of isolation that Cyndie masterfully enhanced with wonderfully festive meals and activities, while simultaneously continuing to practice post-surgery regiments for her knee.

We ate like royalty and dined on some of her family holiday classics. Beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, marinated carrots, out-of-this-world skin-on mashed red potatoes, and dessert of unparalleled greatness, cranberry cake with butter-caramel sauce.

We sat around the fireplace and worked on a new jigsaw puzzle from Marie that depicted chickens that looked just like ours. Cyndie poured herself into new books and I spent renewed time in my world-wide online community, catching up on reading and writing there.

A text-chain of family members helped us to stay connected, but there was no getting around the fact we were home alone together at one of the most family-gathering times of the year.

Somehow, maybe due to an urge to make it feel anything but just another day at home, Cyndie took interest in assembling the jigsaw puzzle with me, something in which she usually finds no pleasure. I chose to match her change in routine by deciding to skip building the outer border first, a step that moved me entirely out of my otherwise rigid norm.

We had a blast with the task, each finding great pleasure in the shared experience.

Quite simply, it helped to make the entire weekend feel downright festive, isolation be damned.

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See It?

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Alright, you jigsaw puzzlers… can you see what happened to me here? (You may need to click on the images to get a better view.)

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As I made progress on the lower right corner, it became increasingly obvious that something was wrong. Certain pieces weren’t meshing properly, despite the majority of obviously matched pieces in the immediate vicinity and beyond. I can understand having one piece occasionally placed incorrectly, but this implied there had to be many pieces wrongly placed.

I took the picture on the left with the intent of describing my plight here, but after posting that image, I noticed the obvious open pattern in the upper right corner. Could it be?

I went back and checked.

Yep. Six pieces across on the right, for about three-quarters of the height of the puzzle, needed to move up two positions. The image on the right was taken after I fixed the problem.

This puzzle has a lot of pieces that are cut too similarly in addition to enough repeating patterns of darkness that it has me struggling a bit to ensure I’ve placed them in the correct spot.

Regardless, I continue to enjoy it immensely and was able to use some of my reclaimed blogging time of the previous few days to puzzle, in between tending to all the other responsibilities of the ranch and my day-job while Cyndie is in Florida.

The little break I’ve taken from daily blogging has served me well thus far.

Thanks for bearing with my change to a less predictable posting routine!

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Written by johnwhays

January 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

Way Fun

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It’s a little embarrassing how much I enjoyed the ease of large-sized puzzle pieces which allowed me to polish off this beauty in a day at the lake.

I guess a mental break from my routine was due. My brain soaked up the puzzling like a dry sponge takes on water. Nothing like putting things in order and getting a pretty picture to appreciate as a result. It was a nice antidote for the constant onslaught of changes and challenges life routinely serves up.

The convenience of the large pieces were key to enabling me to get this assembled in a single weekend.

It definitely changed both the visual and tactile features of puzzling that appeal to me, but after finishing as quickly as I did, I rate the tradeoff as an acceptable compromise.

With my project complete by early in the morning yesterday, we had plenty of time to get out for a walk in the middle of the day to take in the beginnings of fall colors around the lake.

The dominance of gray in the sky and gray reflected off the surface of the water, served to mute the true beauty of the few trees showing good fall color.

On our drive home, between periods of sun and one rain shower, we noticed the intensity of color ebbed and flowed inconsistently. Brilliance increased for a while, and suddenly disappeared. Then, as we made our way close to home, the fall colors seemed to pick up again.

One tree on our land caught my attention last Friday, because of the way it stood out as an early adopter.

There are a few more trees that decided to join the fun over the weekend. One maple tree by the hay shed is beginning to show deep red in the top third of its branches.

It’s fair to say, the colorful fun is getting ready to break out all over around our place in the very near future.

Sure hope we get some sun and blue skies to enhance the annual spectacle!

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Written by johnwhays

October 1, 2018 at 6:00 am

It’s November!

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How many times have I written of my astonishment at the arrival of a new month? November is here. This morning there is a beautiful fire in our fireplace and the clocks have been changed back to standard time. The pump has been removed from our little landscape pond and the leaves covering the surface are locked in a layer of ice.

The garden hoses (we had a dozen of them strewn about the place) have all been drained, coiled, and stored. It feels like November. The one family on our country “block” that came trick-or-treating for Halloween last year, showed up again Friday night. Luckily, this year Cyndie had purchased candy, so we treated the one family, and yesterday I tried to eat all the rest.

“Oops, I slipped and another chocolate-almond-coconut concoction flew into my mouth.”

Cyndie recently coerced me to spend some time on a jigsaw puzzle by pitching in to spread out the pieces and flip them all face-up. Puzzling is both soothing and exhilarating for me, and it always evokes pleasant memories of assembling them when I was young. I find that dallying on jigsaw puzzles while listening to well-loved music tends to bring new depth to old songs. The music seems richer and the puzzling becomes doubly so. I finished the puzzle Friday night.DSCN2570e

Yesterday, I drove the Grizzly around and collected all the stacks of cut wood that have accumulated from the trees that either fell in the wind, or were cut to clear trails and fence lines. There is no shortage of wood to be split and stacked in the shed. Meanwhile, there are still tree trunks under brush piles that remain to be sawed into fireplace logs, after I chip the branches above them.

Last night I had a dream that involved my needing to plow snow. As shocking as it is to accept that the month has already arrived, it definitely feels like November to me now.

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Written by johnwhays

November 2, 2014 at 9:29 am