Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

And it darn well better BE happy!

If you've been wondering where I've been this week, I've spent the last three days obsessed with completing a challenging 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, a gift from a "friend" who'd enjoyed working on it herself.

Here's a tip: Friends don't give tricky 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles to friends with five cats and only one table.

Here's why:

That's what the puzzle looked like in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. It's a high-quality Japanese puzzle showing a lady wearing an elaborate kimono and headdress. She is standing in front of another elaborately patterned kimono, so the design is a riot of gorgeous patterns on a large background of metallic gold with maddeningly subtle variations. The colors are vibrant and there are many metallic inks. It was a pleasure to handle the pieces, which are thin, silky smooth, and confusingly similar. I love doing jigsaw puzzles, but I rarely do one at home since we have no room. But I was really in the mood for this one. I have a lot on my mind (more about that soon) and I wanted a soothing, meditative occupation.

On Tuesday I'd spent hours on it, completing the frame, which was mostly gold, and getting started on some of the easier sections. Before I went to bed, I carefully (or so I thought) covered the areas I'd worked on with papers and boxes in case of nighttime visitors. 

Usually, we turn on a little machine that makes soothing fan sounds to help us sleep, but it's been on the fritz lately, and I was too tired to fuss with it. So a few hours later, I as I was lying awake I could hear the distinctive sound of puzzle pieces hitting the floor.

It was 3 am. Someone (Harris, no doubt, but he may have had helpers) had pushed about a third of the areas I'd completed onto the floor and rearranged them to his liking. The pieces were everywhere. Some were behind the wooden radiator cover. I used my usual high-tech equipment to fish them out (in this case a spatula and some of the plastic drinking straws that Lion carries off from the kitchen counter). I had to move the radiator cover and I confess that I never dust the coils of the flaking, rusting old radiators underneath those covers. But my [iPhone] flashlight couldn't penetrate through all that dirt and dust, and I was horrified and not thinking clearly enough to not clean at 3 am. So I got out my long, flexible radiator brush (yes, I have one but I never use it... just owning it ought to count) and I excavated all the crevices and then swept the mess into a heap. I think I found some Sabine family-era dirt, which gave me pause and got me thinking about them.... I also found many cat toys I hadn't seen in years. I also found all of the puzzle pieces except one. I had had to count the number of pieces in the frame because it was so tricky to assemble, and it's a good thing I did. But I should have known... there's always one missing piece; it's a law of nature.

So I cleaned some more. I crawled around and hunted under all the furniture, lifted the edge of the rug, inspected the tree skirt, interrogated Harris and Lion, and inspected the dining chair cushions. It was getting to be 4 am. Then I remembered and prayed to Saint Anthony. And as I was taking the filthy radiator brush to the kitchen to clean it, I stepped on the puzzle piece, which had migrated into the kitchen. Then I reassembled the frame, which was just as hard the second time around. 

Before I went back to bed, I covered the puzzle with sheets of aluminum foil, which our cats hate, and stacked books on top of it. I awoke to the first snow of the winter and this:

I complained and he went away. I realized I needed to finish the puzzle ASAP, not only to protect it from the local wildlife but so we could use our dining table for meals again. So I dedicated myself to making progress, and tried to enlist my husband. He's quite decent at jigsaw puzzles but he has a limited attention span. He kept drifting away because he'd rather write grants and do email. Fortunately, I am pretty speedy at solving puzzles. My theory is that we Highly Sensitive People have unusually strong powers of discrimination, so the tiny differences among jigsaw puzzle pieces are easy for us to see and absorb.

Here's the puzzle after dinner last night:

By 2 am, I'd finished all of the patterned areas, leaving just the gold background for today. Lion helped:

After the late-night catastrophe, my husband brought me a big piece of particle board from work to use a cover for the puzzle. I weighted it with books just in case. 

I finished the puzzle this morning and, boy, I am glad. Sitting and leaning forward for so long made my back ache, and I had a headache for most of yesterday, too. But it's a beautiful puzzle and I'm glad I rose to the challenge.

If you look closely, you'll see that there are two missing pieces. We don't have them. I'll swear to that. But the person who gave me the puzzle has TEN cats. 


  1. Do you know where your friend got the puzzle (or what the brand name is?) My mother-in-law loves puzzles, and as she has a particular liking for period attire and shimmering metallics, I think she'd love this one! We were just working on a forest gnome puzzle recently. Love your blog!

    1. Hi Lauren, thanks for writing! The puzzle comes from Japan and the box is printed in Japanese, but I found an info sheet in the box: you can order it and others like it here:

      I hope your puzzle-loving MIL doesn't have to put up with the troubles caused by a cat like Harris.....

  2. I haven't done a puzzle since 1966 when I got my first cat as a married woman. This is beautiful and I couldn't find those missing pieces!

  3. I grew up with a father who loved putting puzzles together, so it is a past time I sometimes enjoy, but I feel you when it comes to the pieces being toys. I use a large poster board and put the puzzle together on that and then sandwich it between another and shove it under the couch when I work on one :)

    Even after I tape them and hang them on the wall, they are still toys. Several of the ones in the kitten room are missing pieces either because the cats (or the rabbit) chewed on them before they were put together, or because kittens tried to hang on them after they were put together and then chewed up the pieces.

    I actually have a random puzzle piece in the kitten room I found a while back that doesn't seem to fit on any of the puzzles down there.. it kinda vexes me.

  4. Wow, what a gorgeous puzzle. I can see why they wanted to help.

    If you want to puzzles more often, there are plenty of options out there to hold a work in progress and still use your table. This one is quite compact:


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