All in a Summer's Day

On June 15 of last year, I did one of the most challenging things I've ever done: I packed up a moving van (with the assistance of a number of friends and family members), drove it to Richmond, and moved the contents into our new apartment (with the assistance of family members and several friends of Dixon's who worked way harder than they were expecting to.) By the end of the evening, I was exhausted to the point of feeling sick, and I have every intention of paying someone else to move us when next we change homes.

So today, in celebration of this anniversary, I didn't do jack.

I decided to turn off the computer for the day, disconnect my brain, and live in the analog world for a bit. I finished reading Ron Chernow's Hamilton early this morning, and then I broke out my only activity for the day: a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle based on Charley Harper's Mystery of the Missing Migrants.

Veteran readers may know of my fondness for Harper's art, which is on display throughout the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and this seemed like a good way to recognize that the end of the school year is upon us. Granted, tomorrow morning I do have a final interview with the headmaster about next year, but the work is done, and I'm now planning to enjoy the summer in a way I couldn't last year, what with having to move out, and move in, and look for a job and all. This summer I'm gonna work on a novel, but I felt I needed a slightly out-of-the-ordinary day to get my mind reset; hence, Analog Day.

I started on the puzzle at 9:00 a.m. Man. A thousand pieces is a lot.

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I had done a little bit of work on this puzzle at school once or twice, with my students' help, but we never got very far with it, so I wanted to see if it could be completed during a single day by one person. A few small sections were still stuck together, as it happened, which sped the process up, but only slightly; you can see below that I started with the Scarlet Tanager and Bullock's Oriole, whose vivid colors were unlike anything else in the image, but I honestly wasn't putting much together to start with. It took me the length of Philip Glass's Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack just to get all the pieces turned upright and organized:

DSC03374.JPGFYI: that's blue pieces with an outside edge in the pile at lower left; the big pile above it is the plain blue pieces; the smaller pile above it is the blue pieces with a small yellow star. Every other piece with any color other than blue is in the pile at right, except for a few I slapped together while trying to turn everything over.

It was around this time that I realized I was going to need BOTH leaves of the table to keep both the finished image and the extra pieces visible. (It was also important to keep beverages as far away from the workspace as possible.) We moved on to Prokofiev's 1st Symphony, plus a collection of Rachmaninoff favorites, and by lunchtime the puzzle looked like this:

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The big white Swallow-tailed Kite is taking shape over to the right, while the dozens of smaller birds (mostly warblers, mostly a frustrating mixture of yellow and grey-green) are in various stages of completion.

I ate some leftover gazpacho from last night, which was still pretty damned delicious. (I make it extremely chunky, FWIW; because I chop, rather than use a food processor, the veggies are often around half an inch per cubic side. Frankly, I think it makes the dish more interesting, both in terms of color and texture.) At that point I flipped over to part of a Beethoven piano sonata before deciding I wasn't in the mood and switching over to Mozart. By the time Kelly got home from work, I was down to only a few pieces with bird parts on them:


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With that, it was time for dinner, which we ate at a local eatery with the rather confusing name of "Lunch. Supper!" (As Dixon puts it, you can't talk about eating there without having to go through a "Who's on First?" routine afterwards.) The meal was quite fine, however; I had a crab cake sandwich and a side of Brussels sprouts with bacon and parmesan, and we all split a couple of gigantic soft pretzels as an appetizer. The company was also delightful, as we met up with our cousins from Woodberry and a few other WFS friends, shared a few beers, and got to talk about a lot of things that I no longer have to worry about because I've moved.

After dinner, I came back and put the final bird-related pieces together. Then it was time for assessment:

DSC03378.JPGWith all the birds complete and at least one piece from every side of the rectangle laid in place, I could see that the rest of the job--placing the final 200+ pieces, all of which were a uniform midnight blue--would probably take as long as the birds had. As I'd now been working for twelve hours, minus occasional interruptions, I could see that finishing the puzzle would require an extraordinary degree of sheer bloody-mindedness, without any significant reward for the time and effort. And since today's entire focus had been not putting effort into anything unenjoyable--work, or moving, say--I made the call: the puzzle is now packed, and summer is here.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on June 15, 2016 9:57 PM.

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