As Winter Deepens

We had a lovely snow this morning in Tacoma. Snow forgives everything. Unranked lawns become smooth fields. Every tree is as decorated as my Christmas tree, with snow garlands and small birds balancing. My murder of crows was out in their winter formal wear, hopping through the snow and demanding peanuts because obviously, they were starving due to snow covering the ground.

The lying thieves were fed peanuts, then ate the rest of the dog’s food and fled.

This time of year, I miss Fairbanks, Alaska. I miss the deep dark of winter, and going out at night into the forest when the only light is what the snow gives back to the stars and maybe a moon. The dogs went before and behind me, leashless, no sidewalks, no porch lights. Just snow and birch and alder. And more snow. And if there was a slight thaw, and then a freeze, it would put a good crust on the snow, and I could dare to run on top of it over the hidden slough, as tall as the cat tails for once.

But the cold bites me much harder than it used to when I was a teenager. Nowadays it seems to get into my fingers and knuckles and make a task such as getting my driver’s license out of the wallet envelope nearly impossible. My ears get cold and keeping Kira on a leash makes both of us sad. I hate the wind from the cars passing on the street, and the relentless noise of a city.

So it now is the time of inside puzzles and games I play with myself while Kira sleeps in Fred’s easy chair in front of the fire. Crosswords and jumbles. Pencil games. Solitaire variations with the standard deck of 52 cards. (I collect souvenir card decks from all of my travels. Tulips. Royalty. Australian animals. A card deck for every visit!) Yet I don’t care for Sudoku; it’s all logic and not as much fun for me. But best of all, I’ve always loved jigsaw puzzles. I was not a healthy child, and often I had to spend the day in bed. My mother would pull the bread board out of the cupboard in the kitchen and bring it to me with a jigsaw puzzle. (I doubt if many kitchens even have built in bread boards anymore!) I could occupy myself with jigsaws even in the days before I could read. And after I was old enough to could read, jigsaws were a break from my books and the dancing black print on days when I was ill.

So every winter, my Christmas gift to myself are jigsaw puzzles. Springbok is my favorite brand, and I miss the days when they created circular ones. I prefer the paintings to the photographic images. Their jigsaws are cut with many unique pieces on heavy board, rather than the horrid die-cut puzzles on cheap cardboard.

The best part is laying it all out, color side up, on a large surface. Then you scan all the pieces, and slowly begin to sort them into color groups and edge pieces. Here is the most wonderful thing. If you respect your brain, you will realize that it’s quite capable of looking at all those pieces and almost knowing exactly where every one will go in the puzzle. I assemble the frame and then begin. For me, there is a real joy in picking up a piece, looking at it, and connecting it right away, setting it immediately into the correct place in the puzzle.

I can’t do it every time, of course. I just completed a Springbok puzzle where the final section of the evergreen trees were very difficult for me. And thus a huge pleasure. For me, games and puzzles have to be difficult in order for them to be fun.

The irony is that I don’t do online gaming, or any electronic games, other than on airplane trips. Then I will play solitaire with my tablet when I’ve read all my airplane books. Or I will load a few of the ‘hidden object’ games or mysteries onto my device. I’m afraid if I ever put them onto my desktop, I’d become so immersed I’d never get my writing done. So I have to ration my electronic games and avoid the ones that look too addictive. I’d never dare to go into an online game. I’d probably starve to death at my desk!

But in the winter, in the holiday season, I am allowed to do all the jigsaws I want. I love the tactile sensations of the pieces, and the satisfaction of the completed image. Simple pleasure in a complicated time.

Games and puzzles, puzzles and games. Foolish amusements. But then, I have always loved Fools. 🙂

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