Puzzled by Nature

A micro puzzle that comes in a plastic test tube…fun!

That title is an apt description of my addled mind these days, as a long pandemic winter settles down on us in northwest Ohio. Brain fog has become a familiar companion in the absence of any human contact and little structure to my days. I long for a return to my active life full of time in nature with my friends. But until that’s possible again, I’ve had to become resourceful about finding new ways to occupy myself during seemingly endless hours of solitude.

Of course I still have virtual meetings and virtual game days, but that’s the extent of my interaction with other humans these days. I do a lot of reading…and writing…and some drawing too. But I’m beginning to feel the walls closing in on me lately, and felt the need for something new in my life. So, naturally, I’ve joined the legions of devoted dissectologists, otherwise known as people who enjoy jigsaw puzzles.

The pandemic has stimulated a huge demand for puzzles reminiscent of the one that took place during the Great Depression. (Here’s a brief history of jigsaw puzzles that will clue you in to the origin of the term dissectologist.) I’ve found working jigsaw puzzles to be a rather meditative activity that helps keep my mind focused away from unproductive thoughts and worries.

Caterpillar puzzle from The Caterpillar Lab — 11″ x 14″

There’s an incredible diversity of puzzles available these days, and I discovered that I’m quite picky about the subject matter of my puzzles. It won’t surprise anyone that my favorites are nature-themed puzzles featuring insects, birds, and other animals. I’ve spent hours browsing websites, turning my nose up at puzzles with city scenes, reproductions of famous paintings, and images of colorful donuts. I also like book-themed puzzles, like the ones that have images of bookshelves overflowing with interesting titles. The photos in this post are some of my favorites from the nature puzzles I’ve done recently.

Article about the demand for puzzles

I’m particularly fond of the huge dragonfly puzzle below. Full disclosure about that dragonfly though: I didn’t finish it. I did the entire border and the dragonfly in the center, but only finished the lower half of the interior because it just felt tedious by that point. The design is exactly the same all around, and that just isn’t fun for me. I guess I’m picky about the subject matter and the level of difficulty. I’m a Goldilocks puzzler, looking for just the right amount of what I want…not too easy, not too hard.

I’ve loaned the dragonfly puzzle to a friend and I may have another go at it when she’s finished with it. I love the colors on that puzzle and may even consider framing it to hang on the wall. One day it’ll be a reminder of pandemic life, I suppose. Might as well find some beauty in these bizarre times, right?

The “Ecosystems of the World” puzzle (below) was a lot of fun because it made me curious about some of the ecosystems as I was studying the images. If a puzzle is visually pleasing, keeps my mind and hands busy, and teaches me something along the way, then it’s done its job well.

Ecosystems of the World — a very fun puzzle
Detail from “Charley Harper Tree of Life” puzzle
Detail from a puzzle of fruit label art

I often listen to podcasts and music as I work on a puzzle, taking breaks to dance with Sam whenever Fleetwood Mac pops up on my Spotify playlist. He just loves to be held on my shoulder so he can nuzzle my chin while I dance to “Second Hand News.” Seriously, he seems to have a real interest in that particular song…it’s so weird. He doesn’t seem to mind that I only know the lyrics to two lines. And yes, I know what you’re thinking — it’s possible that I’ll turn into the stereotypical cat lady spinster by the time this is all over. But come on, I can’t be the only one falling into some odd behaviors at this point, right?

Sam likes the beetle puzzle as much as I do

I realized the other day that even once it’s my turn to get the vaccine (hopefully by late spring), I still won’t know how long it protects me, so how can my life change at that point? I can’t imagine that we’ll be able to safely abandon the face masks and social distancing for quite some time. The uncertainty is so frustrating, and there’s no telling how long it will be before we can start to put the pieces of our lives back together. But it will happen at some point, for sure. In the meantime, you’ll find me in the jigsaw aisle….

9 thoughts on “Puzzled by Nature”

  1. Beautiful puzzles, and a lovely meditation on working them, Kim. I enjoyed getting some ideas for my “after Christmas” puzzle wish list! (Those beetles!!!). Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you! Hugs, Cindy 🙂

  2. I’m a puzzle person too. I find I go ‘away’ and into another level of thought when working on a puzzle. I’ve always liked them, unless they are just impossibly hard or too easy. Those are some nice ones you’ve got there Kim. We have been seeing the stats for Ohio and it must just be so challenging. There has been a new hot spot pop up in Syndey and the state is imposing some lockdown measures for that area, but trying hard to not restrain people unnecessarily with Christmas so close. Once again, the problem is a strain from overseas (the US, actually) and because people were on the move it has been spread quickly and easily. I don’t think this will be over for a long time yet, vaccine or not. Hang in there Kim. xx

    1. Yeah, it’s rough here in Ohio and pretty much everywhere in this country. I’d give ANYthing to be in Australia or New Zealand right now if they would let me in! (If I were younger and considered a “productive” member of society worthy of immigrating, I’d absolutely be looking at moving to a more sane country.) I’m so disgusted at how badly this was mishandled here, and at all the people who have made it last longer than it needed to because they refused to wear a mask or minimize their interactions with others. I’ve managed to mostly keep it together so far, but I’m starting to feel incredibly sad and lonely, and this is just the beginning of a long winter. I guess I’ll have to just take each day as it comes…. Thanks for the encouragement, Ardys. 🙂

  3. I always think I want to do a puzzle but we get started and my enthusiasm wears out. I lose interest then my poor Dearly Beloved has to finish. I like ones that have enough challenge to make it interesting but not impossible to finish. We sometimes pick up a puzzle when we are traveling. Amazing that many places have puzzles of their points of interest. Nature is always a win. You have some really good ones here.
    I had never heard of the term dissectologist. I have learned something new today.
    I say don’t worry…being a crazy cat lady is not all bad. 😉

    1. Lisa, yep, it definitely takes some trial and error to figure out the types of puzzles that you like. If you tend to lose interest in them once started, maybe try smaller ones with only 300 or 500 pieces. I find those go pretty quickly, and I enjoy doing them more than once. (More bang for the buck!)

  4. Yay for jigsaw puzzles! Check your local thrift stores for less-spendy ones. Also, this was before Covid, but a group of us in my city held monthly (free) puzzle exchanges!
    Perhaps in a future post, you can show us some of the drawings you have been doing recently.
    Here’s my blog and the latest post talks about Odonata, in case you are interested: https://mostlynaturestuff.wordpress.com/
    Thank you.

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