It's been a productive summer so far. I'm writing curriculum, reading books, and yesterday I put The Mirror and the Mage up for sale on iBooks.
It's the Pajama Commute.
Image from here. That's not me and the beloved, but close.
If you're a penniless schoolteacher, working your summer job, staying in town, the days start to lengthen out. So what do you do when the day is over and the work is done and the shadows lengthen in the evening sun?
The beloved recently bought and repainted what she calls a puzzle table. She located the table in a convenient alcove in the house, put two chairs next to it, and undid the wrapper on a thousand-piecer that she had bought several years ago when we had kids in the house for Christmas.
Jigsaw puzzles are the Internet of the 1950's. They are pointless. You can get lost in them. They suck up time like nothing else. They put you into an alpha-wave dream state.
Like the Internet, they are strangely addictive, and they can also be mightily frustrating.
A visitor called our set-up "puzzle hell." Why? "I can never figure out where any of the pieces go," she said. "I end up feeling like a failure."
It is indeed a tricky little business, and the puzzle we have right now is a reproduction of Van Gogh's Starry Night on the Rhone, which is dominated by the colors blue and black and consists in great part of horizontal brush strokes.
The beloved is a certified color expert and artist, so she revels in the detail, and I hold my own. As I write, we've probably placed about 150 pieces.
At this rate, we'll finish somewhere around the time I've got to go back to teaching in August.
But is it also possible that jigsaw puzzles are more than just alpha-wave generating time-wasters from the land that summer forgot?
Well, the Internet has everything, so a quick search of it reveals that yes, doing jigsaw puzzles is highly beneficial to the brain.
In fact, on one blog that is entitled "Jigsaw Puzzle Benefits," the author outlined 42 different skills that doing jigsaw puzzles exercises and enhances. More skeptical, but with a lot of links and helpful thoughts, is this blog.
I am always a little bit amazed that when I do jigsaw puzzles, especially complex ones, my brain makes a subtle adjustment the more I work on them. After a while, a certain type of puzzle piece that had looked like a spin-art set of random colors begins to resolve into something that clearly goes in a certain area of the puzzle. Sometimes, I "see" where the piece goes and I place it without even having to line up the cut curves.
Fun when it happens.
To me, it's a little like Shakespeare plays. At the beginning, the script is in Middle English and it makes no sense whatsoever. "Verily, thou hast undone a bonny jape, thou knave of a grappleton." But if it's a well-done play, by the end you understand everything.
Anyway, regardless of the neuroscience, jigsaw puzzles are probably more beneficial than watching videos of "Three's Company" on YouTube.
Come and knock on our door
We've been waiting for you
Where the kisses are hers and hers and his
Three's Company, too
Oh, look, John Ritter just fell over a couch.