Tiny Connections and the Big Picture

Two things have kept me busy lately and it wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I realized they have a connection – tiny pieces and the big picture.

One thing keeping me occupied was more traveling, including our annual family beach trip. Not all the family was able to join us this year, but we still managed to have fun and one activity that remained the same was the group jigsaw puzzle. Or in the case of the last few years, puzzles plural.

During the Great Blizzard of ’78, jigsaw puzzles kept my sisters and me busy and sane and out of our parents’ hair. But I remember Dad teaching us when we were younger how to look at each piece, especially the knobs, for that little speck of color that may not be much in the rest of the piece, but is the perfect match for the color in the divot of another. Dad had an eagle eye for finding those miniscule matches. And of course the border was the first thing to be completed, so there was the digging and hunting for all the straight edged pieces, and the cry of triumph if you found a corner. We always kept the box with the finished picture handy for quick reference.

Being able to see the full big picture was helpful during our beach puzzle marathons too. Last year we completed three 1000 piece puzzles and were determined to meet that goal this year. One of the Grands insisted we include the six Paw Patrol puzzles, 12-16 pieces each, in last year’s count, but he was outnumbered. The goal remained three.

The puzzle assembling is a three-generation endeavor and watching everyone work in their own way was fun. Some looked for one specific piece because it was odd shaped or had a specific color, or was the last piece in a section. Others hoarded all the pieces from a specific area and sequestered them at another end of the table, and didn’t join their section to the whole until theirs was complete. We worked on it together; individuals worked on it throughout the day. All through all of it the box or the poster was passed back and forth and studied. There’d be the exclamations, “Oh! Now I see how this fits!” “Oh! That’s not the same flower as this one!” “Wait! Bring that section over–it fits right here!” that simple recognition of how one little piece fit into the whole big picture.

We’d be so close to finishing there’d be a rallying cry, “We can’t go to bed when we’re almost done!” then the mad scrambling and pushing and nudging vying to get final pieces in place. One of the Grands liked to palm a piece so he could claim he ‘finished’ the puzzle. He got away with that twice. Each puzzle took twenty-four hours or less. Not a bad record considering beach time, golf cart rides to the park, Disney movies, ice cream, and trips to the iconic Bert’s on Folly Beach.

We met our goal with two days to spare. So of course we had to look for another puzzle to beat last year’s record. We found one in the house we were renting and the day we should have started packing up beach towels, collecting Jinga blocks from all corners of the house and under the beds, emptying the fridge, and preparing our minds for the trip home . . . we started another 1000 piece puzzle. And we finished it before midnight. Okay, just at midnight and we were missing one piece so a 999 piece puzzle. But we’re still counting it. Will we be able to do five next year? I hope so! Or we may have to include the six Paw Patrol puzzles.

The other activity that kept me busy was ordering the poems for the new issue of Kakalak. Ordering the poems means taking all the poems we selected and assembling them into a cohesive journal. As you may recall from earlier posts, we had 625 poems submitted, and of those just over 100 made it into the anthology. Judging that number and having to whittle down to so few is a challenge.

The next challenge is piecing them together into one big picture. The poems cover the war in Ukraine, box turtles on the patio, someone’s parent slipping into dementia, someone picking up the tab for all the diners in a Waffle House, deer, the pandemic, racism, diversity, displacement, a Shakespearian take on Starbucks, eating cantaloupe, making bread and butter pickles, and picking huckleberries. Just to name a few. So how to order such strong, divergent poems? I had to look at the ‘spots of color’ in each one and see how they fit into another.

Some of the groupings were easy–pandemic poems mostly fit together, but in which order and how to transition to another topic? In one case there was a poem about saving a herd of deer and I saw the same spirit in a poem about rescuing a family from a mother’s alcoholism. One poet had a line about a cantaloupe colored couch, another wrote of eating the melon. A man talks of playing war as a kid; another talks of his father’s real war experiences.

Even though we don’t go into the submission process requesting a theme, nor do we look for them as we judge, universal themes appear and in some small way they connect. It may be just a word that transitions one poem to another; it may not be a word or phrase at all but an image. And then the images of artwork are slipped in between poems and they complete the puzzle, the big picture.

One of the poems pointed out how much we have in common with those we think are so different–do you watch football? Do you go to the grocery store? Sometimes it takes looking at the little spots of sameness to see we’re all part of the big picture.

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