I wonder if animals categorize things, or even if they categorize food they store, food that can be stored in any way, or if there is any need for this
. I am pretty sure that they don't ask for permission to move into another animal's home when they want to. I wiped my fingers under my arms and, moist with the slept-in sweat of a day absent of washing, I thought about pheromones
and how they leak
out of our sweat, and how, while we find the smell of stale sweat
unappealing, it is still a signature for each person.
Everything in our world has categories. Forget the world outside; in our house they're everywhere (for most people): books go on bookshelves, usually with the spines facing outward and upright, bathroom accessories go in the bathroom, cleaning products under the kitchen sink, trash can usually in the crook of floorspace by the fridge or in a pantry closet. Things are not typically organized by color, but by commonality of shape and usage. That is what connect them.
I wonder if, when people approach a jigsaw puzzle, as I have recently, start in any particularly unified spot, such as the top left corner, as I did. Most people will, for sake of sanity, find all the edge pieces and build a frame into which many loose pieces are corralled. Do they pick a corner after this, a spot with the most variety of designs? Do they shoot for the area of all-black first, to get it out of the way? The one I am doing I intended for the children to help with, only to find that once the edge pieces were all accounted for, they were no longer interested and I was no longer willing to share. It is called Ebony and Ivory and is a scene of various animals that are black and white in color: a zebra, panda, killer whale, snakes, butterflies, a penguin, and an eagle. Throughout there are spots of color: the ocean spray around the whale, giving a soap bubble oily texture to his rising head, tropical flowers, deep sunsets and darkening underwater life.
I brought the small table we used to eat on into the living room. It's barely bigger than the frame of the puzzle, so I have to keep most of the pieces in box halves. I got out some folding chairs and set a lamp up there, and now I spend a few hours a day, slowly building an image, when I already know what it looks like. Sometimes I joke with Jake in an old-lady voice, since it seems only children and old people do puzzles. Oh yeah, and people in the mental institution scenes in movies.
I did what we all do; I tried to get one area done whose pattern and color scheme would pare down the big pile of 1500 pieces I had in the box halves. Like a gold miner, I shimmied and flipped pieces over in the box half without the picture of the finished work on the front like so many tiny omelettes, their bland blue cardboard backs taunting me. And damn if they didn't put those little black, red, and white butterflies everywhere. I have to analyze every angle the buggers were fluttering in. Every animal has a different hair structure, every flower slightly different. I started with the eagle and starry sky that bled into an unrealistic sunset, then on the whale, then down to the porpoise and zebra, and now I am on the tiger, which is the hardest, since its striped vary so much across its body. I am avoiding the ground like the plague, with all it's twigs and bramble.
There is some small accomplishment when you snap a piece into place, or when your fingers find a piece that you know goes right into an empty space in the middle of an area almost done. It's a strategy I can handle these days, slowly building a picture from a picture. I got the puzzle from Value Village, the only place, these days, where I can afford to buy anything. I got the kids the Jumanji game from there for less than a dollar. I just hope this thing has all its pieces, because if it doesn't, I'm throwing the fucker away.
Its the solving that is the most fun, and once you've solved a thing, it's only fun when you can show off to others what you've done. Being an only child, I was given my share of Lite Brites and Simon and Rubrik's Cubes, things that didn't require a playmate. I got a few ring puzzles and one puzzle shaped like an apple, but after a while they either stayed on the shelves, solved and on display, or were thrown away.
Not so with puzzles. You can't break one out when a friend is over and think you are going to finish any sooner than the first time you took it out of the box. Our memories, I think, don't work that way. So I am enjoying the sort of puzzles I can solve lately, where you categorize, snap together, and wait for the image to come to you.