Jigsaw Puzzles

“Why is it so dark this morning?” I wondered, stopping at the stairway window to check out the back yard. Everything looked dismal, every color drab and uninspiring. Pine trees framing the lawn showed up as a deep green, nearly black. The lawn had various shades of brown and tan patches, depending on the weed makeup of each area. Gray, bare branches looked like lifeless claws. Overhead were low, dark, threatening storm clouds.

The air felt damp and chilly. Looking out the window over the kitchen sink while heating water for tea, I saw rain begin to fall. A low rumble of thunder growled and a short-spate of sleet tapped on the window glass as the tea leaves brewed. 

Shivering, I cupped my hands around the warm teacup and thought, “Today is a perfect day to work on a jigsaw puzzle.” Strolling into the living room where an unfinished puzzle lay on a folding table, I turned on a sunlight lamp to push back gloomy shadows and sat down. Before I knew it, hours had passed as I happily worked at finding the right place for each puzzle piece.

Completing the puzzle gave me a huge sense of satisfaction, but also regret because the scene was finished. Rummaging through my supply closet, I searched for a new jigsaw puzzle. What I found was a huge 1,500-piece picture of a very pretty lady surrounded by cherry blossoms and began to set it up on the table.

Sudden, radical weather changes are typical during spring in Wisconsin. A few days later, warm air and bright sunshine flooded my yard. Giving the unfinished cherry blossom lady’s face a wistful look, I explained, “I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. When there’s nice weather during spring, I must take advantage of it and do yard work.”

A jumble of things needed to be put right in the yard. Starting under the white birch tree, I gathered up all the branches and twigs the tree had shed since October to make mowing less hazardous.

Next, I trimmed bushes, cleaned dead leaves from hostas, rhubarb and peony. Using clippers, I cut away last summer’s tall, dried asparagus stalks. Smiling, I reminisced about a grandson asking how many years it took asparagus to get so tall.

Finishing that job, I noticed litter that had been thrown from passing cars was blowing around in the roadside ditch. Not wanting to touch any of it, I used a mechanical ‘reacher’ to pick it up. Beer and pop containers started to fill my bag. There were a few fast-food bags and boxes. Near a well-used deer crossing, I found splinters of car headlight lens, plastic bumper and mirror. Some years I have found dead deer on my lawn. This winter the deer were winning more often than the cars.

Turning back to the yard, I spotted wire hoops blown away from the flower beds during a strong early winter wind storm. Retrieving them from along the garden, I set them in place around the hydrangeas. I had been told that deer would leave the hydrangeas alone. They didn’t. The wire hoops are a last-ditch effort to save the plants from being nibbled to death.

The last yard work job was restoring sod and gravel on the lawn to its proper places. The lawn around my house and driveway is uneven at the best of times. During the winter, frost heaves up additional hillocks and bumps. Each winter the plow blade cuts out divots of sod and shoves along with the snow into piles around the driveway. Once the snow melts away, I take the different bits of sod, look for where it came from and replace it like a good golfer would. By fall, it is impossible to tell the divots had ever happened.

Finished with spring yard cleanup I returned to the house and took a shower. Clean again, I sat down to work on the cherry blossom lady. Settling a piece neatly into its proper place, I mused with satisfaction, “At least with this puzzle, I don’t have to take a shower to wash off mud when I’m done.”


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