Scattered across our dining room table are approximately 1,000 pieces of a colorfully diverse jigsaw puzzle. The original date of purchase is unknown, but it was still wrapped in the original cellophane, this timeless treasure had previously remained hidden in a dark bedroom closet. Unearthed by my wife during a surprise cleaning spree, she saw fit, knowing it would easily fit in our now truncated schedules, to see how it might fit together as a whole piece of artwork.
About a month in the making, all edge pieces have found their appropriate border mates. Soft pastel blue and white skies fade off toward the northeast corner of the landscape. Neatly adjoined, a couple birds soar among the clouds. For most, this might be a “piece of cake,” but as essentially novice puzzlers, the progression has been erratic and painstakingly slow.
With the box propped up on its edge and frequently referenced – we don’t know if this is considered cheating – trial and error mounts. We aren’t about to keep track, but to this point, error, rest assured, is winning.
A wide array of complex color schemes throughout, there are a few small disjointed portions taking shape. Most have not entered into the whole of this expansive work of art and must wait to find their place in the big picture, as it was.
Strategy dictates we secure, mix and match similarly colored pieces before moving onto larger swaths still lacking the obvious “connective tissue.” Some common characteristics slowly migrate toward one another, gathering both inside or outside the border.
Huddled around this complicated configuration, there is much occasion for pondering, fleeting moments for a collective celebration, but more frequently, sighs of exasperation. Nevertheless, we press on even as we optimistically press together pieces.
It’s not only a mere puzzle that brings us to the table. Thanks primarily to the infiltration of COVID-19, we are enduring these “puzzling” times as we attempt to make sense of it all. A further consequence is our inability to know how everything fits.
Still, we are figuring a few things out, piece by piece, as time passes and more information are garnered.
For ourselves, any picturesque advancement appears more like a herd of hippos taking a leisurely float in a pond than a gazelle prancing swiftly and gleefully across some fruited plain.
Did I mention this puzzling panorama’s primary focus is on that of animals? “It’s a Zoo” quite literally, as this is the name given to this unassembled collection or odd-shaped paperboard. Not just any zoo, this animal playground is a creative caricature of the hodgepodge of creatures surrounding that expansive ark of gopher or cypress wood handcrafted by the ancient Noah and his family.
The illustrative graphic appears to be that of animals making their arrival to their eventual place of temporary residence, though in a far from orderly fashion. Our movement through these topsy-turvy days is no less chaotic.
Interpretations of this Old Testament account in Genesis vary widely, but for the moment, permit me to indulge in the metaphorical given our coronavirus circumstance.
Humans and animals alike find themselves somewhat caged, and for an unknown period of time. Many know of the 40 days and nights of the flood, yet most neglect to calculate that their “all aboard” length-of-stay approached nearly a year. There would be much, near endless, waiting! Heaven forbid ours is anywhere close, though any identified “back to normal” is illusive, for the time being.
As we subsist, who hasn’t growled, roared or squawked more than a little as we experience our own confinements? Over time, our respective stay-at-home spaces may even appear to be closing in around us and shrinking in size. Social distance aside, the “aroma” of our prolonged proximity in-house may approach nauseating.
In the Biblical story, several birds were eventually sent aloft to hopefully bring news of the receding of the waters. We may not look to the skies, but we’re surely looking for any signs from the President, Governor, Health Department, CDC, WHO, newspaper, television screen or the internet for word of an end to our own global crisis.
Cautious to not be overindulgent by carrying this analogy too far, I wonder if they ever got underneath one another’s skin cooped up for so long? Prior to the end of this family’s “fluid” quarantine, did the “fluid” timeline of its duration try their patience? The printed witness offers us little in this regard, but I would venture a guess that the unprecedented experience was thoroughly transformative and life-altering. Their world would never be the same!
I, for one, have no idea what the tundra will be like when we debark. Tragically too many have gotten “seasick” or worse due to this lethal malady. When it happens, I am confident our lives will be markedly different, changed forever.
When it’s all said and done, and who in God’s green earth knows exactly when that will be, I hope you’ll join me in looking heavenward to find hopeful signs and your “bow in the clouds.”
On that day we get to finally “step off the boat,” I pray we are each equipped with new “land legs” having been rejuvenated in how to walk, talk, love, serve, thank, give, help and care for each other as never before!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at email@example.com