Max Escher gazes up from the self-portrait that absorbed much of my January. Nearly devoid of crisp lines or vivid colors, right angles skewed by his reflecting sphere, it launched me more than once into searching the floor for a piece I knew must be missing.
Winter is jigsaw puzzle season. We’re fortunate to have a suitable table available, since the holidays, for as long as the thousand pieces take to assemble. Though I feared this one might take months, gradually my perceptions sharpened. Distinctions of tone and texture emerged that were invisible at first. This temporary shift in perception is as predictable as the conviction that a piece is missing.
For a time, the world around me grows more vivid, too. Colorless midwinter takes on myriad shades of brown, gray, and white. Like skills or muscles, the senses we exercise grow stronger. Perhaps that’s why writers are encouraged to carry notepads, not just to capture phrases or incidents for future reference, but to hone the skill of noticing.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.