It’s no puzzle why these two are friends

Susan Knox Wilson

Mark was just taking a stroll, to “get out of the house for bit,” when he first met up with Juergen. “I’d recently retired, full time,” shared Mark, “and I thought I might be bugging my wife, so I decided to take a walk and see what was going on in the Tuscany Falls Clubhouse. That’s when I spied Juergen working on a puzzle and I went over to get a closer look.” The rest, as they say, is history. Juergen invited Mark to help work on the puzzle and their friendship developed—just as jigsaw puzzles do, piece by piece.

Now, two years later, Mark Kuhn and Juergen Buehring can be found in the clubhouse most mornings working together, for a few hours, on one of the hundreds of jigsaw puzzles available in the Tuscany Falls library*. Their favorite jigsaws are of scenes of places they have been. One puzzle they recently completed was of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. “It wasn’t easy to do,” Juergen reflected,” the puzzle had 2000 pieces and lots and lots of trees which made it more difficult to complete. It took us four weeks.”

“But lots of people stopped by as we worked on the puzzle,” said Mark. “Many had been to the castle and shared their stories of visiting this beautiful place. It was a great way meet new people.” “And get some extra help,” joked Juergen.

Jigsaw puzzles were first created by a cartographer in London around 1760. Early jigsaws, known as “dissections,” were produced by mounting maps on sheets of hardwood and cutting along national boundaries, creating a puzzle useful for teaching geography. Because they provided a cheap, long-lasting, recyclable form of entertainment, jigsaw puzzles soared in popularity during the Great Depression. Around this time, puzzle makers also started making jigsaws more complex and more appealing to adults. Today, jigsaw puzzles come in many different shapes, in many kinds of materials, and in many, many sizes—from small puzzles of 300 pieces to mega puzzles of 40,000 pieces or more. “We can’t do puzzles of more than about 2,000 pieces,” Juergen remarked, “because the library table just isn’t big enough.”

For Mark, part of the attraction of the puzzles they work on is the structure and detail of the piece. “It’s so satisfying to see it all come together,” Mark opined. “It’s also good for your brain,” chimed in Juergen, “sorting the pieces, looking for shapes, hand-eye coordination, there’s a lot going on when you work on a puzzle.” Indeed. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, doing jigsaw puzzles is one of many activities that can help keep the brain active and may contribute to reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

As their friendship developed, Juergen introduced Mark to the men he plays billiards with each week and Mark is now part of that group, too. The billiards room is just off the library so it’s easy for them to go from the pool table to the puzzle table and make a brief stop along the way to pick up some coffee and a pastry at Portofino’s. “Possibly the world’s best clubhouse!” declared Mark.

Mark and Juergen invite others to join them in “puzzling” and are gratified they’ve got some regular contributors who find jigsaws as much fun as they do. One puzzler, they know only as “Mike,” works a night shift but apparently stops by fairly often to lend a hand. Mark and Juergen say they’ve often left a partially completed puzzle on the library table only to find it completed the next morning. “Maybe people are kind of like jigsaw pieces,” suggested Juergen, “we need each one to complete the picture.”

*Puzzles are also available in the Eagle’s Nest Library