The Puzzler

Steve Richardson makes chaos.

More specifically, he makes puzzles. Forty years ago, Mr. Richardson, then a computer analyst, said, “To hell with the business world, I want to make the best jigsaw puzzles I can.” So, he packed his bags in New Jersey and headed to Vermont to found Stave Puzzles.

Since 1974, Mr. Richardson has crafted doozy after doozy. Wrapped in green and blue boxes, Stave Puzzles can include pieces that fit in more than one place, empty spaces that no pieces fill, and difficulty ratings such as, “If they made Pepto-Bismol for the brain, this is when you would need it.”

If Pepto-Bismol was made for the brain, I suspect it would sell like hotcakes. The world – puzzles and all – is a chaotic spot. Much of our life is spent trying to create order, trying to see where our piece fits, trying to find meaning in it all.

But back to Mr. Richardson. Because there’s something else I want you to know about his puzzles: they come in a blue and green box. And that’s all that’s on the box. There’s no picture to guide you. Yet people shell out anywhere from $150 to nearly $2,000 for Stave Puzzles.

“The puzzle is out of order, and they get the chance to make it right,” Mr. Richardson explained to The Chicago Tribune. “Order out of chaos.”

So, Mr. Richardson over in Vermont has captured the human experience and wrapped it in a blue and green box. He’s got all the disorder and uncertainty of our lives. And he serves it up with no map to show the way.

There’s beauty in the solved puzzle. But there’s pure courage in the being-figured-out, standing-in-the-chaos, wanting-Pepto-Bismol-for-the-brain unsolved puzzle. And if we can stay with the unsolved, eventually, though rarely on our timeline, we’ll see where our piece fits.

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