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Mosaic of community tells story

My grandmother absolutely loved to put together jigsaw puzzles. For most of my childhood there was a card table sitting in her living room that was devoted to her newest brainteaser.

She was no average jigsaw puzzle player. She put together puzzles like a grandmaster played chess.

I am sure she started out at some point in her life putting together those 50- or 100-piece puzzles that you find on dollar store shelves that depict cuddly puppies or a lake surrounded by autumn color.

That must have been way before I was born, because the puzzles I remember on her table were of the 1,000-piece variety.

She loved her puzzles complex and her puzzle pieces so small that they were hard to pick up with your fingers. She didn’t care for those autumnal landscapes either. She like the puzzles that depicted scenes of 10,000 penguins in Antarctica or marbles in a jar that all seemed to be exactly alike.

My grandmother spent hours poring over those tiny pieces. I had little patience for all of that.

After five minutes of trying to match the pieces with the image on the top of the box top, I usually surrendered to my favorite Atari video games. While I was playing Space Invaders or Dig Dug, she slowly and methodically put together each one of her puzzle masterpieces.

Admittedly, I always marveled at the end result.

For the last 10 years, I have similarly reacted to The Natchez Democrat’s efforts to put together the puzzle pieces of our community into one complete package we call Profile.

For months, writers and photographers scour our community to find the stories of the people and places that make our corner of the world unique.

Each year we take those unique pieces and begin to fit them together.

The end result — and one that never ceases to amaze me each February — is a mosaic of our community that is in many ways more beautiful than the individual pieces that form it.

After all, isn’t that what a vibrant community is — a mosaic made of individual puzzle pieces fascinating and unique.

Last Sunday, we started giving readers a small hint of what this year’s Profile edition will look like.

This year’s cover will be a photomosaic made by more than 1,000 images that have been submitted to the Your Take feature in the daily newspaper.

Since its introduction in 2005, the Your Take feature has been wildly popular with readers.

There have been children, pets, balloons and snowmen. Readers have submitted pictures of the many far-away places they have visited and the many beautiful landscapes in their own backyards.

Brett Favre, Jesse Jackson and Morgan Freeman have all made appearances with locals from the community.

In that time we have seen a beautiful mosaic form in the faces and places depicted in these photographs.

Sadly, the mosaic has really only been in the mind of our readers. We have never really had a place where we can show many of the wonderful images side by side. Instead, the images have sat gathering cyber-dust waiting for the opportunity to be featured again.

From now until Feb. 26 we will slowly unveil, piece by piece, the photomosaic made up of many of our Your Takes.

Then on Sunday, Feb. 27, we will reveal how so many beautiful photos can make up an even more beautiful community of one.

Ben Hillyer is the design editor at The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.

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