Exercising the craft—Nov. 18, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: Peace of Mind—Fiction writers know that conflict drives plot. Tension and drama imbue life into our characters and propel their stories forward. Human nature, however, craves tranquility and clarity. Write five hundred words describing your protagonist at peace—truly one with the universe, even if only for several seconds. Perhaps your character is sitting on a park bench and staring at a bruised cloud, or on a crowded subway car listening to the rails below, or walking out of a cemetery with a beer in hand. Peace is unique to everyone. 

Andrea put one hand on the doorknob and used her other hand to pull her coat collar shut.  Even after six months, she still stopped for a few moments.  Something about approaching the art studio behind her home brought the calm in waves; by the time she made her way to the front door of the studio she felt like she floated in a placid sea.  No ripples; no loud noises.  Nothing to rock the docility of her art.

Taking a deep breath, she opened the door.  Even the hinges functioned quietly, not infringing on Andrea’s morning.  She took off her coat and hung it on the hook behind the door.  Rolling up her sleeves, she went to the table where her paints waited in quiet anticipation.

Some artists put on music as they worked, and sometimes Andrea turned on her radio.  Her radio stayed on public radio and the classical music it offered 24 hours a day.  She didn’t need the loud synthesizers and wailing vocals of someone declaring lost love.  Classical music let her mind wander and reach into the furthest corners of her art, and she turned it on today to let herself paint with its soothing notes carrying her brush.

As Vivaldi’s compositions floated through the air, Andrea mixed paints.  Since moving to Salt Lake City she’d begun earning commissions from some of Park City’s wealthier residents for paintings of one variety or the other.  This, her largest painting by far, would act as a tribute to Renoir, her favorite painter.  Andrea had spent time with the clients and asked them questions about the room where the painting would hang, its purpose and need, and the intent of the clients in its use.  Satisfied with their answers, she agreed to the painting.  She still relished with glee the fact that people wanted to pay her to paint pictures, that she got to pursue her life’s passion as her life’s work.

She had begun the painting two weeks earlier, and it stood about a third done.  For the first time in a long time she felt no pressure, no low-lying anxiety regarding her art.  She now possessed the luxury of stopping as often as she wanted to admire her own work and congratulate herself, quietly, there in the privacy of studio.  She didn’t have to hide her pleasure with the painting’s progress.

Andrea watched the brush push the colors across the canvas.  The soft pastels acted as a balm to her soul, and she let their shades and textures fill her entire mind.  Nothing else intruded.  Her heart beat in rhythm with the music, with her paint, with the vision in her mind’s eye.  For the first time in a long time, Andrea felt completely at peace with her life, her art, and herself.

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