City Tales: My Lovely Landlord, 2

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Slowly, the view from the balcony stopped beckoning CT elsewhere and began to welcome her here.

Each morning, she looked for clouds. Sometimes, they were wispy remnants of fog. Other times, they preceded storms that rushed in from the ocean. Rarely was the sky without cloud, except perhaps on a chilly night. Through the months, the clouds became friends of a sort.

CT made slow friends, too, with Geeta, who lived next door with her grown son, Raj.

Sunday mornings, Geeta loved to casually drop by.

“Something smells wonderful!” She’d say. “Is that basil?”

The balcony garden provided plenty of herbs and spinach for CT’s dishes.

“It’s fresh from the garden,” CT would say. “I’ve got plenty. Take some!”

Geeta never would, though she’d always accept a plate of whichever dish CT had cooked that morning.

Atharv had stopped by to check the fuse box one Sunday when Geeta knocked at the door.

“Come in!” cried CT. “I’ve just made quiche! Grab a plate!”

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“Mr. Kumar?” said Geeta. “Rent’s not due ’til next week. I hope there’s nothing wrong with the building.”

“Oh, my dear Ms. Rasoya,” Atharv said. “Something’s always wrong with this building. Fortunately,” he added under his breath.

“It’s not rats again, is it?” Geeta asked, aghast.

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Relieved to hear that the rodent infestation hadn’t returned, Geeta finished her quiche and drank a cup of coffee before heading back to her apartment.

“The fuse box awaits,” Atharv said, as she was leaving. “Wish me luck!”

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When he finished with the faulty wiring, he found CT at her easel. He stood behind her while she worked.

“Art assumes new meaning in the city, yes?” he asked. “When Mother Nature hides, the artist helps us see that, even here, surrounded by concrete, we find beauty.”

CT thought about his words. What was beauty?

What made some shapes and patterns of colors settle the mind into a sigh?

“Fibonacci,” she said.

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Atharv stepped onto the balcony while CT continued painting. She was just squeezing a little more phthalo blue onto her palette, when he came back in.

“Tally-ho!” he said. “Until we meet again!”

By the time her attention emerged from the canvas, the front door was closing. Atharv had left.

When she reached a stopping point, she stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. In the corner of her balcony, stood her bonsai, freshly trimmed by Atharv into a windswept form.

She remembered rocky bluffs along the coast and a feeling of home rushed in on her.

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Through the winter, she often took her canvas out to the balcony. She could always find something to paint: the windswept bonsai; the container garden; a corner of night sky; the city streets.

Across the avenue, the arched windows of the Queen Anne building spoke of warmth and faded opulence. Maybe human history could be as interesting as natural history, almost.

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The apartment remained in tip-top shape for months on end: no rodents, no roaches, no sparking fuse boxes, no leaking pipes.

CT pursued her career as art critic, squeezing in plenty of time for her own painting, writing, and music.

One evening, when she was listening to a new violinist busking in the square, she heard someone call her name.

It took a moment to recognize her landlord without his tool belt and red baseball hat.

“So you really do exist!” she said.

He laughed. “Ah, yes! I am more than the apartment fix-it genii! I have a life outside the bottle of antiquity!”

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They talked about music. Atharv’s father played sitar, and he grew up with music as part of the landscape of his life.

“The ears learn young,” he said. “This is strange for me, these tones.” They listened to the Irish folk songs the violinist played. “Bach, too. Or, your favorite, Brahms. It sounds funny to me. But I learn to listen new. I learn to hear that beauty doesn’t need a drone or raga. Beauty exists in Western harmony, too! And so, my understanding of beauty, it grows!”

The next afternoon, CT looked over the Queen Anne apartments towards the hills. She still felt a pull on her heart every time she saw a natural expanse. Could she, too, experience an expansion in her understanding of beauty?

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Beauty, for her, was connected to expanse–to wide views of sky and cloud and sea. To hills that rolled back towards the horizon. To blues that belonged to nature. Was there a division between the natural and the constructed? Could beauty expand to such a degree that it integrated all? She wanted to ask Atharv how his ears managed to hear home in both the tala of the east and the meter of the west.

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Three Rivers 24.1

Twenty-fourth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: Another beautiful game-generated Sim in another beautiful house by TheKalinotr0n

24.  She discovers she’s an artist!

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When Rachael Stanley retired from forty years of office work, she felt the whole world awaited.

She had time to practice yoga.

She stood in tree pose, her gaze following the butterflies over the meadow.

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She had time to prepare lunch, rather than grabbing a sandwich from the deli.

The red of tomatoes stole her breath sometimes.

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She joined the Green Party and helped with campaign events.

“The butterflies, yes!” said Alec Dolan, the party candidate. “It is for them, no?”

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She watched Alec talk and lost the sound of his words. Such beauty in the face of humans!

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She played the piano. Green and blue swirled through the Chopin nocturne.

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She even found that, for the first time since she moved here twelve years ago, she had time to meet her neighbors.

Emiliano Zorelo, who ran the café next door and lived in the small home on the other side of the café, often strolled by on his evening walks.

“You come to watch the sunsets, don’t you?” she asked.

“Ah, no. For the exercise,” he said. “I become restless. I must move.”

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“But the beauty,” she said, gesturing towards the pink clouds. “It’s breath-taking!”

Emiliano gazed towards the horizon. “El misterio es el elemento clave en toda obra de arte. You have the eye of the artist, Señora Rachael.”

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That evening, she stood on the upper deck and watched night arrive. During the years of work, she only caught the passing of time at a glance–that’s how quickly it always moved. Now, she watched the changes brought by the turning of the earth.

Light fades slowly, until at once, it is dark, and the quiet outlines of clouds nestle against the black sky.

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When Sasha Mignon, the granddaughter of her friend Esmeralda, dropped by, she had time to visit with the child.

“You have a nice a garden,” said Sasha. “It’s got a little bit of everything, like my auntie’s paint palette.”

“Oh! Your aunt is an artist?” asked Rachael. Esmeralda had never mentioned her daughter was an artist.

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“I guess you could say so,” said Sasha. “But she never paints what she sees, only what she feels.”

“Do you like her paintings?” Rachael asked.

“Kinda. They make me feel things. But I think I’d like them better if they were of horses and stuff. That’s what I mostly draw.”

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Inside, Sasha quickly ate her snack and washed her own bowl. Then she sat with Rachael.

“Can you tell me a story?” she asked. “I’m collecting stories.”

Rachael began a long story about a girl who pretended to be a boy and stowed away on a pirate ship. The story was filled with discoveries, treachery, sword-fights, and cannons.

“I think you must be an artist, too,” said Sasha, as the story was winding down.

“Why’s that?” asked Rachael.

“You spent more time describing the colors of the waves, the shape of the clouds, and the way the waves move than you did telling about what happened! Only artists care about that.”

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The next morning, Rachael noticed her friend the writer Isabel Rosella as she ran along the path.

She felt that tug inside that she calls “the beauty response.” The lines of the leg, the slight bending forward of the torso, the tilt of the neck.

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The human form expresses such beauty.

And then her face! The quiet lift at the corners of her mouth. That wise, thoughtful gaze in the eyes. And all the lines that traced the passages of her life.

If only I could paint that! she thought.

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Alysia chuckled at one of Sebastian’s jokes–it least she and Alysia assumed it was a joke. With Sebastian, one could never be quite sure.

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And then, Isabel joined them, and just for a moment, Rachael felt overcome by the wonder of it all. The bilateral symmetry of the human form: yet it can express itself in so many ways. The grace, the assurance, the awkwardness of the person molds and modifies the outer shape. She could not separate the essence from the exterior.

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Walking home, she passed Emiliano, and she read the culture and history of worlds within his face.

I would like to paint his portrait! She thought.

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Enough with the dreaming! She decided. I am retired. Let’s do it!

She went to an art supply store and bought a few easels, a few very small canvases, and some very cheap acrylic paints. Who knew that art supplies could be so expensive, and, since she was just starting out, she might as well keep the investment to a minimum.

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As she worked, it became very clear very quickly that inexpensive paints yield inferior results. Of course, this was just her first painting in, what, fifty years! She couldn’t expect to immediately scratch that itch that was so deep inside of her. Yet, even with a washed out, naive rendering of a pink flower, she felt such joy!

It wasn’t what she had hoped to paint, but it was something, and it was a first step towards becoming a partner in the dance between essence and form.

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The next day, she told Sebastian, Esmeralda, and Nash about her painting experiments.

“I like music,” said Sebastian.

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“I taught art for a while,” said Nash.

“Oh, I don’t have any pretentions,” said Rachael. “I know I’ll never be any good. I’m starting way too late. But I love it. And it’s a minimal investment. I’m just using student grade supplies.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” replied Nash. “You never know what you might discover. For playing around, any materials are fine. But if you really have something you want to express, consider getting the best paint, brushes, and canvases you can afford.”

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Another trip to the art supply store, and she returned with a larger canvas and studio quality acrylics.

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She lost herself in the experience of painting. She realized that she still didn’t quite understand mixing colors, but she was intrigued by the contrast between light and dark in this landscape.

Now and then, she would glance up from her canvas to watch the dance of sunlight and shadow. It’s movement, she thought. That’s how essence expresses itself. Movement and stillness.

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She spent long hours looking. Everything shimmers. The shimmer must be life, energy. She wasn’t sure how to paint that, though she understood the seduction of pointillism.

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At the end of the month, having graduated to professional quality acrylics and large canvases, she now and then painted something that pleased her.

The composition isn’t right, she thought, too crowded. But then life sometimes is crowded, with everything trying to fit into the same tiny space.

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Towards the end of summer, she began to notice an organic pattern repeating itself across the landscape: criss-crossing lines. Light and shadow integrated the pattern.

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She found it everywhere she looked in nature.

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Sometimes it was muted, or partially covered. And other times it was the dominant pattern. It meant something to her, which she couldn’t articulate.

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Except through her canvas.

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Through her canvas she could express all the meaning she found in this pattern, and more. She could express life.

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