Eight Pieces: Rungs of the Ladder

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More tourists than locals frequented the plaza. The vendors sold trinkets and supplies that only tourists would desire or need, though the food stalls attracted residents before and after Mass.

Kristal had hoped to practice the language, but when she stumbled over the syllables, lengthening vowels, rushing through consonants, and misplacing the accent, the person she conversed with would smile politely and default to English.

“It is easier for us this way, Miss,” the vendedor said. “More conversational, yes? Less confusing.”

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Of course he was right. He earned money by selling tortas and huaraches, not conducting language lessons.

She saved her practice greetings for the stray dogs that meandered through.

Hola, chien! ¿Qué pasa?

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One evening, when the day vendors had closed, and the night vendors had not yet opened, when the tourists were in the cantina and the locals at evening Mass, she shared the plaza with only a bobcat who’d wandered down from the mountains.

They looked at each other in silence, in that momentary meeting that can happen between two beings.

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Then Mass let out and the night vendors arrived, and the tourists, tipsy from beers and salsa rhythms, began to chat in over-loud voices.

“Doesn’t it just beat winter at home?” said Victoria, a woman who lived one city over from Kristal’s. “Just think of the mess we’d be shoveling!”

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She was like her, Kristal realized. Rich. White. Educated. With the money, experience, and confidence to escape whatever boredom or hardship waited back home.

She had thought she was doing something bold. Something liberating. And maybe, in one way, she was. But this choice opened to her because of the specific rung of the ladder she stood on. So, in another way, it was simply the circumstances of her birth and marriage–her race, her class, her country-of-origin, her socioeconomic group–that opened this option for her.

They liked to dress in the fashion of local peasants, these white, single, female tourists–just like she did. We’re of a sort, she realized.

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Maybe it had been cowardly to come here. Maybe the strong and brave choice would have been to stay home–to dedicate the resources she was funneling into this retreat towards a more meaningful cause, something that could enact a change. Green Peace. The Nature Conservancy. Amnesty International. They always needed money.

Even worrying about issues like this was a mark of privilege.

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Her husband–or rather, her ex–for all his lousy personal qualities, held  some decent political ones. He was a Marxist, after all. She usually closed her ears when, after a few beers, he began to rail against the system, but some of what he’d said had snuck through deeply enough to seed some broader ethics.

Well, she was here. She’d left home out with the energy of spite and stubborn passion. For art! To become an artist! What whimsy. What an irresponsible use of resources.

She calculated what she’d spent on airline tickets, luggage, oil paints, and cabin rental. Surprisingly, it came out less than what she’d leased her home for, to the visiting professor. So, perhaps it wasn’t exactly a waste of resources, merely a redirection.

But there was no denying that it was her privilege–and her divorce settlement–which gave her the freedom to come here as a single woman to devote three months to painting, without a single other responsibility.

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If she was starting this far up the ladder, she had damn well better become a good artist.

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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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Three Rivers 13.1

Thirteenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

13. The painting that expressed how she truly felt

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Red–the pain slashed through her womb when the door slammed. Leave. Take a piece, leave her behind with a gap where the strongest healing can never reach.

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Red. So dark it’s black. A single rose petal lay on top of the armoire, dried black. Touch it. Pick it up for safe-keeping, and it crumbles. Red to black. Crumbles to dust.

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Indigo. Blue. She thought the door would open again. He would return. Texts unanswered. Messages spinning through the air. She walks suspended through the days. This pain tethers. How long before she knows the door stays shut for good?

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Red to black to blue. Forgotten, while the babies cried and dishes filled the sink and bills came due and the door stayed shut. Blue. To abandon hope. The door stays shut.

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That year left its mark deep within. She felt it still, that tear inside, where he ripped her in two. She thought love was in the heart. But it was her womb that ached. It ached for her, and it ached for those two babies. Abandoned. She knew where abandonment was felt, deep in the womb where families are made.

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Where families are made, like the parlor where her brother played the guitar. Like the kitchen where her mother baked the casserole. Like the dining room where the children gathered after school with books and jokes and stories and laughter.

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Red to black to blue to green. A path stretches back from there to here. Laughter flows from gaps and fills the space with green.

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Where homes are made. Where families reside. Her son grabs his cousin in a bear hug.

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Her niece sings purple songs, and the sink fills with bubbles that birth rainbows.

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Red to black to blue to green. Yellow.

The bills were due and the babies were crying and the dishes piled in the sink and her mother called. “I’m coming. I’m bringing you home.” Hope returned. He was gone, but hope returned.

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And now her daughter learns from an aunt how to use her mind, how to be strong, how to grow to be a woman that can’t be torn in two.

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And it’s all right. It all worked out.

Red to black to green to blue, and yellow follows through, and the pain, still there, recedes until it’s something new.

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Gratitude. Green spills into gratitude. For a mother and a sister. Brother and little cousins. For a daughter and a son. And even for you. Gratitude even for you.

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For you live in them, the daughter and the son. And the pain does, too.

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Gratitude. You live in them. The daughter and the son. The door slams shut, the womb in two. The pain resides where the family grew. Red to black to green to blue. Gratitude?Look again, on a day that’s new.

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Red flows to black flows to green flows to blue. Follow the path to the center, through.

Cousins and a brother. A sister and a mother. These two gifts of babies that look like you.

Red to black to green to blue. A yellow arch in the center, the door to home we walk through.

New World Symphony: Club It, Homestyle

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“I knew life with you would be sweet as syrup,” Ren said to Sugar Maple, and they both giggled.

They had an easy and relaxed rhythm to their lives. Sugar was up and out much of the time, hiking through the neighborhoods, woods, valleys, and towns, visiting family and friends, playing music and painting plein air.

Ren tended to stay home. Their house was warm and comfortable. Their garden and yards were bright and secluded. And if she ever wanted to visit, plenty of friends could be found strolling the walking paths behind their house. For an artist like Ren, the quiet life at home was just the thing.

Still, it would be productive, she felt, if she could paint with a group of artists.

She explained her wish to Sugar. “Do you think maybe you could form a club for us, an artist club, so I could paint with some other artists?”

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“I’m in three clubs already!” said Sugar. “Any more and I’ll be over-committed! But you could form the club!”

“Me?” Ren asked.

“Sure!” said Sugar. “And hold your club meetings here! That way, I can still come without being an official member! I’ll be the honorary cookie-baker and musical mentor!”

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“Who should I ask to join?” Ren wondered.

“Everybody! Ask everybody you like and everybody you’d like to get to know!”

Shannon SimsFan happened to be jogging by right then. But she was already busy with Cypress’s Greenies club, her own career, spending time with her husband, and running, so she thanked Ren for the invitation and graciously declined.

“Let me know if you all have any art exhibitions, though!” she said. “I’d love to come!”

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Sabreene, who was also on a morning jog, was very interested in the club.

“Currently, I’m exploring the ways that art presents connection,” Ren said.

“That’s fascinating!” said Sabreene. “Is the club open to all styles of art?”

“Certainly,” said Ren. “And music, too. And even performance theater.”

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Sabreene was so glad to see that Sempervirens was in her aunt’s club. Sabreene and Vi met often when wandering through the fields and meadows near Vi’s house.

“How are the pollywogs?” Sabreene asked.

“Their tails are getting shorter!” said Sempervirens. “And one has little nubbly back legs already!”

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Sugar introduced Sabreene to Kitten Nell, another club member.

“I met Kitten at Jeffrey Pine’s wedding,” said Sugar. “I listened to her play Liszt all night!”

“I know!” said Sabreene. “Her music is so thoughtful. Inspired!”

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On piano, maybe. Kitten had yet to master violin. But Sugar, who has mastered the violin, though not the piano, mentored her. Perhaps Kitten would help her with her piano skills in exchange.

“The phrasing!” Sugar said. “Focus on the phrasing–you’ve got it! Like that!”

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Madison, who has also joined the club, was dismayed that the freezer bunny guitar was so out of tune.

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“Have you thought about getting one of those electronic tuners?” she asked Sugar.

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With the addition of onezero, the club was complete.

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“I just realized that it’s all women in this club!” said Ren to Sugar during a break at their first club meeting.

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“That’s OK,” said Sempervirens. “I like girl power. What’s the club name all about, Aunt Ren? What does ‘Painting, with Passion’ mean?”

“It means you paint from all of you!” said Ren. “Will all your feelings, all your intellect, your heart, mind, soul, and body.”

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When Sempervirens walked out to her drawing table, she saw Kitten, standing before her easel with the brightest smile–like there were stars coming from her.

“That must be painting with passion,” said Sempervirens. “I get it now!”

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“You did well,” said onezero. “The right inspiration, the right club! And just the right members. Not bad, Renaroonie!”

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Ren sat with a cup of coffee and soy milk out in the front courtyard. She heard strains of violin, piano, and guitar wafting through. Kitten and onezero laughed at their easels. Sempervirens sang at her drawing table.

For an artist, community is nearly as vital as solitude, realized Ren. And now, she had both!

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