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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Inspiration/Block (for the writer) (05/20/10)

TITLE: Beautiful Mess
By Marita Thelander


My creativity dried up. I hadn’t written anything book-worthy in over a decade. My financial advisor suggested I try to resuscitate the breathless muse inside of me. I suppose that meant I needed to shower, shave my scruffy white whiskers, and drag the old hermit out to seek inspiration. For some reason the tattered wallpaper, cob webs, and dust motes had lost their voice.

That’s how I ended up in Greece. Someplace adventurous with exotic beauty should do the trick, yet after a week my notepad overflowed with empty pages.

Every day I perched outside a café and sipped from a tiny demitasse cup. I’d become partial to the sweetened, bold, Greek coffee. I observed the activity around the marina and enjoyed the magnificent village carved into the rocky hillside. I longed for my senses to absorb the beauty, sounds, smells, taste…attempting to trigger something, anything.

One day a local artist brought her aspiring students to the cobblestoned viewpoint over the marina. “Let your eyes soak in the beauty and allow it to flow through your brush strokes.”

Hmph, I grunted involuntarily.

The eager students began to lay the foundation for their latest masterpieces, except for the woman closest to me. She stared at her blank canvas. The wind blew at her floral printed skirt and whisked a strand of graying hair from her head scarf. Her delicate hand tucked it away.

The instructor wandered among the easels admiring the works of her students. One chose to focus on a fishing boat, another on the village. Two worked on an entire landscape while one turned her attention towards the café; probably painting the old bum in the straw hat with his unused notebook in his lap.

“Just relax, Maria.” The instructor stood before the white canvas. Her fingers lovingly stroked through her student’s shoulder-length, wavy, white hair. “Close your eyes and see what your imagination brings you.” Her oldest student squirmed but obeyed.

I found myself with my eyes closed, but I envisioned the texture of Maria’s windblown hair. I wanted to watch this beautiful woman work through her artistic block. I opened my eyes to see her painting feverishly fast with color strokes unlike the surroundings.

I scanned the scenery. For the life of me I couldn’t see what she portrayed in her painting. Her movements were deft and sure, her colors dark and foreboding. My heart raced with each stroke and I strained to see.

The master stood behind her student once again. “Ah, Maria,” she whispered.

I leaned forward to hear and almost fell off my chair.

“Melpomene dominates your work, but eventually she will move on.”

Melpomene, the muse of tragedy? I wondered what she meant. I stood and nonchalantly wandered closer pretending to sip coffee from my tiny, empty cup. Maria seemed to be focused on a corner of the canvas, her color choices no longer dark.

I couldn’t really see from my new angle so I stole a glance at her face. Her white hair framed her tanned, slightly wrinkled skin. Her clear blue eyes looked weary and her cheeks appeared wet with tears.

Maria stood and moved to the right, eyeing the scene she’d created. She wandered to the left, and then returned to the center. She set her pallet and brush down and walked into the café. I quickly moved to see what spilled out of her unblocked imagination onto the canvas.

Her painting portrayed a boat on the stormy sea. The sail torn, ropes snapped dangling useless in the torrential wind. The explicit details of the waves tossing its victim to and fro caught my breath. She had debris from the mast floating in the water, and I noticed no one at the helm. What truly fascinated me was Maria’s creativity and skill. In the corner she painted, with perfect detail, the marina in bright sunlight without evidence of any storm. Along the bottom in delicate script she titled it: Safe Harbor.


“Yes, she is,” the instructor whispered.

I didn’t realize anyone stood behind me.

“Three years ago Maria lost her husband and son at sea in the worst storm this region’s ever seen.” She glanced at the notebook tucked under my arm. “Do you sketch?”

“No,” I shook my head. “I write.”

Maria slouched at my table, demitasse in one hand, tissue in the other. My vacant perch had been occupied by a beautiful mess.

Safe Harbor resuscitated me, my muse, and Maria…my beautiful mess.

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Margaret Kearley 05/28/10
This is really good - I could not stop reading once I started. Beautiful descriptions of Greece and poignant descriptions of pain and struggles. Some wonderful lines - I loved 'yet after a week my notepad overflowed with empty pages!'
Marita Vandertogt05/29/10
Once I started reading, I couldn't stop either. This could be a novel. I want to go back there, I want to know more about Maria, her story, the relationship that's developing. I loved the setting... you created a very large story from such a small window of words. More please.
Carol Slider 06/01/10
This is lovely from beginning to end. You pictured the scene so well I felt I was there, and the characters are beautifully developed. Loved it!
Rachel Phelps06/02/10
I was sad when this ended. Absolutely enthralling - lovely descriptions, amazing inspiration. I am in awe.
Beth LaBuff 06/03/10
I could feel the sea breeze as I watched this unfold before me. Absolutely beautiful in everything. Love this, Mari!
Joy Bach 06/03/10
Oh my. Kind of leaves me breathless. I'm standing to the side, looking at your canvas. Awesome.