My (Unsuccessful) Search for Quiet

Have you ever had one of those days where all you want is to surround yourself with peace and quiet?  Maybe, at the very least, just a calmer, more tranquil environment where you can collect your own thoughts, reflect, meditate, create, read, or whatever it is that you are seeking to accomplish?  Well, last Thursday was one of those such days for me…but sadly it proved to be anything otherwise.  I am currently working on a piece inspired by my travels to France (as mentioned in my previous article this week), and it has taken me a bit to delve into it.  It is a larger canvas than I have worked on in some time – an 18” x 36” – and while I like the unusual size of the workspace, I am feeling the difference.  When I was in school, I regularly painted on even larger canvases, but since it has been some time, I am trying to work myself back up to comfort on larger scales again.  I had already been to the studio to work a few times early in the week, but only for a few hours at a time, so I was really craving a good block of uninterrupted work time so I could make a dent in this piece.  I decided that I was going to get there around noon to avoid the heavier foot traffic of the day’s later hours, figuring I’d work until I ran out of natural light – around 6pm.  Alas, what good intentions I had!

Things started out just fine.  I got set up and started working right away.  I was making good progress and I was liking how my piece was coming along.  Let me explain that the communal studio space of which I am a member, while an awesome place, is located in a very industrial part of town.  I know at any given time things can get busy and there can be periods of heavier foot traffic and commotion, but it usually comes in waves and tends to die back.  Things are also typically much calmer in the earlier part of the day, which was the basis for my day’s plan.  All I had hoped for was a slightly more peaceful surrounding than I had experienced during my other visits earlier in the week.  I always work with the big roll-up garage doors open when I paint, for both natural light and for good airflow since I mostly work in oils.  Due to this fact, I can see and hear all of the goings-on of the surrounding businesses from my vantage point.  The next garage-like building over is split between storage space for the nearby drive-through coffee stand and a power tool rental facility.  As I was enjoying the sunlight, some of the workers at the coffee storage facility decided to put on some music – a fine idea, considering what a lovely day it was…except if it’s the latest Fall Out Boy album, blared ad nauseam over and over while one of the workers inside screams to every song like she’s auditioning for American Idol.  The thought crossed my mind to put in some headphones, but there was nothing that could have drowned out that sound without blowing out my own hearing in the process and I’m not one who particularly cares to wear headphones either.  Strike one.

I decide to take a lunch break, hoping they will have progressed to a new album by the time I get back.  Unfortunately, not the case.  Now, to join the cacophony of noise, a few of the workers at the power tool rental station have started working on some of the equipment out in the communal parking lot area.  I’m not just talking about power drills or sanders.  They are revving and running lawn mowers and chainsaws at full blast – both sounds that to most people can be irritating and unpleasant to listen to, but for me, are some of the worst sounds in the world.  I absolutely HATE the sound of a chainsaw in use.  It creeps me out.  As an adult, I still run and scream in terror if chased by some masked idiot wielding a fake one in a Halloween haunted house.  I know, pretty sad right?  I think I must have been traumatized by one in a previous life or something.  Anyway, since I’m not currently getting chased with one in this situation, I try to work through it all, grating my teeth.  I work for a while longer, on edge, until my sister calls.

Anxious to get away from all that chaos, I answer the phone and walk outside to the front of the studio so I can get caught up with my sister.  It’s always nice to hear from your family, provided you can actually hear the conversation…

“Hi sis!  How are —CLANG—” (the driveway grate clangs like a gong as someone pulls in.) “Wow, where are you?” She asks.

“At the studio,” I explain.

“So we were thinking that on your next visit up here, we should —CRASH—” (a tow truck pulls into the service station across the street.)  “You’re at the studio?  It sounds like you’re in a garage.”

“I know.  It’s been a pretty noisy day here so far.”  I answer.

“So what do you think about —REV REV REV—” (an idiot on a motorcycle revs his engine as if it’s an extension of his own appendage.)

…AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!  Why can’t all you people just shut the hell up?!?!  Is it impossible for you all not to make noise just for the sake of noise???  Every day white noise, I can understand.  The rest of it just adds up to noise pollution, in my opinion.  I do wind up being on the phone with my sister and mom for about an hour, though about every other sentence has to be repeated.  I hang up, exasperated with the level of clamor we are bombarded with on a daily basis.  On a positive note, I did have a nice conversation (what I could hear of it), and a kid shouted to me from his car that he liked my shoes as he drove by (before a vulgar altercation broke out elsewhere nearby…never did find out what that was all about.)  I pack up my things.  I have made good progress on my piece, considering everything, though I go home feeling much less rested and relaxed than I would have liked.  I guess this shows me that I still can get good work done in a noisy environment, but it won’t hinder me in my search for quiet and calm.  The soul does need stillness from time to time.  I am hopeful for a more tranquil workspace environment on my next visit, so fingers crossed to see what this week brings!



One thought on “My (Unsuccessful) Search for Quiet”

  1. Sadly too true. There is simply too much noise everywhere we go anymore. Good luck finding your peaceful place.

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