The king was plagued with the heavy burden of responsibility. “Drought and famine, war and rebellion, disease and disaster, one after the other! I must find a way to quiet my troubled heart, so I can sleep at night!” He offered a reward to the artist who could paint him a picture of perfect peace. Artists came from all over the kingdom, each bringing his own vision of peace.
One painted a sheltered mountain valley.
Another a pristine lake, still and calm, a perfect mirror to reflect a clear blue sky.
There was an orchard in full bloom.
Fluffy clouds with silver linings.
Cheerful sunny days.
And so many sunsets!
The king studied them all, and at last he decided. He chose a painting of a waterfall, tumbling down a mountainside, beneath a dark, angry sky.
“But your majesty,” said his counselor. “Why this painting? This is a portrayal of chaos.”
“Look closely,” said the king. He pointed to a sheltered spot behind the waterfall, where there was a ledge between the jagged rocks. Upon that ledge a mother bird had built her nest. Snuggled beneath her wings, safe and warm, were her precious chicks.
“I understand now,” said the king. “Peace happens not only where there is an absence of strife and suffering. In the midst of chaos, if there is calm in your heart, will you know the true meaning of peace.”
(Mrs. Bradford Ripley and Her Children, 1852. By Robert Walter Weir, Detroit Institute of Art)
(Sculpture for his friend Robert Arthur by Samuel Murray, Detroit Institute of Art)
Copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck
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