DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Journey into your personal province

THERE IS THIS place, this miracle, some call “the zone.”

Step in and glide — dance, make music, write, walk in the forest. The zone is where the mind is focused and free, one with the activity.

I’ve entered it a thousand times in the newsroom: police scanner blaring, other reporters barking — no matter. When at last I lock in, all I see is the story flowing from fingers to screen.

For plein air (outdoor) artists, the zone beckons out in the elements. Gretha Lindwood, a painter from Portland, Ore., who’s worked in and around Olympic National Park, describes it: “I’m just working away, and I might not even be thinking about the painting … and it’s just falling off [the brush]. It’s painting itself.

“I’m enjoying the beautiful view. I’m listening to the birds, the water, the music of nature.

“All of a sudden, I realize it’s almost done.”

Lindwood will return to this place during Paint the Peninsula, the Aug. 21-27 event (www.Paint thePeninsula.org) that draws artists from across North America to Port Angeles. Twenty-two painters gather, then fan out across the North Olympic Peninsula with pastels, oils and watercolors.

One year, Utah artist Rachel Pettit went to the Salt Creek Recreation Area to paint the sea in all its glory. As she worked, everything changed: light, shadows, breeze — and tide. The surf flowed in around her feet; Pettit kept on. Ordinarily, plein air artists spend a few hours at their easels, but Pettit, in her close encounter with the Strait of Juan de Fuca, finished hers in 45 minutes.

Paint the Peninsula organizer Anne Dalton marvels: “That is a real professional,” she said, “who can capture the essence in such a short time.”

Pettit and Lindwood know the zone, as does Paula Ensign of Bainbridge Island. Ensign is another in the group who will work outdoors, from West End beaches to Olympic mountainsides, during Paint the Peninsula.

“I love working directly from nature,” she said. “When you feel the peace and beauty of a particular location, those qualities end up in the finished art.

“Painting in a beautiful place on a sunny day is pure delight.”

This delight, freshly translated into colors on canvas, will make its way to the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd., for free, daily art shows. The center, usually open only a few afternoons a week, will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, Aug. 21-25; from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26; and finally from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27.

Admission is free except for the awards party from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 26, when $10 includes drinks, appetizers and a chance to see who wins Best in Show and other prizes.

Where is your zone? Perhaps you go there walking along the waterline at the beach or listening to Chopin or Hendrix or Tito Puente.

For Jonathan Pasternack, conductor of the Port Angeles Symphony, the zone is a circle of energy.

“The orchestra inspires me. The audience inspires us … they agree to sit in the dark and listen.

“Whether it’s a five-minute overture or a 50-minute symphony,” he said, “you don’t feel the weight of time.

“The ideal is that we all go there together.”

Correction: Diane Urbani de la Paz’ Aug. 2 column, “New Parents At Ages 63 And 77,” misstated Jean Stratton’s studies as a Zen Buddhist. She took vows to live a consciously Buddhist-principled life. This was not for ordination, as hers is a lay Buddhist community.

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Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Angeles.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Sept. 6.

Reach her at [email protected]