But when I sat down beside her and brushed the hair back from her face, what I saw was not anxiety of any kind, but mad, gleaming joy. She was rigid with the affirmative, thrumming inside and grinning like a tiny little lunatic.
As soon as the freeze of the initial wow subsided, she surged. For an hour I chased her around the crowd and watched her darting in and out and among people, stopping to ask questions about some especially beautiful salwar kameez or show off her own, which was a present from our hosts.
Then the guests of honor arrived, the mother and child joining the host, our ecstatic friend, to make a family of three again. Everyone rushed to greet them, to welcome them. They stood, father, mother, child, in a ring of dancers—Sedona being ever-eclectic—while their family members took turns blessing them by encircling their heads with stacks of dollar bills, which were then hurled into the air above them to rain down like flitty flowers.
Somehow, through the grace and good humor of this family and my child’s explosion of bliss, despite my attempts to put a well-mannered limit on her involvement in the central festivities, she was included in several of these blessings, she received many blessings, danced around the mother and child–another blessing, danced all alone for everyone to the whirling bang of disco raga, and made personal friends with more people than I could receive by way of thanks: Yes, she is mine. Yes, she is wonderful.
Occasionally, over several more hours and into the evening, I noted a register of surprise when I confirmed that she was my little one. Really? their eyes seemed to say. But in my bedraggled, less than enthusiastic defense, I had started the day three hundred miles away, fighting with a leaky rubbish can, chasing down the cat when he slipped out to tempt the neighbor’s half-rabid mastiff into eating him, picking up dry-cleaning, gassing up the car, packing the bags, and vacuuming up the coffee grounds I’d spilled so that our pet-sitter would not be too appalled with the condition of our house to come back next time. It had been a typical day up to the very moment we stepped through the restaurant door and into the party world, and as such, the evening had not found me as brightly lighted as I might have liked.
And therein is the round meaning of the night. In the span of a day in which I know I will address reading, writing, and if I am supremely fortunate, painting or fabricating, I will also manage school lunch boxes, traffic, overloaded laundry baskets, students with anemic motivation to think, traffic, more traffic and then supper to fix or fetch and, in any event, clean up.
The flow of creative juiciness shrivels in the draw of the mundane, where the zeal for bliss is reduced to a bullet point on the daily calendar. But joy has an investment in creation, and the attraction is joined by creation’s need for joy, and thus, the work of vision and expression incarnates as the divine romance of art and artist.
After the party, after the child that charmed the world in a room finally lay her head down and, dreaming, led her still-dancing feet into sleep, I crashed, too. And in my dreams my husband and I walked up a red rock trail, winding around trailheads, mounded towers of sandstone. We were wandering without direction for what seemed a desperate long time. We were lost, stupid city hikers with no map and no feel for the open terrain, out of breath, thirsty. Our climb leading us nowhere. Then, going over a steep rise, we came all at once down into a bowl shaped valley, fringed by scores of people whom we could not quite see but could hear and perceive as present. They were singing and clapping. The valley before them was carpeted by brilliant flowers in all colors, shining as the sky turned red on the horizon, visible between the slot of the far walls.
Over us all floated a huge sphere of red fire, burning like its own sun above the center of the valley. From this body of pure flame and oozing heat poured a trembling awe. We wanted to back away, but the will to act on urge was not in our possession while the red orb burned. As I watched, enthralled, the flames swept back, swept open, leaving a sliver of still red flickering flames in a ring of cool fire. In the center of this brilliance was seated Lakshmi, known to me only from her image painted on mural of a restaurant wall.
In her radiance, in my dream, she was—indescribable. Huge, but human, surreal, but all-present in form, in glory, in consciousness. She was flesh, but luminescent, sitting in the lotus position, flowers raining from the palm of her outstretched hand, flowers pouring down to the floor of the earth and with them her love, her abundant gifts.
Her eyes were closed, and I was thankful for this, being already awestruck, pinned to the vision of her velvet skin, the poise of her four hands, each one offering an intricately different face of blessing, and the smell of flowering perfume coloring the air, the ring of flame around her as she floated there, the force of origin issuing from her moving, not moving fingers, her palms, the flood of her light. It was a kind of conversion. It was a dream of creation with no meaning or attachment to the life of day other than its possession of joy in abundance.