I have been out of town to attend a party thrown by our friend, a devotee of the Hindu goddess, Lakshmi. The occasion was the welcoming party for his two month old baby, a beautiful, already laughing child named for the embodiment of the divine, held in the arms of her mother, whose name means peace.
My own child, with whose name rise bubbles of joy, hit the edge of the party crowd and suddenly grabbed my arm, clutched me in a way that I had to unwrap her hands from around my hips to move. And we had to move—so many people were pouring through the door that the force of those entering created a swell of motion at our backs while we surged through, between, behind those already present. Top heavy with arms and legs, I tip-toed between rows of solidly seated party heads to find empty chairs. By some turn of luck, though we had to sacrifice my mother and father in-law along the way, I laid claim to perhaps the last three chairs in a row together as the dinner accommodations turned to standing room. There, in the middle chair, I disentangled my daughter’s fingers from the neck of my new sweater and tried to lower her into the seat without dropping her the last foot or throwing my back out in public. I was sure that the room, the crowd, the noise, and all the fawning hugs and hullos and sit here, drink this, look at that den was too much for her seven year old sensibilities.
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.
Beautiful Sister….you and this piece!!! I only disagree with one point…I DO think it was connected to the day-time life….to tell you that your toils are great, that you may be lost, but that your spirit family – full of celebration for your existence and arrival waits. I have a Goddess Tarot deck where Lakshmi represents the Wheel of Fortune Card — the card of Prosperity, expansion and chance.I think that is ever so fitting.A beautiful post and tribute to Olivia. Just remember she picked YOU – so as marvelous as she is, there is your mirror.
Point well taken. I actually think the disconnect between the dream and the life of day is commentary on the misappropriation of those waking hours. And, yes, the whole experience put my girl's nature into its proper context.
Perhaps our dreams are checking in with us, allowing us to see where our hearts and minds are leading us.Ooooh!
I don't know. It's all very visual and sort of overwhelms me, but I can't think its healthy to say conversion? Were you converted?
Jeff, I wish you'd been there. It was a happening…Anon, thank you for the questions–I think I'll stand by the word conversion. It's good that you found it provoking, because I meant it most profoundly, though certainly not dogmatically–I don't even know enough to be dogmatically converted. The "conversion" is another metonymical signpost pointing the way to deeper spiritual significance rather than to a religion. My Hindi friends would laugh if I went all literal.
so wonderful to see things anew from the eyes of a child.
You captured that magical evening beautifully. As one of the attendees stated, "Olivia was blissed out". Awesome!!!