On Saturday mornings I meet with a handful of women at Sandy's house to write. It's an apartment, actually, but it feels like a temple perched on a hilltop overlooking the sea. From her little balcony pointed like a boat, filled with scarlet and magenta geraniums and a big jade plant steering at the prow, you are washed by the whisper of the waves, and blessed by the breath of the breeze.
You approach Sandy's temple along an open corridor facing a rocky cliff you could reach out and touch, where cats sleep in the sun far below. She welcomes you in and you are instantly dazzled by the harmony of colors singing out like birds in a tropical forest. Scattered on the canvas of the white couch are cushions sapphire blue, lighter than turquoise, and lilac, lighter than lavender, that is also the color of the welcoming, velvet armchair. A garden of bright embroidered flowers sings out from the Guatamalan tapestry laid across the white table, and gentle incense wafts across the room. She is the priestess, and of all the temples I have been in and made pilgrimages to, this is my favorite. Because of what we are about to do. And because whatever deity we are serving is neither pictured nor named, neither sung nor spoken about. It is the unnamable current that has carried us here, as precious to us as our own breath.
Today we arrive – I in marigold, Lesley in turquoise and white, Helen in indigo earrings and dress, Vanessa in hushed pale blue – greeted by Sandy in lilac, embroidered with orange across the her collar bones, her dark blonde catching the light. The smile in her eyes is a high violin note ringing softly around us as she carries in each a small celadon dish, one of fresh yerba buena leaves, the other of delicately peeled thin wheels of lime, which she lifts with tongs to float above the ice in the Mexican hand blown glasses of chilled water. Alongside the glasses lie a plate of coconut macaroons and one of fresh seed cookies from the best bakery in town.
The first time I encountered the term Universal Creativity was in the book You Are the Eyes of the World, a translation of Longchenpa the great Dzogchen master of the 14th century. Sandy's living room is the temple of Universal Creativity. It is Milarepa's cave on Mt. Kailas, where he wrote, in his 100,000 Songs of Milarepa, "Everyone is already enlightened, everyone is already practicing: the birds are practicing flying, the river is practicing running, the sun is practicing shining, and I am singing my songs of my natural state." Or at least, this is how I remember it.
We are a flock of wise women; we have all completed long migrations over oceans, through storms and danger, up sacred mountains, and through cities filled with madmen and despair, and we have, one by one, over the years, landed here. At least for the moment, as we know the moment is always in motion, like the waves below Sandy's balcony, like the breath of the salt blue sea.
On Sandy's walls hang messages that all speak straight to me: the painting of two daughters held in the young Mayan mother's loving lap are my daughters, the golden desert caravan of carpets filling the sky along the Silk Route are the ones I touched on our way to Mt. Kailas, and today, for the first time, I receive the message from the mysterious leaf on its white background, hanging in its quiet square frame. I have seen it countless times, have forgotten the story she told about where it came from. But today, after reading a page from my grandmother's memoir, about the moment when time stopped, sitting on the edge of her cot in the pioneer days in South Dakota out on the prairie, and like a lightning flash from her soul to her little eight year old self, she knew what she wanted to do in her life, paint - I noticed the leaf looked just like the hairs of a paintbrush, and in fact it was black just like it had paint on it, and at the same time, it looked just like a feather, falling, the way they do, at your feet, and you know, you just know, you just know.