For Maya, a weekend at a hot springs with her boisterous friend Rhondey is just what she needs to move forward after her divorce. For Rhondey, it’s an opportunity to help Maya cut loose a little, shed some of her inhibitions. Maya doesn’t see the need to shed anything, and she’s not looking for a teacher. But the more Maya clings to her privacy, the more difficult it is for her to recognize her true teachers…and the right moment to step free.
Targeted Age Group:: 30s-50s
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
A visit to the Esalen Institute. I wrote an entire guest post on Women Writers, Women’s Books about this question. “I wanted to explore how the place was at once self-serious enough to make me roll my eyes and energetically rich enough to make me stand a little straighter, look into myself a little deeper. And I wanted to immortalize some of the funny things that happened to me there. But I knew that I needed to exaggerate Esalen’s qualities in order to make the story work.”
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I answered an interview question about this: “Q: Are any of your characters based on real people? A: Not really. I have a couple of friends who, like Maya, don’t interact much if they’re not saying proper and normal things, but I wasn’t thinking of anyone in particular when I created her. I was mainly thinking about how to build strong but realistic opposite characteristics between Maya and Rhondey. The brassier I made Rhondey, the more Maya withdrew into propriety.”
The room was round, paneled in shining oak, with a flaking white lotus flower painted on the parquet floor. Three windows, cranked open, let the evening waft in. It was warm in here and smelled sweet, like chai with extra cinnamon. The room was so quiet Maya could hear every fiber rustle against the whorls of her fingers when she touched her socked feet, adjusting herself on a zafu. One other person sat in the room, a rangy, middle-aged man with a precise old-Hollywood haircut. His cricket legs were arranged in a neat lotus.
Her thoughts hammered louder than ever. The man—had she disturbed him? Was he going to think her shorts rode up too far on her thighs? Rhondey—was she making friends at the baths? Would she stop hassling about finding a new man? Her job—but those questions hardly even bothered her. And Geoff.
“Look at the lotus,” said the man.
Maya opened her eyes. He sat like a tree. She shut them.
“Look at the lotus,” he said again, and this time she was sure she hadn’t imagined it.
Speaking, asking questions, seemed like the wrong thing to do. This was surely the sort of place where you were supposed to roll with the punches, so she looked at the lotus painted on the floor.
“What do you see?” he asked as quietly as a lover.
It was white. It had once been beautiful, as fresh as what it depicted, but it had eroded with stepping soles and time. The vanishing paint betrayed the pattern of the parquet’s interlocking grain.
No flashbulbs popped in her mind. “I don’t know.” The sound of her voice bore a novel precision against the close walls.
“A wise answer. Keep looking.”
She could not hear him breathing. She looked at the lotus for a while and then for a while more. Her attention raced around the flower’s borders, below the lily pad base, along the faint lines that gave each petal dimension. Geoff, Rhondey, the man fell away from her thoughts. What am I supposed to see? she screamed around every drawn curve.
Her back began to ache, and when she could not bear to look at the lotus any longer, she lifted her gaze. The man had gone, the sound of his leaving apparently lost in her contemplation.
It was blue-dark as she walked back, the period between twilight and night. The crickets were incredibly noisy, the soft floating chatter of other guests a brazen cacophony. Her own thoughts gibbered like monkeys. Sahasrara, the white hut, had been so silent.
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