The Santa Ana winds have been in town for a couple of days. Raymond Chandler once described them as “those hot dry [winds] that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.” They also make a mess of my yard, scattering bamboo twigs, bougainvillea blossoms, and the leaves and wild figs from the vine covering the twenty-foot wall I share with Bill next door. Other than having to clean all this up, I love the Santa Anas. They make me feel alive and sexy and bring to life one or more of the ten Soleri hand-built wind bells hanging around the yard.
These works of art come from Arcosanti, a utopian village in Cordes Junction, Arizona created by the famous artist and architect, Paolo Soleri. The sale of the bells goes to support his pursuit of lean alternatives to urban sprawl, to finding better ways for everyone to live in harmony. People come from around the world to study with him and to buy his pieces. My largest bell, at 61 inches from the top loop to the bottom of the two “fins,” is made of brass. It has a sound that could call medieval villagers to prayer. But it was one of the smaller bells, hand-carved of ceramic that called to me yesterday.I was sitting in my writing studio, deeply engrossed in an edit of my memoir, Loveyoubye, when a gust of wind caught the bell and it clanged. Just once. I stopped mid sentence. The sound, somewhere between a cowbell and one of those German beer hall bells, sounded clear and pure like never before. It filled my brain, shoving out everything else that was in there. I stared into space. The note lingered in my head then carried me to thoughts of Billie, my dear spiritual mentor, who passed away a couple of days earlier. I could see her, sitting in her chair speaking of the wisdom of the ages, excluding none of the religions or philosophies, instead expanding upon them, revealing the heart of each, beyond the form, beyond the dogma. How it is up to each one of us to adopt a loving heart and to consciously become receptive to that greater truth that unites us all. Brotherhood. She sounded a note so clear and strong that a path was blazed for others to follow, just like each one of us must do. Like Paolo Soleri, a man of vision and dedication is doing. His bell reminded me of this today.