She’d heard since she was smaller of the temple in the mountains, where the grounds were guarded by snow monkeys who only ate peaches. There was a priceless relic there inside a vitrine inside a chamber, in an arched wooden building on the tallest stone outcrop.
The relic was beautiful beyond ownership, like the Himalayas in the summertime, and rare and very old, and people had died while searching for it, other people said. It did not reward the faithful or even the very good. It would not make you powerful or heal your wounds or help you find balance, and no god would smite you for not journeying to see it, but maybe it could set you free.
[Clockwise from top left: Vintage Comme des Garcons asymmetrical jacket from Trixycat; Detox charcoal, rice bran and goat’s milk soap by MeadowsCleanSoap; Tibetan dorje ring from africadirect; Wood meditation bracelet from 8giftshop; Handmade sterling silver ring from notAjewelry; Vintage patent leather clutch from Vintageables; Pyramid stud earrings from arosha; Black suede wedge slingbacks from TeakettleVintage; Burnished bisque-fired nest from BlackAndBlueCeramics.]
It takes a few days of hard walking from the village to get to the temple, just long enough if you are careful to bring a few peaches and carry them unbruised. By the third day she could see the temple near the cloud line, burnished to rust by the setting sun. She set up camp and made tea and wondered about the etiquette of giving a peach to a temple-guarding snow monkey — if you should throw it, like crumbs to ducks, or if you should attempt a hand-off.
[Clockwise from top left: Woven sienna caftan from bohemiennes; Wheel thrown green dotted bowls from lyncarey; Vintage peacock feather clutch from IKAHN; Modern malachite ring by LittleHavanaVintage; Sunstone copper ring from MidwestAlchemy; Vintage vegan ’80s boots from ZiaVintage; Porcelain leggy cup from btw ceramics.]
When she arrived at the temple in the late afternoon, the monkeys must have been napping. She walked up the stone steps without making a noise, alone and hardly breathing, over the last, high wooden step covered in brass, which was bare and cold and clean. There was the vitrine, and inside it a lump of fabric around something hard. She pulled it out and untied the soft vermillon cloth. There was another piece of fabric underneath, this one indigo. She untied it too.
[Clockwise from top left: Vintage sunset rya from elliemayhems; Chantal Thomass yellow button-down dress from theStitchkeeper; Vintage brutalist studio pottery bowl from KatrinkasDesign; “Watermelon” classic Coach bag from trustfund21; Polka dot unglazed stoneware bowl from LeiliDesign; Molten lava candleholder from NikNakNook; Nepal llama bone bracelet from lsjbantiquario.]
The relic had been waiting for her, hardened by fire, and it fit in her palm like a heart. Someone, long ago, had held a ball of clay in one hand and punched it with the other and made a bowl, a lumpy odd thing, holding nothing but a single motion encapsulating creation and violence, and effort and refusing, and ease and seriousness, and also, just maybe, what it means to have and to spend a life.