Nepenthe, Big Sur, California

We employed a woman named Maria Martinez. She came by once a week to clean and moved through the rooms in a unique, transparent way. She would be in the same room with me, and I couldn’t tell she was there. Somehow she had this ability to disappear. When she was in the house, I had to be careful not to talk to myself and to control my bodily functions so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. At first, I thought she was just meek, but Maria wasn’t meek or sad or downtrodden, not at all. As I got to know her better, her secret began to appear. She was reliable, meticulous, clever and could keep an orchid alive indefinitely, blooming year after year. And her two children and husband, and the life they shared, her sensitivity with plants and people, all pointed me in the right direction. And today, I finally realized the source of Maria’s superpower. It’s her natural, unpracticed gratefulness that gently spills into the room.