Home and home again….. March 1, 2018
Deep sigh…first an apology of not writing my annual letter from Indonesia, where I easily can capture the palpable energy around me and translate it from an unseen frequency into English and onto the screen/page distilled through my Laura perspective. But alas, I was just too full on this trip I didn’t have a chance to sit at the computer for my annual indulgence of writing you all, so now on my first day back, I am perched up in my home office in Philadelphia, on the 3rd floor of our old and fabulous house, looking out over the slate roof tops of my neighborhood with the very, pale steel grey sky as back drop…quite a contrast to the vibrant greens from where I have just come.
My home office in Bali is the table on my front porch of my bedroom which sits next to a huge rice padi (field) belonging to the local families nearby. Being connected to the land there, watching the rice grow daily, is something I often take for granted in my US reality, even back when we had our nice big garden. For all Indonesians, rice is the mainstay of their diet and is grown in cycles of four month crop rotations per year. First the melding of the mud and muck, then submerging the baby seedlings by hand so they poke up out of the very wet mud, to the emerging rice plants filling in the newly flooded fields that reflect the sky’s mood from above, to my favorite where water recedes and is barely visible because the now 3 month old plants fill in the rows with the greenest green imaginable. From there, the latter stages where the heavy rice seeds brown up and hang heavy on the end of the stalks, bending over signaling ready for harvest (they say when the rice plant it flaccid, it is ready for harvest), then the cutting of the crop, winnowing and chaffing by the women, and finally when the ducks come into glean the last few morsels left by the pickers and leaving their duck poop to be the fertilizer for the next crop to come. The cycle thus begins again. Just the other day on my last morning as I sipped my Bali coffee, the local farmer who appears older than the sea but probably is no more than 60, slugged through the thick mud preparing the padi for the next planting, he pushed and pulled a plank-like hoe, smoothing the surface of the muck. Even as Indonesia all around me gets more developed and modernized, I continue to marvel that by in large, the rice farming is still being practiced as their ancestors did before them, on this very padi, manually by hand and by heart. And yet, through my morning sleepy fog, I startled when I noticed against the farmer’s mocha colored skin, the strikingly bright white ear buds and wire that connected him to his smart phone, and in turn to this century. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was listening to: music, a pod cast, the news? Got a chuckle from that all day, and still do remembering it now.
Most of my time in Bali was spent not day dreaming on my porch but rather out on the road with my dear friend Connie and our driver Kadek, gathering treasures for my show. One day, at our perhaps 10th stop of the day, all hot and tired from the schlepping, schmoozing and the constant decision making that comes along with my weird little job of shopping for handcrafts, we were sitting out front of a family home waiting for the mother to make change for us after picking out our goodies (bird houses in this case), enjoying the reprieve. I heard bells ringing and the vocal chanting from behind the shop, signaling a family temple ceremony was taking place. I was immediately filled with a cognitive dissonance – on one hand I was embarrassed that the mother had taken time away from her religious family duties to come deal with us, but also, in love with the local temple ceremonies especially smaller family ones, my senses were transfixed. When I asked her forgiveness for being such a bother, she waved me off saying she had her period and could not participate anyway (a Balinese Hindu ritual preset strangely enough), and asked me if I wanted to go back and pray with the family. Knowing how much more work we had left for the day, I thanked her, and apologized once again, feeling of course conflicted. Almost as if on cue, the women of the family made their way past us as we sat on the front stoop, in procession with chanting in prayer, lighting incense for blessings, and tossing holy water to the gods in a sacred act to purify as well as rid one of evil. They stopped right in front of us old white looking tourists, and the matriarch insisted we take the holy water in blessing. No time for full on ritual prayers I thought, instead, the blessings came right to me! I couldn’t tell if it was holy water running down my face or tears of joy, but that is just one vibrant memory of what a strange and wonderful place Bali is and how blessed I am to have it in my life.
The rains here in Philly are just starting with a sweet sound on my window panes. Last week in Java I watched the rain come down in truck loads with such a roar I could not hear my friend speak across the table from me. The dramatic storms there help cool down the hot heat of the day, and after walking about 6 miles in the 90 degree sun, I welcomed the deluge. Earlier that morning I had set out to find new inter-tubes for my becak (Indonesian pedi cab many have seen at my show or in my garage). The tires have been flat for years, and I really needed to get the tubes in Java where becaks are common, as the tires require a rare measurement, hence a fun new shopping challenge for me. On a main road that morning I happened upon a huge crowd gathering for a protest, and much to my delight it was about 100 becak drivers, kind of like becak union meeting of sorts. I queried a few of them as to where I could get my new inter-tubes, and they scratched their heads and chuckled at the white woman who had such a request, a first for them I am sure. None the less, later in the day I was the proud owner of 3 new inter-tubes (yes, it has 3 wheels), with the hope as Bill says, that we can find someone back home to help us get the very rusted wheels off our strange chariot to change the tires. No doubt we will…where there is a wheel there is a way!
Now with the light waning up here in my perch, I hear the jet lag is climbing the stairs to overtake me. Off to bed I must, only to dream of my other home half way around the world, the place that makes my heart quake in amazement – even in the midst of intense heat and contradictions that are all around me. Or perhaps it is because of these that my soul overflows and delights me on a daily basis? When I wake tomorrow morning next to my beloved Bill, I hope I can remember that I am but the vessel – be it here or there – that contains that amazement wherever I am. And for you I wonder, what makes your heart quake?
Much much love,