More Bali, USA
Updated: Mar 4, 2022
August, 2006 Yesterday as I watched an (other) amazing Bali dawn while doing yoga, with one eye on the clock so I would be finished before my masseuse/facialist arrived, I realised why I have ambivalence about writing! It feels a little weird writing these me, me, me letters as I am living this idyllic life. An Aquarian moonlights as a Leo. But I promised I'd write so here goes - more ramblings from a hammock. People tell me they like reading my 'adventures', only right now I'm not actually having any, and there are none on the immediate horizon. It is easy to write when I am off doing completely new and different things, but suddenly bopping between California and Bali has become my everyday life, and doesn't the extraordinary inevitably becomes the ordinary? So it feels like I'm just repeating myself - paradise to paradise and other banalities. I feel outrageously fortunate to have entered a stage of life where I do what I want, when I want (and I say this without self criticism), and I certainly go wherever I want. And I believe I am, along with all my friends, at that age when we should be living our dreams... because if not now, then when? I have more appreciation for everything I experience than ever before, and I don't feel old age creeping up or anything like that (it wouldn't dare!)... but I am very aware that I need every minute I have left of this life to see all the things left to see… and more. And as an aside there is of course the 'not so small' matter of funding these 'heart's desires', but if we're really lucky (and I feel I am), even this part becomes part of the whole adventure. So on one level every minute feels like an adventure, but the truth is when you are actually 'out in the world' you are constantly meeting people living far more exotic, creative and adventurous lives than yourself. I have friends climbing huge, daunting mountains, a boyfriend charging through about 9 countries a year on a regular basis, and another friend who has immersed herself in humanitarian work in a remote Indian village, so little Ms 'Pampered, lounging in Paradise' doesn't exactly feel like Sir Edmund Hillary or Thor Heyerdahl at this precise moment in time. But let me see how I feel after my next massage. On this last trip 'home' to the US I spent time with several friends facing intense physical and emotional challenges. It is impossible to describe how strong and inspirational they are. I came away feeling very ordinary and humbled (in a positive way), but at the same time encouraged (love that word… uplifted by another's courage), and happy and grateful for this life, especially because I share it with these people. I have no doubt whatsoever that those with the greatest courage sometimes don't move too far from their own front door, and being truly adventurous has far more to do with how we live every single day than how far we actually travel. I happened upon part of a Kahlil Gibran poem recently and it expresses exactly how I feel about my friends. ‘When you part from your friend, you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain. And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit’. The friendships I have in Santa Ynez, and further afield (who I see even less of), if anything become closer as time passes, no matter how long or wide the separations. I rarely see everybody when I am there, but I've realised it simply doesn't matter. The connections remain strong, and are ever growing stronger. I was in the US almost 4 months (March to June), condensed into what felt like 4 days. Santa Ynez was glorious... beautiful and green, and I conveniently (and quite unconsciously) sandwiched my time there between the rains and what I hear is now a 'blazing furnace'. Phew. Hate me if you will, but the rice fields of Bali are perfect at this time of year; gently swaying palm trees and cool breezes taking the edge off the skin-replenishing humidity. So what do I do when I'm back in 1st world 'civilisation'? I work, hike, take yoga classes, constantly catch up on my email work, and of course have some great social times. And before you know it I am packing up again, and crossing the same ocean again. Repetition exists no matter how things may look. Then I'm back in Bali, doing yoga, taking (shorter, sweatier) walks, on the computer, seeing friends. Same life, different landscape. There are no great adventures to be told of my stay in the US, except for deepening friendships and a lot of love, but what's better or more exciting than that? Oh, I did have to wade through a flood to get to my friend's beautiful home in Manchester by the Sea, but the only potential danger was getting my computer wet, but that is a pretty serious one. I went to Chicago and Boston, and spent time with my precious daughter and close friends back there. I also saw my beautiful 'renegade' son, so the most vital connections were made (be it far too briefly). The majority of my work time was spent doing astrology readings, some massage and keeping up with all I need to do for the 2 workshops in Bali in October and November. Karen and Jon once more gave me an amazing, (temporary, but consistently welcoming), home at the Trout Farm, which was heaven. Melanie came from England for a quick visit, painted a masterpiece of a mural and brought her lovely South African boyfriend, who is very amusing and full of life. He is Aquarian, like me, so the poor girl now has the 2 of us being bossy and trying to organise her life, and yes maybe it was because we are so alike that we bickered (playfully) quite a lot. I would guess it is the sign least likely to mate with its own sign; too independent, stubborn and quirky to get along with someone else with those same non-compromising traits! John breezed through SYV several times on his bi-yearly trip to the US, he drives vast distances selling his treasures and visiting the galleries that show his work between New Mexico and California. He now has a whole new group of 'fans', and his creations can be seen on many a stylish SY Valleyite. I went to a dinner party and there were literally a row of his 'one of a kind' beaded purses sitting on a dresser, it would have made a great promotional photo! When I flew back to Bali in mid July, I boarded the plane in LA and there, by coincidence, was my friend and neighbour from the rice fields, an Argentinian woman Alejandra, who is as much in love with Bali as I am. She is creating a life that will allow her to live here too, an architect by profession she has morphed into a really good clothes designer. I think it's something in the air, everyone in Bali becomes creative (except for me, I just hang out with them and get to wear the things they make). We hadn't been in touch for about 9 months, so had lots to catch up on... and she had access to the Executive Lounge in Hong Kong, so as her guest I got to shower, eat, drink and lounge. God bless coincidences (and friends with Executive privileges). An added delightful bonus to arriving in Bali this time (once I had got through Indonesian customs peering at my 6 months worth of vitamins long enough for me to realise I needed to pay a little compensatory 'tax'), was having a very sexy guy leaning against a pillar with a great smile and a red rose behind his back waiting for me. Yep, a year and a half later it's probably time to admit I really am in a relationship.We're having a great time, we like the same lifestyle and both want to experience as much of the world as possible(despite the insanity and fear mongering that conspires to dampen such dreams). And perhaps most importantly, we are both very independent and respect and feel unthreatened by that quality in one another, we share the same need for alone times, and what is more romantic than reunions?? He leaves in a few weeks to go on his annual buying trip to China, Nepal, Pakistan and India, and may in fact take the new train from China to Tibet. It's pretty controversial for a myriad ecological and social reasons, and apparently the tracks are already suffering damage after only a couple of months of use. It is predicted to have at most a lifespan of 50 years, god knows why they built it, how silly of me, could it possibly be money and commerce? Nonetheless it is supposed to be a spectacular trip, and I would love to see Tibet, although I'm told it is already too late. Sadly, after 50+ years of occupation Tibet is now far more Chinese than Tibetan. Since I began writing he has decided to skip the train, apparently it is a bit of a nightmare even getting a ticket, and practically overnight there has been a jump from 2,000 visitors a day to Lhasa to over 7,000. The Potala is now as crowded as the Sistine Chapel, and probably just as commercialised. And apparently McDonalds is to be found anywhere. Why am I surprised? I am pretty much rooted here in Bali until the workshops, there is an enormous amount to do logistically, and although it is easier the second time around, it is still going to take most of my time between now and then to get everything together. But it's fun, I am currently designing more comfortable pillows for the hall (almost the only complaint I had last time was lack of comfortable seating). Actually what I am really doing is going around spying and stealing other people's ideas and having them made for a fraction of the cost! Things are going really well with the workshop plans and sign-ups, although I have some big challenges exactly in accordance with my own astrology and the big bites I have chosen to chew (gnaw?) on. But I'm facing them, and I don't need to air them... it's life, and if it looks too cushy, then it 'ain't happening! Thank Heavens for a little Vipassana meditation in my past (and in the future methinks would be a very good idea!). In truth after 2 years in Bali I have been forced to take the rose coloured glasses off. I love the country and the people more than I ever have, but in the way that love deepens and becomes more real once you shed the illusions. I am only just now beginning to see and experience daily, through creating and operating a business here, what really goes on below the surface. The Balinese are truly the most gracious, kind and lovely people, but there is a very ancient and complex social system that they all belong to. Plus they are poor, and we are the wealthy visitors, and that is a dynamic that dominates and must be understood and negotiated daily. I just read a book called 'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert, and part of it is set in Bali. Her description of their society is very insightful, and her experiences very much in keeping with my own. John and I took a wonderful 4 day trip, rented a car and drove across Bali to the north coast. I thought he was Steve McQueen on a motorcycle, well now I have driven with him in Bali (land of zero speed limits), and I must say, without a doubt, that he is also the Parnelli Jones of South East Asia! We had an amazing time and ended up in a village called Pemuteran on the north west tip of the island, very close to where the ferries cross to Java. Very different landscape, almost reminiscent of the Santa Barbara area. It is the dry season so the hills are quite dry and golden, not at all like the year round lushness of the rice fields (which remain my absolute favourite). We stayed in quite an upmarket old hotel right on the beach, it was divine. They are trying very hard to re-establish the coral reefs that were randomly dynamited before they realised the unbelievable damage they were doing. I found it slightly worrying seeing electrical lines running into the ocean, but apparently it's working, and I didn't see any snorkelers getting catapulted out of the water. There were quite a few European (mainly French) families with children, and it was encouraging to see people still taking their kids out into the world. There are natural mineral hot springs in a village close by, so every evening we had these amazing baths, without another soul around. I have no idea why they weren't full of other tourists, although this was only to our advantage. They were very, very hot (and I like my tubs steaming!), but heavenly. I recommend all insomniacs try the combination of mineral baths and sleeping right next to the ocean, it's like falling into an instant coma. On the way home to Ubud we stopped in Bedugul, a market town at the foot of the volcano (at an altitude at which one actually needs a sweater!), and we hit the market and filled the car to the gunnels with fruit and vegetables. John is an incredible cook, which is very nice since I generally only have a kitchen because they tend to come with all houses! Someon who works for me, and cooks for me when he doesn't, looked at me one day in a very concerned way and said "who cooks for you in America?" Who indeed? Despite what anyone says, it's really tough in the 1st world. Then the rental car blew up about an hour from getting us home... not literally it was just billowing vast amount of steam out of the engine. So we left it by the side of the road and piled all the fruit and vegetables into an even smaller taxi and headed home. I guess that could qualify as a mini adventure. My friend Linda from CA just literally breezed through Bali (only spent 4 days here), as part of a round the world trip she is on. It was delightful because she immediately 'got' Bali, and decided to just stay in the rice fields and do zero sightseeing. She had come from a whirlwind tour of Australia, love those Aussies but are they energetically very different from the Balinese, and was on her way to Paris. So the very wise woman opted to do a complete soul bathing (with daily massages of course!) on this 'island of the gods'. I rented her the house next to mine and watched her just melt into paradise, as only a Taurus can do that well. She even took a fall into the rice field (forgive me for telling Linda)... but I believe that it is a form of baptism, and a sign that the rice fields want you back. I was constantly falling in when I first got here and now I can't leave, at least not for long. On November 24th, 6 days after the workshops end, I will wrench myself away from Bali and fly to Chennai (Madras) in the south of India. I hope to be able to lighten my load considerably by leaving most of my luggage somewhere, and then I am going to spend a month travelling there. I'm really looking forward to it, because this is part of the world I have yet to visit. It is a great time of year to go (unless their weather has gone crazy too), and I plan to take the train from the east coast to Kerala in the west, and there is apparently some great trekking (Western Ghats), some of the last remaining wildlife of the area to be seen (or not), and a vast expanse of waterways that can be explored by hiring small boats... yeah. I have another 'around the world' ticket, and I will be traveling on my own (although John may come to India for a couple of weeks before he heads home to spend Xmas with his family). From India, on December 23rd, I fly to Egypt and for the 1st time ever I am doing a 'tour'. I decided to do this because hanging around alone in a Muslim culture doesn't appeal that much right now. I have done it before, and its not always that ' woman alone' friendly, (and at times that means being too friendly), especially if you aren't already familiar with the country. I do have women friends who go to Egypt alone regularly with no problem but I suspect that's because they know it well and have 'time earned' familiarity about where to go and not to go. All I want to do is see the 'sights', so I really don't have time to acclimate and scope it all out before 'jumping in'. The tour I've signed up for is 8 days long (or should I say short?). Cairo, the Pyramids, 2 days going down the Nile on a felucca, 2 nights on a train going to Luxor and Aswan.. and that's it, everything I want to see and do. And someone else organising it suits me just fine, plus when I priced it out doing it myself it would have been a lot more expensive. And you may get all my complaints, regrets and laments in a future letter, but hopefully not. From Egypt I fly to Manchester England on New Year's Eve (and the Brits, especially my friends there, do know how to have a party, so I'll be just in time to borrow a party frock!). I am going to Shrewsbury to spend about 11 days with Melanie. I miss England (and her) a lot, and it seems I can never go too long without a quick revisit, my heritage periodically calls to me, try as I might to ignore it. I am always happy and content when I'm there, as long as it's only briefly. I am anticipating freezing the minute I land, so now besides being the only woman in the rice fields with a pair of 4 inch black satin stiletto heels (try walking down narrow wet grassy paths in those babies), I would warrant I am the only one with a pair of Ugg boots. They look rather lost and odd sitting together in my closet (and both pairs are in danger of going mouldy). I may have to buy them a heat lamp so they don't melt in the humidity. If nothing else the lower 18 inches of my body will be protected when I hit the vicious British winter, and Melanie has been warned that I will be plundering her wardrobe. My sarongs will not cut it, besides that, coupled with the Uggs it might be a rather bizarre fashion statement. So there, in a rather fat nutshell, is my life at the present moment in time.Actually it is very much a 'what I plan to do with my life' letter.. (appropriate as it was started while Mercury was still retrograding), the blanks to be filled in later. The rice fields around my house are about to be harvested, so the Balinese farmers are keeping a constant watch out for birds, there are flags flying, tin cans being rattled and all kinds of wild catcalls being made. I have never before witnessed, or felt so nestled in, the cycles of life and nature in this way, it’s truly wonderful. October, 2006 While I have been here, a Beloved Friend Ralph passed away, and he's been in my thoughts a lot, suddenly his presence is larger than life here in Bali, and in a delightful way. He suffered a lot, but now all I can see and feel is his mischievous, brilliant self. He will be missed terribly, but I for one am deeply grateful that I had him in my life. In 10 days my next workshop starts, and tomorrow people start arriving. I have truly succeeded in creating a whirlwind life for myself in what must be one of the most serene places on the planet. Go figure. But in truth it is an idyllic kind of busy. My office is my bed (the only place to get good wireless coverage), so I spend most of my time looking at 360 degree views of the rice fields, sitting cross-legged on my beautiful bed that is covered in pillows, in pinks and greens and swathed in gauze mosquito netting, all at the same time as trying to keep 15 balls up in the air. No wonder I need 2 fans going. I have made a commitment (nobody faint now)… to my house. I just made a 3 year rental contract, and consequently I have completely redecorated it. It is staggeringly inexpensive to do. I go to the market, spend an hour picking out piles of different fabric, then hand them the equivalent of $42. I really wanted some bamboo ladders to hang towels on, and got a little argumentative when they told me I had to buy a set of 3 - until I realised it was under $5 for all of them. Then 3 days later I magically have custom made pillows and bedspreads and beautiful lamps, what was that about hardship in the 3rd world? Two major inspirations have been at play. Firstly I love my dear friend Emily's house more than any house I have ever seen, so it is a mini copy of it - 'Rancho de los Colores East' (in fact I've named it 'Rumah Warna'... House of Colour). Secondly my paddy mate Alejandra started making her house really cute, so it was a blatant case of 'having to keep up with the Cisneros'.' And we know what a slippery slope that is. I will sub-let it (only to people I know or are referred) when I'm not here. Anyway that was a bit of a project that I started right when I was coming up to the 1st workshop, and I am still itching to take the whole front wall out and replace it with glass, but I am resisting. It is however on the agenda for next July. I managed to run away to a couple of Islands right before the last workshop. Once with John and some Czech friends, we went to Nusa Penida, an Island renowned for being the home to certain 'demons', which the Balinese take very seriously. It is about an hour and a half boat ride from mainland Bali, but not developed at all (but well known as a great diving spot). We rented motorbikes, John driving, my hat promptly blew off (like something out of a movie.. and more on hats later), and we lost the rest of the group, and ended up riding around the island for 5 hours (we both had quite sore rear ends when it was over). But it was one of those magical mishaps, we kept looking for our friends, and going down all kinds of obscure paths, and what an amazing place. We would come to the end of a dirt trail, and there would be the most dramatic cliffs I have ever seen, thousands of feet high (I don't believe I'm exaggerating - however I did once buy 100 feet of telephone wire to cross a rather small room). Wild and impossible to scale... and so scary you had to crawl on your belly to look down (at least for chickens like us). Miles of them, with an ocean so wild I am sure the only way of getting to the beach would be through the misfortune of shipwreck. And then there would be no possible way of scaling the cliffs. Apparently the Chinese have bought the entire coastline, which is currently completely undeveloped, so who knows what it will be in a few years? We finally did get to a beach for sunset, and we could see across to the volcanoes of Bali and it was a sight beautiful enough to make you cry. The following weekend I went to the neighbouring island, Nusa Lembongan, with my friend Alejandra. It is much smaller, and a little bit more touristy, but by western standards not in the least. I made a reservation at the 'Lonely Planet' recommended hotel, there are no docks so you jump right into the surf, and there was a young Balinese holding a wet and disintegrating piece of paper with my name on it shouting.. Miss Evelyn, Miss Evelyn! And it was a fabulous hotel. $8 a night for a single room right on the beach where they harvest the seaweed, yet another million more National Geographic shots (but again I didn't take a one). There are practically no cars on this island, so I took the plunge and learned to ride a motor-bike by myself. It was a blast, and just when I thought I had it pretty down, that darned hat again. It blew off on a hill, I stopped, tried to start again, the bike went over, and I didn't want to let go, but I should have probably let go of the clutch. You know the rest, I had technicolor bruises for a few weeks, but that was all. A lovely Balinese stopped and rescued me, and the bike was fine, so what ends well. Nonetheless it was really fun, and we found some amazing beaches. One in particular called Dream Beach, a place that Hawaii e.g. was probably like 50 years ago. Straw roofed huts on the beaches... and nothing else but white sand. John left for Thailand, Nepal, Pakistan and India mid September on his annual buying/traveling trip, and will be back in about 6 days, and from that point on I have been in full workshop mode. And the workshop. Wow, it was amazing, challenging, and in the face of a lot of 'stuff', an enormous success. Rick, Jeff and Danick (Jeff's lovely french wife) arrived, and all fell in love with Bali at 1st sight. On the 2nd day Jeff and Danick had to rush back to the US because of a medical emergency with their 15 year old daughter. Very, very scary for them (and thankfully now all is well), and at the time very secondary was the fact that suddenly we only had one speaker. But, Rick Levine was amazing and led the workshop single-handedly, and brilliantly. If there was one person whose energy was up to such a task, it is him. I attended the whole thing (and was called upon to give input, which was fun and a big step for me). Although it was somewhat of a beginner's workshop, it was never repetitive or anything less than fun and exciting! We had a great group, quite small but they more than made up for that with their generated energy. Then almost on the heels of that workshop was another, with Rick Tarnas and Darby Costello. So, so different in every way, from the energy, to the format, to the people (it was also over twice as large as the first one). No comparisons can be made, but both were wonderful and a great success. Perhaps I was just already fried and oblivious, (or maybe I was like the Mom with the 2nd kid), but the 2nd group of people were so completely self sufficient and it seemed there were even people I hardly even had a one on one conversation with. But it didn't seem to matter, and everyone was happy and thoroughly enjoyed Bali. John came back and we had a whole 3 weeks together (kind of, I ran a workshop and he started producing a whole new line of bags and jewellery). But we did have some great times before I crossed his still warm tracks back to India, we have so much in common that ironically we tend to spend more time apart than together, but we're doing great, so it is just fine.