Same Old, Same Old, India Bali Bop…
India, February, 2016
About to take off... 6+ hours of movie heaven about to commence, love these entertaining skies.
Sitting in a 5 star hotel in Doha, courtesy of the airline, enjoying the pristine cushiness of it all, although if I had to make a choice I prefer the cosy, messy chaos of 3rd world Asia so much more. But... I’m one of the highly privileged of the planet, who doesn’t have to make a choice. For some inexplicable, roll of the dice reason, I get to experience it all.
The Internet, (not provided and costing more than most hotels I usually stay in), is excellent so I was able to call and check in on my Bali-world. Everyone there is deeply involved in preparation for Galungan. Wherever I go, no matter what I’m doing, I know that the Soul of the World is always being tended to in Bali. It is ever a comfort. I have zero doubt as to why Mr Bowie wants his finally resting place to be there.
My daughter is looking forward to seeing her husband in Goa, and I'm ready for the calm and inviting Arabian Sea. Sunshine, sunshine, sunshine; golden sand between the toes, fresh lime sodas, spicy curries, the butterfly colours of Indian women, cows galore wandering willy nilly, all my lovely friends at Bhakti Kutir, and all the old, and yet to be, friends arriving close on my heels for our upcoming astrology adventure.
Beam us up, Qatar Airways. I'm sure that this town has hidden treasures, however, I’m out of here.
Tara's maiden voyage in a Goan tuk tuk, (auto rickshaw), and she did great... she is a (wisely) cautious passenger.
I have dug my roots back in, have a (red) scooter, a lovely hut in the lush gardens of Bhakti Kutir, the ocean can ever be heard in the distance, plus countless birds... and best of all reconnection with lots of old friends. It is so great to be back. We are thoroughly and absolutely laid back in Goa, (except for some happy buzzing around on my red Zia - scooter). The yummy calm before the just as glorious workshop "storm".
Soaking up the last day of my "kids" before they head off on their whirlwind India exploration.
There was a couple staying at the quite humble, but beyond charming hotel, where I hold the workshops. I hadn't a clue who they were, (still don't really), just noted he was awfully tall... and their Enfield was parked next to my scooter; Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky. Am I now the coolest astrologer for staying in the same place, or must I have been living under a rock for not knowing who they are, (as daughter tongue-in-cheekily claimed)?
Can't believe it when the workshop is over. It was brilliant. Great students, great teachers, heavenly Goa, wonderful Palolem family. And, as seems to be a recurring pattern of my life, another long, long train journey tomorrow. 7 of us head for the ancient city of Hampi at the crack of dawn.
Exhausted but content.
4th trip to Hampi, so I've pretty much photographed it to death, which makes for a joyfully camera free time. Except for a couple of stolen moments floating down the river in a coracle boat, and a revisit to my favourite 350 year old frangipani tree.
100 degrees+ sweltering weather, (methinks it's the last time I come in February). The group are all complete troopers and we are having fun, fun, fun.
Kishkinda; can a magical kingdom retain its allure after several visits? Yes, it can. The place of Hanuman's birth, Lakshmi temple, Durga Temple, all nestled in the lush rice fields, or overlooking the river valley and ancient city of Hampi.
Back to Goa and 4 days of zero commitments, (except for massages and dips in the Arabian Sea). Then home to Bali. Paradise to paradise.
Baba's in Chaudi; an Internet hub, and the go to place for phone, Wifi, and printing problems and solutions. The kids there have helped me out so much with all workshops I've held, so I wanted to give them a tip, but they adamantly refused to take money, and instead suggested I get them some fruit. Don't remember ever seeing a bunch of late teen, early twenties' kids, so pleased with a few bags of oranges, bananas, grapes and papaya.
India, constantly touching my heart in the tiniest, hugest ways. It's a part of what forever draws me back here.
Astonishing new find in Goa, (for me), 20,000 - 30,000 year old petroglyphs on a remote little secluded riverbank. Take your breath away beautiful and evocative. Love these living reminders of our mysterious and creative ancestors.
A 5am flight back to Doha, then on to Bali. Full of joy to be going "home", especially as this year I am catching Nyepi, most marvellous day, (of silence), of the year. Bit sad to be leaving India, but next year already scheduled.
2 am taxi, a completely alien hour to me, then a 4am visit to the "frisking booth", (love that Indian candidness), and boarding yet another jet plane. Amusing myself by trying to guess people's nationalities. Modern day, bleary eyed, nomads scattering to the winds. What an amazing time we live in.
Bali, March, 2016
Being greeted home by a gentle cooling tropical rain, (which I am very tempted to just lie down in), bright yellow butterflies on purple flowers, frolicking golden koi, (yes, they do!), tigger-like frogs springing right and left and centre, and those comical chickens running amok as ever.
The garden has surely taken steroids since I left, it's completely wild, untamed and bursting with life and colour.
And in the background, the gamelan. Bali; golden tickler/tantaliser of all the senses.
Yes, I'm happy to be back.
Dozens of dragonflies flying hither and thither, I know they are dancing, and way above them white egrets are flying around the tops of the coconut palms, landing and then sliding down the leaves. Nobody can tell me they aren't all having fun.
I left Morocco with a pretty fierce mint tea addiction. So how perfect that I came home to a mint invasion.
After 5 intensive months visiting with friends and family, travelling, and then running a workshop, all while literally circling the planet, (and yes, I'm positive we are on a globe, despite my interesting Moroccan encounter with the French, hang-gliding, flat-earther), here I am back in my place of absolute serenity and simplicity.
However... as the truism goes, (that I find myself so often repeating), wherever you go, there you are. Paradoxically, being in this peaceful place of respite means that my mind has the time and space to travel even more than it does when my physical body is on the move, and my time spent in the company of others. This freedom is exacerbated, (can you exacerbate freedom?), by living under an artist's dream of a sky that never quits, except for frequently opening up and dumping a small crystal ocean on everything, and walking barefoot daily on the lushest, most fecund earth imaginable. There are almost no distractions, (except for building a small village), just the support and nurturance of this tiny corner of nature's bounty.
I'm back to working with clients, (via Skype), and I find myself as in love with the astrological language, symbolism and what it reveals about our human condition, as I've ever been. Plus with those souls who "get it" and so willingly share their journeys with me. Such a privilege.
New workshop ideas and travel plans won't quit. Vietnam and Sri Lanka here I come, asap, and then there's the Silk Road, Madagascar, Antartica, etc. etc, all simmering on the not so back-burner.
Who else gets to have fun creatively planning their next couple of years "work" with their favourite people, and then to have that work involve hanging out with those same beloveds in the most marvellous and exotic locations imaginable?
So grateful for it all, and especially for the fact that at this time in my life I have good health, (may I never, ever take this for granted), and that boredom and loneliness play no part in my life or my vocabulary, even although while here I spend endless time alone. My big test is slowing it all down so I don't trip myself up with too many ideas and intentions, (thank you all my earthy friends for blocking those frequent stumbles).
Just as my Kindle now has over 400 books, every one of which I really want to read, I am now starting to list in my head all the places to see and ideas still to be manifest, and how possibly to fit them all into what is realistically left of this present lifetime.
A ridiculously lucky dilemma to be facing.
Had the huge inconvenience of having to move out of my house, because someone rented it. Then I was in another heavenly location, and my wonderful staff got me and all my stuff moved over there in 10 minutes flat.
Tonight in Bali, the fireflies are far bigger and brighter than Jupiter. How do you feel about that, Lord Zeus?
Every little house we build immediately becomes the favourite, but this one feels extra, extra special. Tiny, all reclaimed old teak and lots of glass, perched right on the edge of the jungle like a tree house. The name is Ishani, another Hindu goddess, but a bit of an obscure one because we're running out of them. I already know this will be my chosen nest as soon as it is finished, (not long now).
Then a quick wander round the hood makes me wonder if there is a limit to just how lush a place can become? It would seem not.
I have been mesmerised by an actual silver dragonfly the last few nights, it is as silver as silver can be, and very much living, (I almost fell in the pond the 1st time I saw it). However it never settles anywhere, so I cannot prove it. Wondering if anyone else ever tried to take a photo of a particularly hyper-active dragonfly with their iPhone. Not easy.
And for logistical reasons, we, (which means someone else not me), transplanted a papaya tree, and I am assured it will make it. My tree neurosis continues.
It's still 3 weeks away, but I woke up today feeling wildly excited about seeing my friends in the USA. Bali is ever my most beloved place of simplicity, solitude and regeneration, building, planning and creativity, and the tender and heartwarming connection I feel with the people here.
When I think of Santa Ynez Valley, I immediately envision a mass of laughing, friendly, wise, fun, loving, kind, inspiring and supportive faces. My amazing women friends, and yes, of course, some great guys, also. This morning I've morphed into a croaking, tuneless, tone-deaf Joni Mitchell: California, I'm coming home.
Happiness is... the electrician showing up after a month of being AWOL. I wonder what the penalties are for abduction in Indonesia? I would be a very kind and generous kidnapper. I am literally guarding the path in case he tries to leave early.
The cheekiest chicken in Bayad has decided that it's fine to come into my house and hop up on the bed. She doesn't know how nice I am, there are those who would have put her in a pot by now.
"Before we declare a woman’s life, foreign from ours in almost every physical detail, ‘poor,’ we need to seek to deeply understand that woman, her background, her place in the community, her desires, her talents. And we may discover that she isn’t poor at all but is a thriving, active, content participant in a societal system that works, different as it may be to our western eyes." Who is Poor? Who Decides?
It is often said that the longer an expatriate lives in a place the less competent they feel to write about it, I can attest to the truth of this. The longer I am here the more I know how much I do not know, the more I need locals to correct me, clarify, the more (and deeper) questions I ask.“ -Djibouti Jones
Amen - Me
Reading yet another book that reminds me of how much creative juice can be squeezed out of a highly dysfunctional family. Then we do what we will with it. A big thank you to all those who turn it into literary nectar of the gods.
(Running in the Family - Michael Ondaatje. "Studying" for Sri Lanka next year.)
We have countless thriving healthy gardenia bushes, but with never, ever a blossom. Then I discover that the second they appear they are taken for the offerings, because for the very reason we humans appreciate them, apparently so do the gods.
To appear a selfish, god robbing, flower coveting foreigner, or to live a gardenia-less life, this is the question?
Many years ago a (seemingly) adorable little owl was rescued and rehabilitated by a dear friend in Bali, Henry Schilling. Hoot it turns out, had developed quite an attachment to his rescuer.
He was a one man owl, and immediately disliked me. Our 1st meeting was at Henry's house, and Hoot perched himself on a ceiling fan and stared down at me with the most intensely piercing, yellow eyed stare imaginable. Then suddenly he swooped like I was a field mouse, shocking the bejesus out of me, cutting my eye open with those razor sharp claws and beak. Not badly, but enough to draw blood, and get the adrenaline coursing.
Henry reprimanded him, and so Hoot retreated outside... to wait. It was pitch black as we left the house to go to dinner, and Hoot then proceeded to attack several more times, I was wary by now, so able to shield myself, and no more blood was shed. Not everyone can say they've been attacked by an owl, but it isn't one of my favourite memories. Never, ever underestimate the wrath of a 6 ounce jealous raptor.
Henry is sadly no longer with us, he was a beautiful person and is much missed by humans and creatures alike. He was magic when it came to animals, they loved him, trusted him and flocked to him. His house was always surrounded by the stray dogs of Bali.
A mutual friend just reminded me that Hoot didn't like any woman, and I'm still not convinced that he wasn't a she.
Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you'll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you'll hold on really hard and realise there is no choice but to let go.
Weatherproof, resilient, interesting furniture is always a challenge in the tropics, and today a new idea came into being. A concrete tiled chair. We all like it, so this may be the 1st in a collection to be. They're not very portable (in fact not at all), but c'est la vie.
Then a visit to the the holy bathing pool at Sebatu. While under the small (quite chilly) waterfall I felt really intense heat all through my body. I'll take it as a positive something. Dinner overlooking yet another spectacular view. And there were Gerber Daisies growing there. Those are the next seeds I will smuggle into Asia.
A most excellent day.
I realise this must sound ridiculously obvious to those who have taken as many trips around the Sun as myself, however again and again and again I'm shocked and relieved at how the seemingly disappointing almost instantaneously turns into another "thank heavens I dodged that bullet" situation.
Ah, Bali, where things either move more slowly than a glacier, or out of the blue you can be asked to come up with all the ideas for the next house.
This is when a bit of OCD comes in quite handy.
It will be done.
2 more Bali sleeps, then jetting off to America. Woke up to a ripe, pearly Moon, slowly dropping down into the jungle. Had to smile when I remembered that she is coming with me. She is the most loyal companion, with me wherever I go.
Or more accurately, as Pablo Neruda says;
"As if you were on fire within
The moon lives in the lining of your skin.”
12 years ago, when I 1st got to Bali, I bought an old "Pos Jaga", sight unseen - a solid teak lookout post, straight out of the Javanese jungle, about 70 years old, tongue and groove flooring and massive posts. We have been lugging it around for some time and now we are about to put it up... although I'll be 3,000 miles away so I can't really squeeze myself into the "we" equation.
So, excited and a bit nervously, I have been standing around staring at a patch of jungle, imagining it, and this Pos Jaga, into a home. How to maintain its integrity while making it functional?
In truth I have no worries, and leave it in the most capable hands of our great building crew.
Rumah Durga will be erected.
A bit of last minute tile-laying, kissed a gardenia, final swim, and a fare thee well to Bali.
Next stop, Shanghai