The Beginning of The End, 2021
At last, a reason to dig out that passport and dust it off. Most travel is off the cards, for who knows how long, so the intention is that 2021 will be the year of seeing Indonesia. Finally. This land of 17,508 islands, of which I’ve been to only 5, in 17 years.
Flying to Raja Ampat, West Papua, New Guinea, in a few days. Going masked and tested - and safely. Social distancing will not be a problem in an under-populated place that has, sadly, lost most of its tourist industry.
Excited is an extreme understatement.
Our newest “family” member. Over the last couple of months, periodically, a large male monkey has been visiting our property. He’s very beautiful but we can’t encourage him to stay, they just don’t make the best houseguests/neighbours. They tend to be a little overly light fingered, which is an issue in wall-less homes, plus they come with extended family. So whilst discouraging him, we still wanted to honour him... so we got a new Hanuman statue. Apparently there are many forms that he takes, and this is the white Balinese one. Ferocious without being too daunting, the staff gussied him up with gold prada, so let the strong, but friendly message be that this is a one monkey statue space only. We shall see.
Either I have the most cavernous nose known to woman, (quite possible), or I was lucky enough to have an excellent technician. Just had the long swab up the nasal cavities covid test, and literally felt not a thing. Yet another wasted sense of trepidation.
What was quite bizarre was how the lovely young Balinese nurse suited up in her hazmet gear barely 2 feet away from me.
One more sleep.
On a ferry to I don’t know where... so darned happy to be travelling again.
The trip to Raja Ampat exceeded all expectations, such simplicity and beauty. But I know life is far more complicated and tenuous for those living here, regardless of all their welcomes and warm smiles. Hoping for the best for them in the future, and for all others tucked away in the corners of this world who never make it to any “headlines”.
When a good book is all you need to make the world really really good - on my 4th of this trip, Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness - excellent, (as to be expected).
The difference between having a Covid test in Bali and one in Papua, New Guinea. From extreme Hazmat suits to “we don’t really need a waste bin” - consequently refuse just thrown on the floor.
Back in Bali, all the better for having visited Raja Ampat. What a gift. I have such gratitude for having been lucky enough to see as much of the world as I have, and this was the latest priceless gem.
I arrived back home in time to spend the wee small hours of the morning entranced by the inauguration.
And then appeared a supernova disguised as a butterfly, radiant in yellow and red. Amanda Gorman. 22 years on this planet, and radiating a wisdom that spans centuries.
In awe and hopeful.
Ecuador meets Bali. Finally dug my favourite South American hammock out of storage, (not sure why it took so long), and gave it a test run. It’s perfect.
I know it is utterly unzen-like, but I cannot help it. My blood boils that the richest individual on earth is going to sink his billions into space endeavours rather than on the countless suffering humans here on this planet.
So, Richard Branson, how was the view of our burning, grieving, hungry, warring, struggling little planet from up there?
This is one of those hugely divisive issues, but I personally think it is an obscenity beyond comprehension, that billionaires are playing “me 1st” with their vanity projects, (which will never, ever make a single iota of positive difference to humanity), while others struggle just to survive.
Every dawn, countless luminous white egrets fly through the river valley, exactly at eye level. This alone would be enough of a reason for living here.
Today, I knew it was a day to talisman-up, and wearing things that sisters have given me is the next best thing to having them by my side. Jewelry and clothes are not just pretty things when imbued with the energy of those who care.
I realise how thoroughly British I am by my stance on a certain royal debacle. It’s as divisive as Trump vs others, or vax vs anti-vax, so there’s really no point in debating it, minds will not be changed. Nonetheless, there is an undeniable fascination in watching how people react and what hooks, triggers and projections we each have.
It’s almost impossible to worry about age when you have friends, just ahead in years, who inspire, encourage and shine such beautiful light on the path before you.
My house literally has no walls, and yet the aroma of dehydrating onions’s is potent beyond measure. Whatever creatures, mythical or otherwise, that are repelled by “allium cepa/unio” will for sure be giving us a very wide berth tonight. All for the sake of probably not a huge amount of onion powder. Let’s see what dreams come from way over stimulated olfactory senses. Not at all unpleasant, just completely overwhelming.
It’s hard to keep a pity party going in the garden.
You can’t have too many skylights or flowers. - Me
I’m not a Royalist, not particularly a fan of anything connected to warring, and yet I have been deeply moved watching the honouring of the passing of Prince Philip. Perhaps our roots run deeper than we even imagine? I’m British, the daughter and granddaughter of military men, and it seems that embedded cellular memory and ancestral experience can unexpectedly overwhelm all, including assumed biases.
And what a love story they had, full of flaws no doubt, but 73 years of commitment is head-spinningly profound. How together they saw the world change so completely, (many times over).
So much respect.
“It’s a big mistake to think about yourself. No one is interested in you in the long run. Don’t court popularity. It doesn’t last. Remember that the attention comes because of the position you are privileged to hold, not because of who you are. If you think it’s all about you, you’ll never be happy.” - Prince Philip
I’m positive I’m not OCD until I react to someone ripping a hole in a perfectly good Ziploc bag.
Some things in the news are beyond confusing - eg. certain countries are facing problems because of their “falling birth rates”. Yet we have the issue of over-population, plus there are millions of refugees desperately in need of a home.
We mastered home-made gluten and oil-free crackers and hummus, (and guacamole and salsa!)... let the plant-based vegan snackers arrive.
Best way I know how to start the day. Steamy jungle bath with green tea and a great book. Although in the eyes of some, perhaps politically incorrect, (or worse), I am hugely enjoying Woody Allen’s autobiography. Very much on the fence about this one, (accusations, etc), not at all about others, not sure why.
One of our lovely staff just concernedly pointed out to me that my bottle of wine was way passed its expiration date... 2018.
I cried with pride reading about these Scots who refused to allow the authorities to seize and deport their refugee neighbours. One more reason for Scottish Independence; not being forced to share the cruel and inhumane immigration policies of the UK. The British flag is going to look a little odd without its blue background.
There could not have been a better place to spend this difficult time than Bali, with all its friendliness, warmth and beauty, she has embraced so many of us who have been “stuck” here. However I have found it almost impossible to go shopping, or out into our main town of Ubud, because so many westerners refuse to follow Covid protocols, and every time I do go, I morph into a grumpy old lady scolding some arrogant maskless non Indonesian - so best I don’t even go. The locals don’t seem to have a single issue with their own rules, but they do have a hard time telling us what we should do. Western rudeness and selfishness unfortunately trumps Balinese graciousness and politeness. And frankly its moot whether you “believe” in it or not, there is this very simple thing called respect. Delighted to hear they’ve upped the fines for westerners.
Always super chuffed when I can have a meal 100% from our little garden. Green veggies, peppers, eggplant bacon, urap (grated coconut and spices), fermented green papaya... and itty bitty egg, courtesy of the bantams.
Have a pesky eye infection, but luckily we live in the middle of a vast medicine chest. A “weed” that grows all around the rice fields has a vial of medicine in the stem. It stings like the dickens, a very small price to pay as it is already helping.
A few days ago I watched a documentary, Broken Harts, and remember when it was headline news. The tragic murder/suicide of six black children and their white adoptive mothers. One of the myriad disturbing factors being the difference between the social media face they so skillfully presented, and the cruel truth of their actual lives. A mask that perpetuated these children’s suffering, and eventually led to their deaths. I have zero solution, I enjoy social media, and it has been practically my only social life for the past year. It has however read differently these last couple of days. Any one of us, with even the slightest command of language, can present themselves in any way we choose.
Bees are settling in nicely, and no corner of the property is safe from the paintbrushes.
How ridiculously blessed I have been this lockdown/lifetime, (and these feet haven’t even seen socks for 18 months). Now if I could just beam in a few old friends, then I would be positive I had won the lottery of lotteries.
It’s the equivalent of Xmas for the permaculture garden; the rice was just harvested and we collect all the straw (somi) for our veggies, chicken coop, and compost piles. We take as much as is humanly possible, then the farmers don’t need to burn it, (we of course pay them for it), and our garden is very, very happy.
In the distance, in front of my house, a colony of wild bees are visiting. Makes me so darn happy and hopeful, long may they flourish.
The party’s over. The toads were very amusing, but suddenly our fish started dying. Apparently with all their rollicking and frolicking, toadies were laying lots of eggs, which then release a poison, (obviously to protect them), which is toxic to fish. Thank you Google, and bye-bye toads. All have been relocated to the nether regions of the rice fields, and their eggs are now contributing to our compost. Apologies… but not really, the giant mammal chose the quiet, sweet amphibians minding their own business, who actually live in the pond, to the rather noisy ones who were technically squatting, and inadvertently rather trashing the place.
Every bit of trouble I went through, I’m grateful for. Bad fortune changed the course of my destiny. I became a musician. - Joni Mitchell
Yeah, Joni, the priceless knowing that it is sorrows and heartbreaks, as well as life’s bounty, that brings us the gifts.
Even a lifelong weakness in her hands, she suffered from polio as a child, helped create her gorgeous unique sound. Thank you, poetess and mirror of the emergent years of myself, and so many others of my generation.
1st vaccination done. Thanks for including me, Indonesia. And thank you, thank you to the scientific creators of such things. I was less than one generation after the polio epidemic, and saw its ravages all around. I feel like once more I slipped under the wire.
Next one on September 20th, as 2021 slips, slips away.
And if you can’t be with the ones you love, head for the Sumatran jungle. Orangutans, monkeys, elephants, peacocks, and (almost impossibly) tigers should distract for a while.
Hiking boots dusted off, socks dug out, time to prepare these for imprisonment and trekking. I know they will protest.
Best Morning… waking up to evidence that it lightly rained all night, yet promises to be sun-shiney day. Jungle love.
Made and Kadek roof cleaning. Always gives me mini heart attacks, but agility and balance are unquestioned amongst (countless) Balinese talents.
I’m blaming Dame Judi Dench. I just impulsively gave myself a 3 minute haircut inspired by her fabulousness. It has yet to dry so who knows? It won’t be anything that some wild ear-rings or a few more months in lockdown can’t distract from or fix.
If our ancestors can somehow see us, they must be shaking their heads and rolling their eyes that it would take something as extreme as a pandemic to edge some of us into a semblance of resourcefulness.
This week we mastered green papaya fermented pickles, and mango vinegar has been added to all the other delicious ones, (starfruit, pineapple, snake fruit and turmeric). The preserved lemons have a couple of weeks to go so can’t brag on them yet. All ridiculously easy to make.
Bali makes a big, big check mark - 70% of the population has received their first dose of vaccine. Now only another 2 million to go for the second dose.
We’re in that divine time of chilly mornings, in the dead of our Balinese winter. Still not quite extreme enough for socks though.
I know things have slipped when EVERYONE comments and thinks I must be going somewhere, just because I’m wearing ear-rings, even though my attire is as always torn and mismatched chic. Raggedy, feral days in the jungle.
Ginger bug, (for making naturally carbonated drinks), fermented salsa, (most delicious thing ever), dried jambu, chayote squash chips, banana flour, dehydrated sprouts, and papaya ice cubes for smoothies. All part of our quest to use EVERYTHING the garden produces, which has sent us down some rather bizarre, but incredibly fun, (and yummy), culinary paths.
I know I repeat this a lot, but when I have a really l o n g, uninterrupted, deliciously deep sleep I feel as though I have won the lottery. How much brighter everything seems. I don’t think I’m a true insomniac, but I do have nights with zero shut eye, usually during exaggerated (often self inflicted) periods of worry. And then there are the 1 to 3 am wide awake buzzing mind times, when I ignore all advise and just let my mind go its own way, and actually have some of my best ideas and google explorations.
Anyway, good morning. This is a very good one, and I just noticed several jackfruit on our tree.
Ye grande olde worlde, home fermented, ginger ale experiment. There will be much bragging later, if successful, and total silence if it flops.
Ginger ale update. After all the warnings about exploding bottles I decided to make them their own little safety zone, and good that I did because one went boom, but was safely contained! It was my signal that they were ready. Apart from that, (and a rather sticky floor), it’s a great success. Delicious, perfect amount of carbonation, gingerness and dryness.
Sometimes you do something a little off the cuff; hop on a scooter, ride for a few hours through the windy backroads of one of the most beautiful islands on earth, arrive at an old favourite spot, and realise what an excellent impulse that was.
Chilling to the crashing waves of the magnificent Bali Sea.
Blinded by the sunset… one itty bitty price to be paid for disliking curtains, (they only go up for guests).
That saltwater pool is looking particularly inviting today. I feel a ginger ale + vodka float coming on, ie. me floating with cocktail in hand. The minute everyone leaves. My decadence just doesn’t stretch to doing so while everyone else works.
Saraswati Day - in honour of the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning. Grateful for all the opportunities and pleasures these privileges and freedoms have brought to my life.
Feeling especially grateful for my friends, the lifelong ones, and those still budding. There is nothing more comforting. Looking out over a stunning Balinese river valley and raising a glass to you all.
Latest kitchen brag. Fermented eggplant, fermented watermelon rind, dried oyster mushrooms, powder from the mushroom stems (for gravy), and sauerkraut. More than a little bit smug am I.
One of the joys of lockdown and being somewhat isolated is that I have been able to dive deeply into Horary Astrology and just completed a review of the Horary Practitioners Course that Deb ran in Bali in 2012. Brilliant stuff, feeling inspired.
Rain, rain, rain; much cleaning of the guttering required by our intrepid gardeners, (all Balinese seem to have remarkable balance). More fermentation frenzy; anything that deigns to grow here is fair game. Kombucha and pickled onions are the latest experiments. And a new sign waiting to be painted, Matur Suksma, for this exquisite Life in Bali.
Tree trimming day. This guy is so adept, attuned and agile, it is breathtaking. So much so that I can’t even watch him. How on earth can he intuit how far to go out on the limb? And not a safety anything, except for his own knowing.
Now fully vaccinated. Thank you, Indonesia.
Very special day. Important cleansing ceremony for the property… and our jabs.
And, the very next day, September 22nd, 2021, my wondrous life in Bali, unexpectedly and abruptly ended…