West Coast Road Trip + +
April, 2016, USA Bound
Next stop, Shanghai.
The only thing crazier than being served dinner on a aeroplane at 2 am is actually eating it. And I will, because I'm one of those people who orders a special meal and I would feel like a ridiculous, spoiled pest if I didn't.
And, again, how did we English speakers manage to bastardise the name Pudong into Shanghai?
The short, but mammoth leap, from the rice fields to the generic airport world of Burberry and Gucci is really quite head spinning.
Grey rain in Shanghai airport, in fact almost every inanimate object is the same droll shade of dull metal. An infusion of living colour would not go amiss.
The China to America movie fest begins. Those sea-faring pioneers surely could never have imagined their amazing feats and bravery leading to this for their future sluggish ancestors. All their determination so we could sit in a metal tube, eating, drinking, being entertained... and griping that it takes a whole day to cross the world.
Out of 50 Immigration agents, this time I got the one who felt compelled to give me a lecture on the fact that I have had a green card for 38 years, and it is disloyal of me not to become a citizen, as this is the greatest country in the world. I was very well behaved and didn't give him the, "I've given birth to citizens, isn't that enough?” retort, nor did I declare that I actually consider myself a citizen of the whole world, and much as I love America there are a "few" of its actions I don't 100% agree with. Neither did I point out the fact that I travel so much that I am virtually a gypsy/nomad, and don't have that essential utility bill in my own name you need to qualify these days.
There are some people in this world you just don't argue with.
A month in Cambodia and Vietnam booked for August. There is no better way for a Sagittarius Rising to start the day.
Road tripping to Seattle begins in less than an hour. Planning on taking it slowly, so many great friends to see along the way.
It's a “Canned Heat humming” morning, which only my fellow baby boomers might understand.
Yesterday as I packed up my life ... again, and jumped in my car, I fleetingly asked myself "why aren't you just staying put for the next couple of weeks?". In truth I have so much to do, (websites, workshop planning, clients, etc.), I "should" just settle into one place and catch up with a small mountain of commitments. Then after a few hours of driving through velvety rolling, stroke-able golden hills, I was reminded of why I have this persistent silent urge to keep changing the scenery of my life.
This time the reminder was the almost sudden appearance of the TREES. Heart-stopping, majestic, coastal redwoods, and glorious, pungent pines. As my car veered off towards the Patagonia Outlet Store in Santa Cruz, (how could I not?), there they were. Those regal, timeless sentinels of the earth, en masse.
I got to my friend's beyond charming home, a verdant retreat far from the madding crowds, and we immediately hiked to a hilltop for an even grander experience of this beautiful slice of America.
And of course, just as importantly, the journey is about friends... reconnecting in the actual physical, not just via this wonderful, but still inadequate cyber world.
So happily, contentedly mobile again, because I find it such a paradoxically stabilising and grounding part of my life.
The redwoods; the tallest trees in the world, they can live to be up to 2,000 years old, (if man doesn't mess with them). They create "fairy rings" around each other, like a protective family.
Eureka, California doesn't exactly live up to its name.
Sitting in the "Sweet Breeze Motel" in Grants Pass, Oregon checking out the progress of our latest house going up in Bali, all being done as I wander up the western coast of the USA.
An old teak look out from the Javanese jungle, to be named Durga, looking very good.
Real life is always so much more interesting than any fiction I could have dreamed up on how it might play out.
I so frequently ask Siri on my iPhone where the closest Trader Joes is, I'm surprised the sarcastic young madam doesn't respond with "what, again?".
NORWAC (North West Astrology Conference), and what a tribe to belong to. Basking in the warmth, acceptance, quirkiness, intelligence, creativity, humour, and endless curiousity of this astrological community. Everyone speaking, listening and learning. Each person with their own unique take on this ancient shared language.
What a rich and complex pot of wisdom we share. Nothing else like it that I have ever known.
It had to be one of the best astrology conferences ever.
After taking 8 days to get there, I then drove back, (1,200 miles), in less than 30 hours, with one quick sleep in between. It was quite wonderful watching the world fly by, in all it’s changing colours. Of course, total vigilance is required when driving that far solo, (hats off to all the truckers world-wide who do this daily), lots of careening giant machines to keep an eye on, and people in far more of a hurry than myself. I realised that driving like that is almost the complete opposite of meditation, keeping the mind super active maintains alertness, and I spent almost the whole time thinking and thinking, planning and plotting. And there was no shortage of food for thought. Lots of ideas seeded and blossomed on that drive, most of them newly planted by encounters at the conference. Some every exciting workshop/travel stuff coming up.
Back in Santa Ynez Valley… briefly. Bali bound again Monday.
Bali, June, 2016
6:30 am in Shanghai airport, and the start of an 11 hour layover with nowhere to go, we'll see how the "I don't get bored" stance holds up here. Also, as I was fruitlessly trying to get on FB, I remembered it is illegal here, so I rebelliously logged into my VPN. So I am sitting sneakily in a corner hoping not to be seen (by anyone who would care). A nap would be nice, but there 10 million watts of fluorescent lights blinking, and 20 different TV's, with 20 different channels blaring. And Chinese people don't seem to have particularly low speaking voices, possibly because of the challenge of being heard above the other billion or so of them.
All part of the journey. That ends in my favourite Paradise.
Early morning stroll around the "North 40". Great progress since I left 6 weeks ago... and entirely without me ;) No surprise whatsoever there.
While I was gone, a few walls went up (grrrr) and some trees came down (sob). Everyone has learnt that I go into a neurotic tailspin when either of these things are even suggested, so now they are immediately initiated the minute I step into the car to head for the airport. Then I get back, see what's been done, and always have to sheepishly concur as to the necessity.
Heavy teak buildings will certainly fall down when perched on the edge of a tropical jungle if there are no retaining walls, and you cannot have a mango tree in the middle of your living space, (I did try). It's a dance I always do with the oh so patient building crew.
We replace every tree that comes down, and those retaining walls rapidly become swallowed in vegetation. The jungle claims everything as its own, as Scottish me keeps having to be re-reminded. The gardeners jobs are much more about taming than planting.
Thank you to the wonderful team, (and of course not a one of them is on Facebook, so these thanks just go out into the ethers), for always providing the real solid foundation beneath my often wild and wacky ideas. Because of this, everything always turns out better than I could ever have imagined.
Needless to say I am thrilled to be back. Love my Balinese family, love this land. And once more I have firmly donned my designing/building hat. Wearing it gleefully.
Tragically, mental illness, rage, prejudice and psychopathic people exist EVERYWHERE on this planet.
It is ridiculously easy for ANYONE to get a gun in the USA. 173 mass shootings this year, already. Americans make up about 4.43 percent of the world's population, yet own roughly 42 percent of all the world's privately held firearms. America, can you honestly still not figure out the math?
Just had the most intense 20 hours of workshop sign-ups in my many years of running these events. We had hoped, after making a preliminary offer to past students of Heaven and Earth workshops, the FAS, and the CPA that we could offer it to everyone else.
But there was an immediate deluge of sign-ups, (until 3 am this morning), and the workshop is full before it even officially went live. A true testament to the brilliance of our own Liz Greene.
Yippee, the sunshine-y curtains work perfectly. Then I asked for a last minute door to be put between the houses, and voila, there it almost is... a whole 2 hours later. Building in Bali Bliss, (and there are of course those "tear your hair out days," also). Got to be ready for my friend Melanie's arrival in "count it out on one hand" days.
The delicious chore of lazing around each little corner of the property making sure the vibe is just right. This (vital) task is surely 2nd only to being a taster in a chocolate factory.
Bright sunshine and rain = a technicolour world.
Nature the miracle. You can look at one little piece of it endlessly and the colours and shapes are never the same from one day to the next. Trying very hard to live with it, as a part of it, while robbing it of as little as possible of its rightful reigning glory.
The Bantam chicken tribe has arrived; Brewster (the rooster), Brigitte and Betty, and they seem in fine fettle. However, I may have to just burn my hip and progressive little book on raising chickens, the Balinese have their own ways and their chickens are robust, cheerful and independent. So to raise pampered tamu chooks, or to let the Balinese do it their way and prepare them for "real life" in the jungle? Bit of a no brainer.
Looking out over a jungle where people still live off and with the land, gathering wood and food daily, climbing and foraging, padding around it softly, quietly and respectfully. Doing it just as much service as it does them.
I'm now sitting on the porch of this house, that arrived from Java in a 1,000 pieces just 2 years ago.
There's a couple of teenage roosters hanging around my cute little bantams, (who are still being moved around the property in cages until they acclimatise). I'm quite convinced their intentions are not honourable.
I have almost zero Cancerian energy in my chart (Uranus in Cancer quincunx-ing my Sun if anything operates in the opposite way). However as I watch and dance with the Moon while doing electional work, I feel so perfectly in tune with Her. The fact that she moves so fast, polishing our entire world on her journey, always makes me feel comforted and warm, (I really want to use the word fuzzy but how flightily politically incorrect can a serious professional astrologer afford to be?).
I have to try really hard not to freak and faint when my beloved builder Jagi eats a particular tiny lizard's raw heart, (and yes, still beating), because it is supposedly the best medicine there is for his lungs. Yet nothing in the world will induce him to try a piece of my yummy raw, organic chocolate. East may have met West in the rice fields, but my stash of chocolate is still all mine, and if I were to live here 100 years I know I still wouldn't cross the line of ingesting the raw organs of mini reptiles.
Some days you just can't wait for the sun to come up to start the day. I'm sitting here in the half dark, (by the light of this super modern Macbook Air), staring at these old teak walls and floor, hand cut and planed, wondering what unknown stories I am living within. And then there's the bathroom counter made out of a huge chunk of an old Javanese sailing ship, (found covered in a layer of dust in my favourite wood shop). All of it mixed up with the knick knacks, colours and memories of my little life, (not a diminishment but in the bigger picture all our lives are pretty tiny). And then there's that who knows what of tomorrow.
Today is Tumpek Landep, yet another marvellous ceremony that takes place every 210 days, according to the Balinese Calendar.
There are symbolic offerings and prayers made to everything made of metal; machinery, vehicles, all kitchen equipment (especially knives), and nowadays even computers and laptops.
The core intention of Tumpek Landep is to sharpen the mind.
The Balinese believe that both the highest potential and the greatest weapon of any human being is their mind. By sharpening the mind, the goal is that intelligence be heightened, the enemy of ignorance within us conquered, the ultimate goal being clarity and goodness.
Yet another of the myriad wisdoms of Bali.
5:09 am, watching and listening as Bali wakes up. I have never felt so alive or been so constantly amazed and entertained as I am here on this little slice of land. Turns out Joni was right all along: "we've gotta get ourselves back to the garden". At least that's exactly what this old hippie needed.
In the cemetery behind my house, 63 bodies are being exhumed right now for the village cremation on Friday. There is thunder and the sky is getting greyer by the minute. 100's of birds are criss-crossing the sky. It feels heart thumping-ly intense, and yet what a comfort it must be to know that when it is your time to exit it will be with this much care, ceremony and inclusiveness.
Visas for Vietnam and Cambodia in hand. The very first steps are always crinkly paper ones.
Having these 2 headlines side by side = the insanity of all of us living side by side on this tiny planet. As the supposedly most intelligent species that has ever existed surely we must be able to do better than this?
"Americans chuck out two tonnes of food a second – be it at the farm for being ‘ugly’, or at the table because we’re too finicky.
The UN has been accused of failing to act quickly enough to save hundreds of thousands of lives in northern Nigeria where a food crisis already killing hundreds of people a day is poised to become the most devastating in decades."
They are preparing to start the burning. Obviously the staff are expecting a lot of ash as the pool has been covered with a giant tarp. But they forgot the pool umbrellas, (I moved pretty fast on getting those put away!).
The energy is boiling and palpable. I have a bi-line on all my emails "If the world had a heart, it would be Bali...", and I really believe this. However today it feels as though it is the heart, soul, guts, liver and life-force. This place that so soothes and nurtures, most of the time, has become a vortex of raw intensity and power. I just got chills from the keening and shouting a little while ago, and was told it is the sound each family makes while carrying the body of their beloved, and putting it into the bulls from which they will make their next fiery journey.
We have a tower with a temple that looks over where the cremation is taking place, but it would be very disrespectful for us to be up there and looking down during any ceremony, and particularly today. Hoping nobody sees my free floating iPhone, I "almost" wish I had a selfie stick today.
An intense and fiery afternoon, literally feet from our property.
Create something, then step away and let nature do her thing, nothing man-made can come close to her finishing touches.
Adoring the rain, for all its nourishment, cleansing, and insistences. Being forced to get bundled up and stay put is such a treat. This is the 1st time my feet have seen socks in weeks, they're almost purring.
Being woken up by the broodiest, moodiest, swelling Moon, tap, tap, tapping on the window at 4am does make one wish for a camera with a little more vision than the iPhone.
Then again, maybe she didn't want to be captured, perhaps I was the one who was supposed to be caught.
Last night I slept down in the jungle huts, (its always a good sign when I have to move… it means something rented), and it was like shifting into a completely different world. It isn’t even 100 yards from where I was before, but not one sound is the same. An audio-mystery world that is twice as loud by night as it is by day. I had the fantasy of how it would be to have a line-up of all those vocal creatures in broad daylight. Imagining all the different eyes, feet (paws), feathers, fur (and I’m sure scales), that go with the sounds. Once upon a time Bali had (small) tigers, they’re tragically long extinct, but I’m sure I heard the echo of what could have been one, coming from the far distant past.
Then throw in a dash of deafening thunder, lightening, torrential tropical rain, and the occasional tiny fluorescent green firefly flashing sweetly like Tinkerbell.
There's nothing quite like a little patch of sunlight on the horizon to remind a body of what hope feels like.
Eek, I have to move everything... again. Now this room has been rented out. It's interesting when disruption and inconvenience are a sign that things are starting to go really well.
When I am completely homeless, we will have hit the jackpot.
Eventually I will have my very own little "not for rent" corner, probably in a couple of years.
I have this really cheeky side that whenever a potential guest asks: "can you give us a better price?", (we clearly ask for no negotiating )... I always want to up the price by 20%. I mean better for who exactly?
I always know when the guests have ordered a bang-up breakfast, because I get one too. Now I need a morning nap post banana pancakes, omelette, etc, etc.
Surrounded by the kindest people.
An honest to goodness high point in my day. Brigitte and Brewster are going to be parents, (we hope). I was so excited I actually made a fuss about feeding the Momma better, completely forgetting that chicken "pregnancy" is a little different. It's patience Momma needs, not pre-natal vitamins.
Sitting on my little wooden hammock/office, processing workshop sign-ups. Communicating with souls from: USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Taiwan, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Argentina, Greece, India and Portugal. And that's just for the next 2 workshops coming up. I could write a much longer list if I included all past and future students.
It's a great feeling, in these rather troubled times, to be sitting here in Asia, feeling the warmth and energy of the unifying forcefield that Astrology generates all over the world.
It is slightly mad sounding, but I'm thinking of putting in an infra-red sauna and a little jacuzzi. It is the tropics, but really not that hot up here, we are higher than most places in Bali.
Even more to the point I think there is nothing better for ageing bones than soaking them. So it would be a service and a benefit for my friends and the guests. And me, because that's exactly where I'd be on this pleasant and cool evening. Also I have a few friends who might be more enticed to come to Bali by the jacuzzi than by me. Half kidding.
I have gone to battle over another tree, a mango right next to said wall. It is a little squashed, but still aiming for the heavens. Trusty Google tells me the tap roots grow a foot a year, so if its branches can match that, surely it should be okay?
Please prove me right, dear tree.
Feistiness of self in older age can be quite startling. On the one hand I want to high five it with glee, and on the other I'm shaking my head with inherited embarrassment. It does however appear to be gaining the upper hand.
On this building project, sans architect, sans engineer, sans a single written or concrete plan, it's quite extraordinary where the twists and turns have taken us.
The favourite new exclamation is: "it's accidentally perfect!".
It looks to be about 90 degrees and bucketing down everywhere I am headed. It does make packing kind of simple.
On the way to the airport and another adventure... and my phone reminded me of a previous one. Grateful for the wings I was given this lifetime.