Bali – Life in Technicolor!

 

When I practiced interior design, I told clients that their homes should reflect who they were (private persona) and how they wanted to be perceived by others (public persona). We spent significant time discussing this and often who they felt they were inside differed vastly from how they wished to be seen.

Personally, I wanted my home to tell the world how sophisticated I was. My mother modeled flawless manners: setting a proper table even for breakfast, insisting that I learn piano and listen to classical music when I much preferred playing guitar with my dad. Her need to look perfect to the world lodged in my psyche.

As an adult that ingrained training dictated appearances. The color palette in both the clothing I wore, and the furnishings I chose, blended a dazzling array of – you guessed it – neutrals. The absence of color was chic and classy. The only divergence from the black, white, beige theme was a red brocade jacket pulled out of mothballs at Christmastime.

I brought that aesthetic with me when I moved to Bali. The first thing I noticed after the two thousand shades of green, was the Balinese’ flagrant disregard for subtlety in their attire. Bali style was as far from neutral as Minnesota winter was from tropical paradise.

Layered patterns in bold, clashing colors challenged my tightly held conceptions of what worked and what most decidedly didn’t.

I searched the entire island to find quiet earth tones for accent pillows and cushion covers, but Bali would not be subdued. I settled for a dignified combo of black, rust, and avocado. Now, six years later, in response to a growing community of permanent Western customers, gray, taupe, and putty batiks and ikat fabrics abound, all those lifeless non-colors that no self-respecting Balinese person would ever want.

As the years passed I was unaware of my continental drift away from ‘safe.’ The change came so slowly I didn’t notice when the vanilla person hiding behind beige, went missing.

Upon reflection, blame settled on the Bali Blue Bed. When that precious antique handcrafted half a century ago by Ketut’s father for his growing family became my most cherished possession, my relationship with color began to expand.

Tentatively I added a little china to carry the emerging theme into the kitchen.Not long after the new dishes brightened up the far end of my quarters, I discovered skirts. Until that time, capris had covered my lower half, white ones, black ones, and of course non-threatening beige. I don’t remember when the first flowy, legless clothing crept into my closet but I remember the color: hot coral!

I loved flouncing around Ubud with naked legs! Breezes reached all those previously confined areas and I was so much cooler underneath! Soon the mid-length pants occupied a drawer that never got opened and the closet was full of skirts: blue, green, some with birds, others with flowers. Loose-fitting tops were the natural accompaniment and they came in various shades of bright. So the wardrobe morphed along with the house.

On the way back from the supermarket one afternoon, the bead shop lady greeted me on the sidewalk. Next thing I knew I was the proud and somewhat surprised owner of an enormous beaded basket!I’d ordered one that was half the size but when I had gone to the shop a month later to pick it up, the dear lady apologized. “So sorry, Ibu, but no small now, only this kind.” Evidently the current shipment of imported rattan baskets from Java that the woman used as a base for her beadwork, had only come in large.

As so often happened to me here, the Universe conspired to give me my heart’s desire. I’d lusted after the monster baskets so why had I ordered a small one? I knew the answer to that as well as I knew the reflection in the mirror. It was a lie as old as I was, instilled in the subconscious where it reared it’s ugly head from time to time when I wasn’t vigilant.

Thankfully, the ‘you don’t deserve such abundance’ story was overridden. I hugged the prize to my heart as the happy woman gave me a lift home on the back of her motorbike.

Then the heron came home to roost on top of the bookshelf.
It was a similar story with an interesting twist. I’d passed the bird in a shop window, stopped to look, decided it was unrefined, folksy even, and continued on. I did that several times over the next few days. Curiosity finally forced me inside to ask the price. Expensive. I left. Several weeks went by. Upon rearranging a few things in my house, a space opened up where none had existed before. The memory of that colorful creature popped into mind. I can’t explain why or how, but by the time I arrived at the shop, desire burned in me with all the passion of first love! Now every time I look at the stately bird, I smile and wonder how I could possibly have thought him provincial.

When the pillows and mattress cover on the the Bali Blue Bed recently grew too faded to tolerate, I went shopping. It was a shocking pink batik boasting mythical birds with glorious chartreuse tails that captivated me first. There followed a shimmering array of metallics for accents and a purple, orange, red geometric weave for back pillows. Handwoven eggplant colored fabric became the grounded base for all that whimsy.

The burst of color thrilled me. I loved to nestle deep in those delicious hues and absorb their intensity, to be cradled in the very essence of myself. Then it struck me: in my non-stop, stressed-out, U.S. workaholic life, I had to surround myself with boring neutrals. It was survival.

But in my laid-back, joyful Bali life, my nervous system has re-calibrated. I thrive in an atmosphere of visual stimulation, no longer living a schizophrenic existence. Who I am is on display for all to see in bold designs and brilliant hues. My house validates me the way insipid neutrals never could.

I’ve even ratcheted up the intensity in my clothing. The new temple outfit for the ultra important Hindu ceremonies I’m frequently invited to, is a hunting-jacket-orange kebaya with a fuschia sash over a hot pink-yellow-blue-etc. etc. sarong! And it just feels right.

Why did it take so long to come to this, to embrace the complex, colorful person hidden  somewhere inside? The answers have to do with fear, with the need to fit in, with concern about the perceptions of others, with self-denial, with…nevermind. Needless to say, the list of reasons is long. But the realization that all are now in past tense is sheer delight! I’ve burst the confines of conformity and traded suffocating sophistication for my technicolor Bali life.

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16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marilea
    May 28, 2018 @ 00:01:43

    lovely story. how wonderful to feel joy.

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Anonymous
    May 28, 2018 @ 00:44:07

    Yay Sherry. Wonderful story. Wonderful awakening!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • writingforselfdiscovery
      May 28, 2018 @ 13:23:58

      Awakening is what I do here! But the adventure into color has been an especially exciting one. The exquisite energy of Bali supports self-discovery to the degree that it’s unavoidable. Those who want that will get it in buckets full! Those who don’t will either be miserable or leave.

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  3. Kate
    May 28, 2018 @ 02:13:50

    I LOVE color! Your story resonated all thru my body – because I don’t decorate with it, I hardly wear it… only pairing a beautiful coral top with ‘safe’ white or black capris. After reading your blog, I realize some similarities – the safe way of our country… we grew up in a time of pearls and taupe; black on black for dress up, and neutral with a ‘pop’ of color for decorating. That is changing, but it also has to do with a lifestyle – and you have found that in Bali, and in yourself! I found part of it in Mexico, but even there, the outside of their houses are colorful, but rarely the inside. I found that interesting. More and more, I feel the need to shake loose and come to Bali! Your writing is that magnet!

    Liked by 1 person

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      May 28, 2018 @ 13:05:00

      If Bali is calling, don’t put her on hold for too long, Kate! And I remember the colorful exteriors in Mexico. I also remember some wild kitchens with exceedingly colorful tiles – different patterns on the floor from the ones on the walls – maybe I’d love it now with my ‘evolved’ aesthetic!!!

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  4. pat grimsbo
    May 28, 2018 @ 02:15:57

    Dear Sherry, What a fascinating change your life has taken now that you are living in Bali! !! ! ! ! I miss you so much but am truly amazed and pleased that you are so happy! ! !

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • writingforselfdiscovery
      May 28, 2018 @ 13:08:55

      I appreciate your comments, Mom! And your love! What manners I have came from you – thank you! They serve me beautifully in this culture that prefers well-behaved people! And the Viking love of adventure was a gift from Dad. I miss you both.

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  5. shanemac
    May 28, 2018 @ 06:02:59

    When I see you in glorious, exuberant colour it seems just right because it reflects the bold person you are. It’s one of the things I admire about you. I love the story of how the colour in your environment developed and how comfortable you are with it,

    Liked by 1 person

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      May 28, 2018 @ 13:15:57

      It was an ah-ha moment, Shane, when I realized how much I love color in the environment and in my home. Then I couldn’t help but compare/contrast these surroundings with those of my roots, which led me to analyze the journey. It really did begin with the coming of the blue bed. It is a beloved part of my home and I think it possess the spirit of Bali which has permeated my life. It’s as good a hypothesis as any!

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  6. stevecastley
    May 28, 2018 @ 07:14:50

    This is a beautiful and colourful story. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  7. Lucy
    May 28, 2018 @ 21:55:45

    And a wonderful life it is. Colour suits your vivacious personality and I can’t imagine you without. Gorgeous story.

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  8. Julie Shobe
    May 30, 2018 @ 03:01:47

    👍🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  9. janig717
    May 31, 2018 @ 00:35:47

    Beautiful story-I love how through travel we discover things about ourselves we would otherwise have never known. A Colombian woman who was living in Germany said to me, “I feel as if I am from two worlds.”

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