Please Don’t Ever Change


When I look at this photo I want to laugh and cry and fall to my knees. I want to say to the young man planting grass, “Please, don’t ever change.”

What I actually said went something like this: “Those sticks, Ketut. Do you really expect them to grow?”

“Ya,” he replied. “Soon many.”

My only frame of reference to gardening was Minnesota. If you lopped a branch off a tree and stuck it in the ground in that climate, trust me. It absolutely would not grow.

Ketut gathered cast-off cuttings from nearby hotels and scrounged compost piles after dark. He dug up bushes from his family’s garden in the mountains near Kintamani and transplanted them here. He had a vision and the skills to manifest it. In no time the grass filled in and the stick-garden matured. There were papaya and banana trees, frangipani, and bougainvillea.

In spite of my skepticism, the plantings matured and multiplied. I added a gazebo to the once-upon-a-time stick-garden. Ketut installed electricity and a fan. Now I could have my coffee there and read or write surrounded by voluptuous tropical foliage.

It’s been five years since Ketut gathered branches and stuck them in the ground. Hundreds of plants bursting with fruit and flowers have emerged from those scant beginnings. I wonder, have I changed too? Have the seven years in Bali transformed me from the stick-garden I was when I arrived to someone fully alive?

I have more close friends, more visitors, more invitations, and more commitments than ever before. I’ve learned a foreign language, written two novels and a memoir, and had many articles published. I’ve leased land, built a house, and explored the mountains and coastlines of the island on the back of Ketut’s motorbike. I’ve held Writing for Self-Discovery workshops and my blog has brought others to Bali to imagine their own possibilities.

But what about self-discovery, the reason I began this writing journey in the first place? I had to dig for those answers and when I did I found I’ve become more honest. I’m willing to be seen hanging out my dirty laundry. I’m prepared to be disliked rather than sacrifice who I am. My list was revealing.

  • I let go of perfect – horns fit me better than haloes
  • I know things – it’s okay to be smart, intuitive and right
  • I’m worthy of love – self-love is essential, not selfish
  • I’ve developed a sense of humor – dry and warped but it works
  • I thrive in tropical heat – with an ice-cold mug of Bintang
  • I’m a creature of habit – don’t mess with my routine
  • I’m courageous – but definitely not fearless
  • I’ve become transparent – see my shadow? It’s really dark!
  • I need privacy – especially in the morning
  • I feared loneliness – it didn’t happen
  • I can manage unconditional love – but not marriage

And Ketut? The young man I hoped would never change? His smile is broader, his laughter even more infectious. He’s incapable of malice. His kindness is immeasurable.

Everything changes, but some things just get better.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stevecastley
    Apr 13, 2019 @ 17:17:29

    Great photos and interesting recognition of self.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Anonymous
    Apr 13, 2019 @ 22:06:10

    Love this piece. Everything and everyone has filled out and become so enriched.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Karin Grouf
    Apr 13, 2019 @ 23:51:42

    an emerald jewel

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Julie Shobe
    Apr 14, 2019 @ 00:28:35

    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person


  5. healingpilgrim
    Apr 14, 2019 @ 13:07:18

    Ketut’s pride in his work – and adoration for you – certainly shines through!

    Liked by 1 person


  6. barbparcellswritingalife
    Apr 15, 2019 @ 03:18:07

    As a lover of gardening as well a believer in dancing to your own beat, this post really hit home. Loved it!

    Liked by 1 person


  7. Marilea
    Apr 18, 2019 @ 20:27:30

    I’ve enjoyed your blog and it’s inspiring. Your Ketut is special but without him would you have thrived? It appears from your writing that he works for you but is very good at many things and is honest and kind. It also appears that to thrive in a foreign country that type of assistance is essential. So the question. Are they Ketut helpers for everyone?



    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 18, 2019 @ 22:31:00

      That’s an excellent question Marilea. I’m glad you asked. An expat living in Bali is required to employ at least one Balinese person. I met Ketut early on and became friends with him and his family. When I acquired my property I asked him if he would be willing to work for me. The rest is history. He is honest and kind and a wonderful friend. He’s also a problem solver. His ingenuity is dazzling!

      Over the course of seven years I’ve had many delightful experiences with the Balinese people who have helped me. The contractor and crew who built my house we’re fabulous. The man I hired to make my sidewalk brought leaves from his home in the mountains and used them to imprint patterns in the concrete. I never would have imagined doing that. It’s beautiful.

      I would have thrived without Ketut. I know that with certainty. But he has enriched my life here and I’ve learned so much about Balinese culture from him. We have amazing conversations!

      Asia is a different world. It’s incredibly helpful to have someone who knows the course to help navigate it. But a person’s attitude and sensitivity to cultural differences is the determining factor in the success of relationships here – probably in any foreign country for that matter.

      Thank you for reading my blog. I hope I’ve answered your question.



  8. writingforselfdiscovery
    Aug 28, 2022 @ 00:43:41

    vaya a escribir para y donde dice en el lado derecho ingrese su dirección de correo electrónico



  9. writingforselfdiscovery
    Sep 24, 2022 @ 07:48:43

    No entiendo tu pregunta



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