Day 1 of the ‘New Normal’

Around eleven a.m. yesterday I heard the familiar laugh. Ketut came up the path lugging twice his weight in potatoes and squash. I slipped on my flipflops and hurried to help.

I’d photographed the grocery list the day before and WhatsApped it to him.

In five minutes I’d had his response.


There’s a trait I’ve found that generally holds true. A man of action is a man of few words. Ketut’s no exception.

I knew he was familiar with most everything on the list, but the mei nasi vermicelli (which I spelled wrong) might have been a mystery so I added a photo.

A little later he sent this picture and told me he and his youngest, Komang, were stealing broccoli for me from his in-law’s garden.

As it turned out, it was both broccoli and cauliflower, perfectly formed bouquets.

After several trips back and forth to empty the minivan, I saw what my list looked like in real life. Food overflowed the bags on the table and the floor around it. We took inventory. There was one bunch of mystery leaves mixed in with the spinach.

“What’s this, Ketut? Not bayam.”

“Daun ketela. Like Padang food. Bayam in market finished.”

So the traditional market had sold out of spinach and Ketut had improvised. Good man.

I love Padang food, the cuisine of West Sumatra. I’d never cooked cassava leaves, but if that was the unique flavor in Sumatran veggie dishes, I was excited.

After Ketut demonstrated how to light the water heater and change the gas bottle…

after he asked for the umpteeth time if I was sure I wanted him to stay away for a month…

after he suggested he could come in the back way and work on making a new garden behind the house and I wouldn’t even know he was there…

I assured him again that a) he was due a good long paid vacation for all his years of faithful help, and b) if he even stopped for gas somewhere he might take the virus home to his village.

“Okay. But if any problem, you call me.”

I promised I would.

After separating the bounty with my downstairs neighbor, I Googled cassava leaf recipes. The easiest one had onion, tomato, and peanuts. I had those ingredients. Instructions said to chop everything, brown the onion, stir in tomatoes and leaves and cook for 30 minutes adding water when needed. Peanuts last.

While watching the water level on the simmering pot, I steamed broccoli, boiled eggs, and prepared dragon fruit for the freezer. It was four o’clock when all was completed and I realized I hadn’t had lunch. The experimental dish was tasty but daun ketela will probably never appear on my future grocery lists.

This morning I woke to Day One of the ‘New Normal.’ I’d been anticipating this, longing for the opportunity to fall into a routine, gain some modicum of control over my life. As I stared at the morning face in the mirror, I was transported back to my first full day in Italy. A storm raged, churning the ocean to white froth. Wind battered the shutters and rain pinged against the windows. I remembered thinking…thirty-two more days…

Of course the rain stopped and I had a fabulous time.

I found myself wishing I knew if this would be thirty-two days, or sixty, or a year. I suddenly missed my family, my grandchildren. I let sadness come, sobbing through yoga, tears dampening my meditation pillow. I hadn’t allowed grief. I’d been distracted by doing what needed to be done. And then, when there was nothing more to do, I’d spun out of the present and lost myself in an unknowable future.

Catherynne Valente said, Do not ruin today by mourning tomorrow.”

Like a cloud passing over the sun, sadness dissipated. The cathartic energy of sorrow left me feeling cleansed and strong once more. I moved back into the now with renewed resolve to stay there.

Do you notice when you’re spinning into the future? Perhaps you could tell yourself, “This is my body now. There is nothing to fear in this moment.”

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stevecastley
    Apr 02, 2020 @ 23:12:43

    Oh, the new normal. The adventure starts at home. Enjoy the challenges, differences and fun.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Gail Brown
    Apr 03, 2020 @ 03:30:35

    Selamat pagi Sherry,
    I just hope those huge amounts of fresh food don’t rot in the course of the month!🤣
    And what happened to the vino to wash it all down the way it did in Italy?🍷🍷

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Tracie
    Apr 03, 2020 @ 04:21:33

    I am going to put that quote on my bulletin board, thank you! As each days numbers go up and up here, so does my anxiety! Thank you for your posts, so helpful!!! Miss you!

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Diane Struble
    Apr 03, 2020 @ 12:17:52

    I am always amazed at how you have learned everything about Bali and can live it. I must admit, I did not recognize a thing on your grocery list. Poor Ketut! First to get that all in the van and then to get it all out again. He deserves a long vacation for that alone.
    I see the wanderlust clouds gathering again. There are not too many safe, warm countries in the world at the moment. How about Costa Rica? It is much closer and has a moist , tropical climate. Quite lovely, I hear.

    Liked by 2 people


  5. writingforselfdiscovery
    Apr 04, 2020 @ 21:07:52

    There won’t be any wandering anytime soon! I’m sheltering in place and gazing at the clouds. Yes, Ketut deserves every moment of his vacation! But I miss his joyful presence and his great laugh!

    Liked by 1 person


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