The rains have come. They do every year.
Dry season is roughly June through October and wet season is the rest of the time. January and February are peak months with an average of 90 millimeters of rainfall each. But as of today, 500 mm of rain have fallen in Ubud since the first of January. Soggy has taken on new meaning.
So what does that have to do with sleep? Several things:
Rain pounding at the rate of Niagara Falls is loud. Very loud. Add to that a forceful gale that drives water under the roof tiles filling the house with a fine mist and the situation becomes disconcerting.
One thing, though, plagues me more than the rest. When winds are high, the tall coconut palm just outside my bedroom window whips perilously close to the glass. In nightmares I envision the muddy earth it clings to giving way. With a bolt of lightning and a crack of thunder I’m suddenly sharing my bed with shards of shattered glass, and a very large soaking wet tree.
Under normal conditions a palm’s root system withstands rainy season. But this tree is old, the earth is saturated, and the winds are strong. “What do you think, Ketut?” I asked my wise friend. “Will the tree fall down?”
We’ve had this conversation every year when the rains come and he always says, “Don’t worry, still strong.” But this year he had no quick answer. Instead he studied the tree, first from one angle, then another; from upstairs and down, and proceeded to chop off half of the tree’s 8 foot branches. “Now not so heavy,” he said.
I have to give him credit, Ketut is a problem solver.
Granted, now the tree was not so heavy, but it was also not so beautiful to look at. After a few more restless nights of pounding storms I approached him again. “I can’t sleep, Ketut. I’m still worried about the tree. Maybe you can find a Tukang Pohon who will cut it down.”
As luck would have it, that noon I lunched with a friend who, the day before, had watched a 20′ palm being removed. Her detailed description sounded so civilized, so professional, that I begged her to get the name and number of the contact for me. She did, and with that information in hand Ketut called Mr. Macho (I kid you not) who came right over. He quoted 600,000 rupiah and said he was busy now but could come back in three days.
Three days later Macho, his eight-year-old son, and a helper appeared right on time. Ketut hustled to provide the obligatory coffee and snacks which, in my experience, almost always precede the onset of work. They chatted and sized up the operation. Then, coffee finished, Macho plucked a leaf, put a cookie and a lighted cigarette on it and placed the offering by the small temple. “For not fall down,” he explained, then caught himself and laughed. “Tree okay. But not I fall down!”
The mood that moments before had been casual, took on intensity and singleness of purpose. Like a well-orchestrated dance many times performed, Macho scaled the tree while his assistant below kept the ropes untangled from the surrounding bushes that would hopefully be left intact. With surgical precision, Macho’s hatchet sliced off the giant fronds. I held my breath as they slithered through the leaves and landed with a shuddering thud on the ground.
There was a mad dash into the house to shut windows and doors as the sawdust flew. When the wedge-shaped cut was made, and the ropes secured to the topknot, Macho Man climbed down. Now he and his assistant jockeyed for just the right position. They had a narrow window of opportunity for landing that massive clump without harming the house, the garden lamp, the shrubs, or themselves. This was the moment of truth.
Perfection! Well done Mr. Macho! With the main event accomplished, he chain-sawed the remaining trunk into two-foot sections tossing them aside as he worked his way down.
If for one minute you think this task didn’t require all the machismo that our hero’s name implies, just look at the concentration on that face! When nothing remained but a short stump, Mr. Macho struck a strong-man pose for the camera.
As the guys muscled tree parts off to the compost corner Wayan swept away leaves and twigs. Within an hour the only indication that major trauma had visited that garden was a telltale dusting of sawdust on the bushes.
Until I went upstairs, that is. The tree trunk used to run right up the center of this window. It was the first thing I saw every morning as the sun rose behind it. Squirrels chased each other up and down and monkey’s leaped onto it from the roof of my house. I’d watched doves courting in its branches, and once or twice a year it offered up a coconut for my dining pleasure if nothing else ate it first. For a moment nostalgia overtook me, but only for a moment; then relief.
“Was there a storm?” I’d heard nothing.
“Big rain,” he said.
I returned his grin and gave a thumbs up. In my world, the price of a good night’s sleep is 600,000 rupiah. And the show? That’s free.