Sacred Cock Fights

Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body. James Joyce captured my current state in that brilliant sentence.

I’m back in Bali, but parts of me are still arriving and parts of me never left! It is an odd sensation, very odd, and one that I enjoy exploring in my discovery writing. I’ve been half way around the world twice in 45 days with a quick back-and-forth hop between Minnesota and New York sandwiched in-between. My mind goes and my body tags along, sometimes kicking and screaming. Then my body arrives but my mind may have taken a side trip and doesn’t catch up until later.

But the parts of me actually here are residing in this charming, second floor room with many windows and great, western light.


The balcony wraps the corner and extends to an area where I can sit and write, daydream, or observe the daily life of an upper class Balinese family.


This part of the balcony overlooks the family temple, but also the public temple across the street. I arrived in the middle of a very important three-day ceremony. There has been constant activity, not the least of which are the cock fights. Yes, cock fights. I requested an explanation from my host, Joni K, about the sacredness of fighting cocks…”Why in the temple?” I was curious. In that slightly apologetic way that is so engaging, he explained that at first, long time ago, just two ‘chickens’ fought so that the blood could be used for offerings. “But,” and the dimples appear, “people enjoy. Now many chickens fight and much money is made and lost.” He told me how much cash is bet on a single fight. “Who keeps the money?” I asked, thinking it might all be donated to the temple. “One who has winning chicken,” he replies. I thought for a moment then said, “Joni, where can we get one of these chickens?” His uproarious laughter warmed my heart. I haven’t lost my touch. I can still make the Balinese laugh.


Since first coming to Bali I have been enamored with the temple drumming. The drum sounds at about 6 a.m. It signals morning and I love the haunting beauty of it coming through the darkness over the rice fields. Now I live across the street from the drum. It sits in a tower of the temple that is eye-level with my balcony. Today the holy man was striking it every 10 seconds as people in ceremonial dress brought their offerings. I caught a photo of him from the balcony. How can you not love drumming…even up close…especially up close! Something primal in me resonates!

Made Parna Painting

Ubud is the cultural and artistic capital of Bali. In this family, both Joni and his uncle are well-known painters. Made Parna paints in the traditional Balinese style and sells his very expensive works in Jakarta. He took me into his studio to see the works in progress. What kind of patience does one have to possess to create in such intricate detail?

This painting by Made depicts Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts, and science. According to Wikipedia, It was with her knowledge, that Brahma created the universe. She is a part of trinity “Saraswati”, “Lakshmi” and “Parvati”Painting Traditional. All the three forms help trinity “Brahma”, “Vishnu” and “Shiva” in the creation, maintenance and destruction of the Universe.

The Hindu religion is complex. Each village interprets and practices it as they see fit. So the moment I think I’ve got a piece worked out I go somewhere else and it is entirely different.

I’ve quit trying to understand. I find it’s better to simply go with the flow whenever I’m invited. And the Balinese are quick to extend that invitation! The very same day I arrived Joni and his wife wanted me to accompany them to the evening temple celebrations. I never say no, but that night I politely declined. I wasn’t sure what remnants of self I could gather up, and even if there were a few shreds on hand, they looked ghastly.

Joni photoJoni’s style is 180 degrees in the opposite direction!

Joni painting contemporary

He sees color and transparency, shape and contrast, and applies it to canvas. His paintings have a satisfying balance which typifies what the Balinese strive for. They believe their rituals serve to maintain a balance between good and evil.

Another uncle is a stone carver. His talent has adorned every building in this family’s amazing complex. The entrance to Joni’s father’s home is a stellar example of the family stonecarver’s genius.


However, in Bali it is hard to compete with Nature. I have a western view. When my room filled with golden light about 6:30 p.m. last night I hurried outside. This resplendent sunset brought tears to my eyes.


So here I am, plopped down in the midst of these wildly creative folks in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I can feel inspiration seeping back into my shriveled pores. As each wayward part of me arrives, and I become an integrated being once again, the juices will flow. They can’t help it. Ubud is creativity central.  It’s no accident that I’m here…or almost here!

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