Sanity is Green

I didn’t sleep well last night. There was one mosquito…. But it wasn’t just the annoying buzz around my ears. I was waiting for another sound that didn’t come until after sunrise, after I’d shampooed, showered, and dressed, after I’d had coffee and my morning bowl of fresh papaya. I was waiting for voices, the workers who would come en mass today to pour my first floor terrace. I didn’t know how many to expect. Pasek said “Many.” How many is many? He didn’t know. But he brought extra glasses, more Bali coffee and sugar, and  watermelon and kue from the market. Pouring a floor is a big, big deal here in Bali. So I was on high alert knowing that the whole thing has to be finished the same day it starts and knowing also that they would begin early and stay as late as necessary. I was a little apprehensive in an excited sort of way.

P1060120Yesterday morning the floor looked like this.


By the end of the day there were identical boxes perched on 2 x 4s at either end of the structure.


And at 8:00 this morning…!

A crew of ten workers arrive. They come in the back of a pickup truck from a village in the district of Bangli. A breakfast of rice and vegetables, sometimes chicken, is packed early when food is made for the whole family. They unpack it and laugh and joke over their morning meal. I bring out the plates of kue, Balinese cakes, and Ketut heats the water for coffee. They love to joke with me and I know just enough Indonesian now to be dangerous. I’m not always certain what I’ve said or what I may have agreed to. They’re a raunchy bunch!


The big guns arrive. Pasek, the project manager is in the forefront and Dewa, the contractor, is next to him. They’re here to make sure everything gets off to a good start. Sudi, my neighbor, is the third in the line-up, and Ketut in red takes it all in. By 8:45 the place is like an anthill. Everyone moves at once and knows what to do. Water flows into the big square boxes. Bags of cement come in carried atop the women’s heads. Stones are dumped in with the concrete mix. Scraping and mixing and commotion ramp up to full volume.

By 9:00 a.m. I’m in search of sanity. Which, as it turns out, is green.

Lucky for me, my friend wants me to go with her to Denpasar today to buy fabric. So at 9 a.m. Sudi and Ketut pull up on their motorbikes and we escape.


Flooded paddies with new plantings reflect the sky


Older growth yields layers and layers of green


A small temple posts watch

For miles we roll through serenity. My nerves calm. My mind clears. We pass a small temple at the edge of a paddy and I remember that on the other side of the world today is Easter Sunday. It doesn’t take much, I realize, to ground me, to restore balance in my mind. Sanity is green, just a few miles of small road through acres of natural beauty.


 Tonight my new floor looks like this.

The concrete is poured. The thunderous piles of black cloud that surrounded Ubud all afternoon didn’t leak a drop. The work was uninterrupted. All that remains of my diligent crew are these soggy gloves, hanging on the skeleton of a pillar to dry. Until tomorrow, that is. P1060151

Nasi Campur – Delicious Indonesian Fare

I’ve tried the Indonesian dish, Nasi Campur in three Warungs now. There are different ways of serving it and I love it in all its forms. But the pleasant ambiance of Cafe Angsa definitely enhanced their rendition of the local favorite.

It is right beside a rice paddy and, of course wide open to the fresh air and vegetation.

That’s a glass of watermelon juice. I’m afraid I had to taste it before I took the photo! I was parched and there is nothing as refreshing as the cool sweetness of watermelon to quench a ravenous thirst.

Here’s a better shot of the delicious meal. At the back of the plate is the steamed vegetable, in this case cabbage, some carrots, bean sprouts and peppers. Next to the veggies in the little dish is the tomato sambal, spicy and just a little bit sweet, and tomato, cucumber and shredded raw cabbage next to the half hard boiled egg with a dollop of sambal on top. Next to the egg is tempeh, a soy product that has a nutty flavor and a firmer texture than tofu. Next to the tempeh is fried tofu. It’s the seasonings in the tempeh and tofu that make them unforgettably delicious. The famous prawn chips complete the presentation. Oh yummy!

As a very special treat on this particular day a grade school band was practicing in the pavilion literally right next to the restaurant and oh! how they love percussion. It wasn’t a peaceful lunch, nor would it have been romantic even if I’d been there with someone special. But it was scrumptious and wonderfully entertaining.

When I finished my meal I strolled next door to the open pavilion and took a quick shot of the kids. Later I found out that there’s a competition coming up in a few weeks where all the schools perform for the mayoral election. They are working so hard! I’m not sure what the plan is for the flags. There wasn’t a lot of synchronization there, but what do I know! I played flute in marching band and that was hard enough!

A Visit to Michael Franti’s Soulshine Retreat Center

I’m terrible with names. It comes naturally. So when J.J. mentioned that there was an open house at Michael Franti’s Soulshine Retreat Center, just outside of Ubud I did one of those, “UmmHmm,” comments that translated means, “I think I should know who you’re talking about but I don’t have a clue.” She wasn’t fooled. “You know, the singer?” she was trying to help. “Ahhh, maybe?” The thing is, I know SONGS. I don’t know SINGERS. Anyway, it sounded like a nice outing for the morning so we set out on foot. Well, it may be five minutes from Ubud by car, but it was a full hour hoofing it. First we had the rippling sidewalks of Ubud proper. Those turned into narrow dirt paths by the side of narrow roads with traffic whizzing by. And then even the narrow paths disappeared. Mix that with blazing sun beating down and you have a perfect recipe for heatstroke! When we saw the Soulshine landmark, five yellow flags by the side of the road, we hoped we weren’t hallucinating. Turning right off the street we were immediately drenched in Bali beauty.

We followed the path along this lovely little stream and it turned into a rushing torrent splashing through holes in volcanic rock formations.

Then it became a waterfall.

Finally we reached the Center itself, an oasis of serenity.

We were greeted by smiling, friendly staff who told us they knew nothing about an open house. There was a retreat in progress and they were so sorry…. Well, J.J. wasn’t about to roll over and play dead. “It says in the Bali Spirit guide that during the Festival the Soulshine Retreat Center will have open house 11 – 4 every day.” The smiling staff looked confused. One of the young men asked us to “Please wait,” and he disappeared. After only a few minutes a woman appeared at the top of a long stairway and motioned us to ascend. We did. The woman was Carla Swanson, co-founder and Michael Franti’s partner. She personally took us on a tour of the center. The photo below is the third floor yoga studio with gleaming wood floors and a panoramic view of the surrounding rice paddies and jungle.

The accommodations are sublime, and the carrot juice drink we were served, compliments of Carla, was unparalleled. My photos do not do justice to the tranquil beauty, the exquisite detail of the architecture itself, and the serene aesthetic that permeates the environment.

This is a view of the grounds from an area by the pool and restaurant. It is luscious. Everywhere you look is a feast for the eyes. We rested, soaking in the restorative energy, sipping our cool drinks, imagining hosting workshops here. It is the stuff of future dreams that have a way of manifesting if you see them clearly enough.

Our tour completed, J.J. and I parted ways. About half -way back to Ubud the sky was threatening to dump its afternoon deluge so I sought cover at the Nuriani Cafe. It was a splendid choice. After a refreshing glass of watermelon juice I feasted on this plate of Ayam Pedas Sambal Matah, which loosely translated means grilled chicken, vegetables and rice. The prawn chips are crisp and delicious but you have to eat them immediately. If they have a chance to sit even briefly they soak up the humid air and become like fishy tasting leather.

I lingered here, enjoying every morsel and resting my eyes on the green of the paddies from my elevated perch. This particular view has special memories. The buildings just across the field belong to Tegal Sari where my daughter and I stayed two years ago. Then the rain came and lasted once again for about 4  1/2 minutes.


Thoroughly satisfied, happy and hot, I trekked the rest of the way back to my room with single minded focus: TAKE A SHOWER. Now, sitting on my balcony refreshed and revived I am convinced it doesn’t get better than this.

Bali Morning

How is it that this place makes me feel good from my hair follicles to my toenails?! It was after midnight when I arrived in Ubud after 28 hours en route. Putu met me at the airport as planned and he and Wayan drove me to Ubud (always exciting especially in the dark!) After about an hour we reached our destination. I was led on a path along vine-covered walls and up a short flight of stone steps to my INCREDIBLE hideaway! I think I have the presidential suite! I reserved a single room, you know the kind with the really small bed? Imagine my delight when I walked into a room with a king bed, soaring 20′ ceiling, a huge 8′ wide x 7′ tall window and a door to a private balcony overlooking these views that I shot a few minutes ago. I asked Putu if this is a temporary room or if it is mine for two months. I was quickly assured that it is MINE!

This morning, at dawn, I was sitting right here with my Discovery Pages notebook, writing. Ahhhhh!

The very large window has no glass. No need. The temperature stays between 75 & 85 at all times, day or night. The broad overhanging roof shields the interior from the daily afternoon showers. For security and structural integrity, bamboo poles, about 2″ diameter, are spaced 4″ apart with a screen behind them. That is the only barrier between me and the amazing sounds of Bali morning. Some of the roosters start cockadoodledooing at 3:30 a.m. (Since that is 4:30 p.m. for me, Minnesota time, I am awake and I check the clock!) They are accompanied by the low muttering of ducks and a constant chorus of insect voices. By 5:00 a.m. the whole thing revs up a dozen or so notches when a million birds of unknown species wake up. I heard a new one this morning and I’ve fondly named it the Worry-Bird. In a Yogi Bear kind of voice it says over and over, “UH OH!…UH OH!…UH OH!”

The lightening sky lures me to the balcony with my writing equipment in hand. A few moments later I scurry back inside for my camera, and a few moments after that another scurry to grab the binoculars. There are two indignant birds battling one another over one very special seed in the rice paddy. What a fuss! I’m watching the whole altercation close up. (Thanks mom and dad for the awesome binoculars!)

A breeze carrying the smokey scent of incense tickles my nostrils. I breathe deeply, the thick richness of the air has already brought moisture back into my winter-starved skin.  And suddenly I’m laughing, my belly shaking and joyful tears dripping from my eyes. It is so good to be here!

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