Women and dishes…a love affair

A new shop appeared on Monkey Forest Road about six months ago. In and of itself, that’s not newsworthy. Sidewalk shops and cafe’s in Ubud come and go all the time. But this one was different.

I was going along at a good clip, as good a clip as I can while being on high alert to every hillock and open chasm in the sidewalk. As I passed what had been a construction site for weeks, I did a double-take. There, sitting outside the spiffy new shop, was a white bench with a pillow on it. The pillow cover looked like it had been crocheted out of large ropes of multi-colored fabric. It was so un-Bali!

Since I was going nowhere in particular, and on no set schedule, I checked the name of the shop, BaliZen, and wandered in. It took me two and one-half seconds to know for certain that this shop was owned by an American…an American with exquisite taste. I sniffed and sucked in the delicious odor of quality.

My eyes scanned the contents. There were hand made bedcoverings, fanciful lanterns in patterned fabrics hanging from the ceiling, a daybed in seafoam green with white accents, home goods of every delicious shape and description, and…dishes.

Before I moved to Bali I sold or gave away all of my beloved  dishes.  My mother had multiple sets of china, she still does. One mother-in-law had an absolute addiction and stored boxes upon boxes of expensive table settings under her bed. But since coming here I had been operating with the leftovers from the previous occupant.

I circled the store many times that first day, imprinting the different patterns of the plates and bowls on my memory. There was a chinoiserie motif in granny-apple green. The bold red paisley dishware had darling scalloped bowls. My eyes feasted while my heart lusted, but I walked out empty handed.

In the months that followed, every time I was a little at loose ends, I’d stroll to BaliZen and spend 30 – 40 minutes surrounded by casual elegance. I don’t know when I knew, but at some point it settled into my bones that I wanted dishes, and if I was patient, the perfect pattern and color would appear here, at BaliZen.

Yesterday I told a friend about my favorite shop. “Let’s go!” she said, so we did. And there, displayed to perfection, accessorized with impeccable care, were my dishes. They were bold but tasteful and the right shade of Bali bed blue. It was love, quick and sure, as I gathered them up and presented them to the darlings behind the counter who have greeted me kindly every time I enter and leave the shop without spending a dime. We all knew my time would come.


It feels strange to be in love with blue. It started with the bed. When that electrifying color moved into my space I knew I’d either love it or re-paint it. Whether it has to do in part with the fact that it’s Ketut’s father’s handiwork, or whether my taste buds are changing, I don’t know for sure. But I have grown irrationally fond of Bali blue. Now the plates reinforce that color.


One post of the Bali blue bed as I shoot past it to the new dishes

The only thing that causes mild panic to flutter around my heart is the fact that I’m accumulating belongings. I’ve sworn off ‘things’ and have chosen to live a simple, uncluttered life. Oh, and by the way…did I mention my fabulous new chairs???


An Empowered Sisterhood

The internet has been down at my residence since last night. I feel terribly handicapped by this inconvenience! Ubud is flooded with people who have come for the Bali Spirit Festival and they’re all here with their internet accessible phones, computers, etc.  The additional activity has evidently put a strain on the system. But here at the Atman Kafe the internet is alive and well, another reason I love this place! I came here first thing this morning to plug in and immediately ordered coffee. It came with this surprise:

How sweet is that! I am delighted and my server is so pleased to have surprised me. Have I mentioned that I love this place!

After a short time of sipping coffee and answering e-mails I am joined by a nineteen-year-old girl from Berlin. Amalia. She has been traveling for seven months.  She spent time working in Australia then went to New Zealand to mountain climb on the glaciers, sky-dive, and do some hang-gliding off cliffs. Timid soul! She leaves to return to her family in Germany in six days and she admits she is lonesome. She reminds me of a 19 year-old in the 60’s who left her Minnesota home to live in Hawaii. But I somehow talked my best friend, Diana, into going with me!

I am amazed at the number of women I meet who have opted for traveling alone. We are here in droves, all ages, not running from…not looking for…just being who we are without constraint or compromise. It is an empowered sisterhood of kindred souls. From this perspective, half a world away from home, the globe shrinks to a companionable size. Imagining possibilities comes naturally. Dreams are allowed, encouraged, nurtured. We share them with one another, almost apologetically at first, shocking ourselves with the boldness of them. But in the sharing they become more real. And somehow, we too become more real.


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