This was our final prompt in our last writing class. Here’s my response to the prompt:
SINCE I’VE COME TO BALI
Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve seen twenty strangers become a community. I’ve seen monkeys by the side of the road, oranges that are green, perfect orange papayas on my plate, and ten desserts that are all green, all of which use banana, palm sugar and fresh shredded coconut, all of which taste the same.
Since I’ve come to Bali I’ve heard running water, the gong calling us to writing, the barking of street dogs the constant crowing of roosters, the vroom of motor scooters, children calling out, “Hallo!” and “Pagi!” Good morning, birds I cannot name, the clang of the gamelan and the whack of mallets on bamboo. The call to prayer, always in the distance.
Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve smelled diesel fuel and nutmeg, fresh coffee and cocoa, crumpled lemongrass and cloves picked straight from a tree. I’ve smelled fresh ginger in my morning tea and coconut on everything.
Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve tasted salac fruit, raw, sweet and cooked with cinnamon, sliding white and glistening out of reptilian skin. I’ve tasted bananas raw, cooked, in battered and fried, covered with glistening syrup and in a milkshake. I’ve drunk ginger tea and smeared papaya jam on my not quite Tassajara bread. I’ve tasted water spinach and fresh watermelon/feta cheese salad. I’ve asked for sambal matah with every meal—a condiment made with chopped lemongrass, onion, and hot peppers, I’m smoked a hookah flavored with cherry tobacco and once, a clove cigarette. I’ve tasted an Arak attack with my dinner, and tempeh cooked in more ways that I thought possible. I especially loved the small crispy sweet variety. Tempeh Lala.
Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve felt cramping in my belly, the glory of fresh air on my skin most of the day and much of the night, joyous, exasperated, jubilant, gloriously free in the waterfall, alert, rested, achy and tired. Since I’ve come to Bali I’ve felt awe at the offerings, the sanctity of life, the ready smiles of the children, the cracking open of hearts and stories in the writing room. Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve felt the sensual pleasure of dresses and bare legs and half a dozen pairs of skilled sensitive hands treating my body. I’ve felt the excruciating pain of the healer’s touch and a moment later the whoosh of opening at the top of my head and throughout my body.
Since I’ve come to Bali I’ve met 17 amazing beings, all on their own path to living authentic lives. I’ve met drivers named Budi and Dewa who shared their quiet wisdom and stories of Balinese life. I’ve met a former gardener who manipulates people’s bodies in ways that heal and transform flesh, muscle and bone.
Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve savored the wealth of plant life and the knowledge of Surya, our guide, the moments late at night when I dove back into the sweet novel that I’ve been reading. I’ve savored the conversations on the bus, on the trail, at the monument, over breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve savored getting to know each and every one of the students who came and the privilege of being their teacher. Since I’ve come to Bali I’ve savored living in nature, living with weather. Living without bad news from the United States of America.
Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve been reminded that it doesn’t take much to make daily life sacred. That my body feels better when I move. That it’s important to have more than one person count the number of people in the group before, during and after each excursion. That coconut juice isn’t something to buy in an asceptic box at Whole Foods for $4.79 a box, but rather, something to climb up a tree to fetch. That travel blogging is fun and a great discipline for writing on the go. That everyone who comes on a trip or to a workshop is on their own journey and needs the space to find themselves within it.
Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve learned once again, that everyone has a story to tell, whether it has risen to consciousness or is still floating underground. Since I’ve come to Bali I’ve learned that reverence can shape a life in a way a list never can.
Since I’ve come to Bali, I’ve revisited places I’ve loved and cherished in years gone by. I’ve watched the changes in the country and the things that have stayed the same. I’ve been reminded how much I cherish community, creating it and living in it. I’ve remembered to breathe. I’ve realized that the sacred I see all around me every day here in Bali exists right here in the beating heart of our writing room, and our circle. We create our own mandala of flowers right here in this room, with these uncomfortable terrible chairs, these silly signs blowing around the room, these pens scratching on paper, fingers typing on keyboards, these voices, this deep listening, these open hearts.