I’m Stuck in Bali: Stories of Pandemic Proportions. #2: Out of Nowhere

bali Apr 02, 2020

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about. ~ rumi

In the morning I sit and drink black coffee and watch the farmers work the rice fields. It looks like unimaginably tedious, back-breaking work. 

I think about the many times I’ve thrown rice away. All those cartons that come with my Chinese food delivery – discarded like it’s nothing at all. 

A few tourists walk down a path along the rice fields and then disappear. This happens daily.

One afternoon, my friend Vladimir and I walk down the path. It’s littered, but not with local litter. A discarded bottle of vitamin C, a box of SOS scrubbing sponges, ubiquitous plastic water bottles. Remnants of vacations – after the memories fade, the garbage remains.

I’m thankful that I hear the occasional motor bikes in time to try to balance myself on the edge of the path between the irrigation trenches and the rice fields. I always take a deep breath in as the bike passes as if that will keep me from getting my toes run over. Or worse.

The push and pull of blue and green and water and heat envelops us. I feel as if at any moment I could melt into the landscape.

It’s the kind of humid where for an instant you think it’s not humid at all until you notice that your clothes are drenched and your face is dripping.

Then, out of nowhere…an artist in a small shack looks like he’s expecting us. He proudly begins to show us his tools. His paintings are vibrant and filled with tiny details of local birds, flowers and trees, all framed with elaborately carved wood. 

We say we’ll be back. And we meant it.

Next a woman with a blowtorch and a tiny bowl of beads. She’s making silver jewelry. We stop to admire her work. She is gracious and has a kind, reassuring smile. It feels comforting just being near her. We notice she serves coffee. Vladimir offers to treat me, but he has no money. And for some reason I brought a completely empty bag slung over my shoulder. 

Then as if reading our minds, she offers coffee to us and says we can pay later. I think of the chances of this response happening in Starbucks and giggle to myself. 

Our coffee comes in steaming pink mugs. Vladimir takes out his tobacco and roles a cigarette. The sweet tobacco scent mingles with incense and vanilla baking in the sun. For a brief moment I forget my life. I’m simply a human experiencing the world through my senses.

After coffee we walk deeper down and more and more artists emerge. Not one of them is pushing to sell to us. 

A tourist with a heart necklace, “Jess,” passes by and we ask her what we might find farther down the path. She tells us about a cafe and then she too, disappears as quickly as she had emerged. 

Seeing so much art being created is somehow the exact remedy I needed. It brings a deep comfort. I think of my dad always traveling with his paints and brushes. For him his art supplies were as essential as his toothbrush and clothes.

What an opportunity we are in to create. To make beautiful things. To share our gifts. To create art for the joy of it. Because we can. Because we must. Because it matters. 

We turn back to head towards our home. From this angle it looks enormous and deserted. A castle from an ancient time.

Home, here where it seems like at any moment, we might all disappear.