Nature’s Balm

Have you ever pitched a project to a total stranger, confident of its meaning and purpose, sensing that the stars are aligned; that you are meant to be dedicating yourself to it, heart and soul, and that it’s just a matter of time before it comes to fruition? You might even expect that the phone call that you are about to make will give you the green light to go ahead – because the head honcho (A.R., aka Francois the gardener) has already given you his resounding approval and a discussion with his team, you assume, is a mere formality. But instead, the voice on the other end of the phone says: I’m sorrymy staff say it’s not green (meaning environmentally friendly, which if anything this idea most certainly is)…and I don’t run the place anymore, so I have to listen to my team

I feel the disappointment coursing through the veins and arteries of my body, sinking into my stomach, landing with a thud in the soles of my feet. How is that possible? I was so certain that the response was going to be otherwise…What to do…

I was in Penestanan on a classically Balinese morning bursting with sunshine. I hung up my cell. Finished drinking up a glass of freshly made mango + honey + lime juice.

The organic market was just getting underway, so I bought a box of strawberries and walked down the narrow path: Past Putra Santa, past the yoga studio, past Yellow Flower Café, past Villa Shanti and Villa Om, past the gallery and into the rice fields.

Farmers were planting, ducks were fertilizing, water streaming all along the side ditches. Past the hotel back gate, along frangipani row – the only place I know in Ubud where the trees are short enough that I pick ‘em in bunches, right off the branches. I crossed the bridge, past the tennis court, and up the stairs to the pool – almost hidden away by the trees.

Nearly one hour’s worth of laps: The panacea that my body and soul most needed. Surrounded by nature. It was the only right place for me after the phone call that caught me by surprise. I’d asked AR to leave the page with my colorful and detailed designs at our ‘regular’ meeting place, the resort’s outdoor coffee house. I bobbed up and down in the water. I asked him to recommend another person to approach with the idea. I splashed about, eyeing a reptile out of the corner of my eye – and then a black butterfly. A bright red dragonfly landed on the concrete nearby.

I was nestled into a blue lagoon, as if embraced by a cocoon of banana, frangipani and coconut trees, stone sculptures, lounge chairs, butterflies and birds. Distant voices of Balinese hotel employees, a lone elderly farmer, scythe in hand, canvas bag draped over his shoulder, heading out into a neighboring field.

I shared my strawberries with a Dutch woman who lay on the chair beside mine; she had abandoned her husband and two children for the day, sending them off on a tour while she took time off for herself.

I felt grateful that I’d thought to immerse myself in nature. It was the right way to wrap up the tail end of this morning, one that had begun on a low note. I toweled off, changed into dry clothes and walked back into town to see Shoko’s new abode – picking up a bouquet of frangis along the way as a housewarming gift.

This evening, I decided to bookend my day by stopping in at the new White Lotus building on Jalan Kajeng. I entered and found an empty and startlingly white sanctuary. Climbing to the rooftop, I heard music and saw two women doing yoga in a covered but open-sided pagoda. They moved and meditated to the soothing sound of Tibetan bowls.

The music sailed out into the terrace, where I settled myself onto a lounge chair, under the darkening sky being salted with endless invisible strands of stars. Swallows swooped down low. The red lights of a helicopter blinked in the distance. Water rushed in the river below, a welcome compliment to the new-agey music and bowl vibrato. I watched a brilliant dance of the fireflies.

I’m going to trust that this morning’s kibosh-via-mobile was a blip, rather than a message to shelve the idea.

Perhaps this is one of nature’s purposes: to soften the blow. And to remind us about the virtues of patience.

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