Gifts Disguised

Full moon through the crystal

The full moon must have knocked me out. Asleep by 9, I awoke with a start, rather disoriented, just before 6. I meditated, then lay on my side for awhile, gazing out the trio of windows. The hanging crystal already a kaleidoscope of colors at this early hour. I stretched out into a few gentle yoga asanas. The sky was stretching itself out too, coming to terms with a new day on its horizon.

I picked up the new book laying on the shelf behind my bed: The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. It took me ages to get past the two-page spread with the author’s family tree laid out in detail. I study family trees with the same awe and curiosity that a shamanic healer and psychic might gaze into her crystal ball (ah yes, I saw her yesterday, but will write about that another time…), anticipating a fascinating discovery, one that lies hidden from first view.

Somehow, I managed to decipher the tree well enough to satisfy myself and to decide to the turn the page. I made it as far as the prologue. And then I found myself at the edge, in the fork, on the cusp; do I close the book now (it was already 7) or… ? I was utterly hooked. Ready to slide down the rabbit hole.

Like an addict knows that if he even takes one haul, sip or line he’s doomed, sunk, done in.. I too knew that I could very well lose myself in that book. In fact, I knew that if I didn’t stop at that very moment, there was a very strong likelihood that I would completely disconnect from the outside world until I reached the very end – damned be other responsibilities, a physical need for food or a shower. Yes, I was THAT hooked.

But I couldn’t. Not this time. Too much to get done: Market – for mangos and a slice of papaya. W’s pool for an early swim. Meeting C at Djoko’s organic farmer’s market (glorious: strawberries! passion fruit!). Writing. Reading. Sketching (ahh… possibly more labyrinths on the horizon!) Calls. Sms messages. Trying to fix something on my laptop.

And the many surprises that fill out one’s day here in Ubud: Saving an ant from drowning in the pool. Bumping into N at the market; seeing C and S there too. Strawberry juice and brunch at the warung with Natascha and Chiara. Walking through the rice fields in Penestanan, past an ever-increasing number of villas under construction. The old wrinkled man I gave the frangipani too, eliciting a shy smile from his lips.

More than anything, it was seeing Ubud’s bag lady that made it worthwhile, and here’s why: I was walking down Jalan Raya on my way to Penestanan, passing the palace and temple entrance when I saw her a short distance away, walking towards me. As we approached one another, I wondered whether she would tuck into an alley, step onto the dais to pick at some garbage or petals. None of the above. She looked right at me and with a flash of recognition – much like the taxi drivers, parking clerks and the offering lady who see me walk through town daily – she smiled and nodded her head upwards as Balinese people do when they pass each other; her silent acknowledgment of my long-time presence. It made me feel less a stranger in this town – in her town.

There it was. Proof enough that there are times when it’s just not right, regardless of our immediate desires & inclinations, to squirrel ourselves deeply into the trenches of a book where we can easily disappear, becoming unreachable, shutting ourselves off from the world (albeit temporarily). Sometimes, it’s wiser to head out, greet the world (pollution and all) and let life guide you to your daily, divine, serendipitously manifested gift – personal, edible or otherwise 😉

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