It was time for another trip to Tabanan, but it was a visit unlike any other. A silent retreat center with considerably less silence than usual. The fields and valleys of Penatahan came alive with sounds not seen here for awhile…
More people than usual. Lots of scheduling, planning, timing. Multiple cars. More bags carried, more beds and towels used. Deliveries.
We tried, really we did. To keep the silence. Mostly for the benefit of the filmmaker. So, here and there, in takes, we remembered stillness. In bites. In between bites. But talk was permitted; it is after all still a work in progress.
How does it look? How will it look in photos? In the video clips? What needs to be moved around? Should we film you walking through the rice fields? Do you want to get up at 5:30 to shoot the sunrise? Or is the golden hour before dusk good enough? Who will lead meditation? Who knows how to do tree pose?
It was a nice change from all my previous stays and visits, when silence reigned supreme. But this time, when it was all done, when we were on our way back to Ubud, I realized that I’d missed something; I’d missed the lengthy stretches of silence, of solitude, of the pristine quality of walking along the road and up through the retreat alone at dusk, stopping to gaze at the slowly rising sun, wondering if the clouds would part long enough for me to capture a view of Mount Agung.
And yet, I was grateful for the change of pace. The site needed a voice. It was filled with laughter and jokes and a late-night conversation, fittingly enough, centered on the origins of the oft-used Australian and British phrase “Bob’s your uncle.” As in: Just tell us where to put these things and… Bob’s your uncle!
Bountiful too: We were treated to some cooked-up dishes by the cook-in-training, Wayan (aka Gusto). He tracked down herbs and lettuce from the garden, then whipped up a bunch of succulent vegetarian dishes and we dug in with.. umm.. gusto!
It was apparent that the retreat had been hungering of late, for more life, more people, the sound of people walking, talking, washing dishes, testing water flow, flushing toilets and shuffling around.
Come next month (or the following), when the ‘soft opening’ becomes not just a phrase bandied about, but reality, the shuffling will continue, as will the dish-washing and eating (possibly even lip-smacking!), but the muffled and loud voices, the laughter, the calling out.. all that will fade, once more, into a vast pool of Quiet.
Let’s see.. who knows, I might very well long for late-night chats, trading barbs, talking about Balinese culture and Bob (who may or may not be your uncle).