Write books that no one wants to read,
Play music that no one wants to hear,
Paint pictures that no one wants to see,
& Produce cutting edge science that is incomprehensible to all.
But this shouldn’t matter,
As our Creator is surrounded by love,
Including a beautiful and talented wife,
2 lovely and productive daughters,
Extended family, workmates, and friends.
Even more important, he is on the Dharma path,
And so beloved by the gods.
So hear goes – Singing into the rocks at Angkor –
The only ones who will listen
To this outpouring from the Soul.
Another miraculous day.
Head up to the village after breakfast about 9AM. After asking around find Dana’s family compound.
The entry way is decorated with ornate patterns and carefully carved stone statuary. After passing through the gates, we see many separate structures in a bewildering arrangement. Chickens and their brood scurry around. Roosters crow. Dogs bark to protect the home. Dana greets us warmly and introduces us to the members of his extended family. Each greet us with a warm smile, including ancient, wrinkled women, a beautiful young daughter, and a serene wife.
I ask him about the organization of his courtyard. Dana points to each structure in turn: a shrine to the ancestors and gods in the center front facing a cardinal direction. A bathroom in the back facing the opposite direction. Each couple has their own room with doors facing the center. Parents building on the right. Children quarter’s just in front. His brother’s structure is on the left, with the living quarters for Dana and his wife just behind. Everyone shares a common kitchen.
Dana assures us that all Balinese houses are the same. Each family compound houses the extended family. Further the arrangement of the buildings is essentially the same. It is so standard that the government posts a plaque on the outside wall of each compound that states the family name and how many inhabitants there are. Each village is composed of a group of family compounds. Rice fields or some other agriculture surround many villages. Further each village has its own temple.
He introduces us to his wife, who is working on an offering for the village ceremony that is happening that evening.
After pleasantries are completed, Dana leads us onto his estate – walking or strolling through a lush tropical forest on a maze of trails.
“Here is coffee, chocolate, etc, etc.” He opens up a cocoa plant so that we can see the insides.
Dana Opens Seed
Dana introduces us to his beautiful cow. It seems that each compound has one cow only. We never see a herd of cows, just one. All beautiful, well cared for, and very sensitive.
We eventually reach the terraced rice fields. “We all work in the rice fields from time to time. “
Young and old women harvest the precious kernels stalk-by-stalk. “How about you both do a few.” The women provide us with a simple hand cutter to snap the narrow strands of rice.
Me: "What are those umbrellas down there?"
Dana: "That's our rice shrine. We decorate it for the harvest festival."
Me: "Every harvest?"
Dana: "Of course."
This honoring of the local rice spirit is very exciting to me. It is a simple and special way of acknowledging the divinity in all things. By comparison, the religions of Scientism and Materialism are parched deserts.
“Would you like a coconut? My uncle will climb up to cut one off for you.”
His uncle, a leathery, wrinkled, middle-aged man with a quick grin, slithers up the tree like a monkey.
Climbing Tree for Coconut
After throwing down a few coconuts, he climbs back down and then lops their tops off. He inserts a straw and we are sipping sweet coconut milk.
Lopping off Coconut Top
Walking on the narrow and sometimes muddy terraces –
Taking off my shoes ‘to wag my tail in the mud’ –
Seeping in the warmth of the ancestors –
Those who have tread these narrow passageways to tend their precious crop for centuries or maybe millennia –
Perhaps using the same traditional techniques.
The tour of Dana’s family estate takes about an hour and a half. It takes a long time walking up and back. Laurie’s thighs are even sore from the steep steps.
Upon our return, we are greeted with a cup of strong sugared coffee. The beans are grown in his fields and ground by hand, using a sifter.
Nutty crackers and a moist cupcake, both produced by his wife, accompany Laurie's much needed caffein. (Capuccinos were the only addiction that she missed.) Everything tastes particularly delicious, as it comes from the warmth of the heart.
Previously Dana told me, “Whatever you want, Dana can get – at best prices. Just ask.” I knew that Laurie wanted a Garuda statue. It was love at first sight, when she saw the mythical bird as an enormous painted wooden sculputure in the entryway of the Gallery Hotel in Wonosobo. Laurie had already been looking in Ibud for her bird, but hadn’t seen anything she wanted.
I asked Dana, “The boss [my code word for Laurie] wants a Garuda.”
“I know the perfect place.”
Garuda is an exceptionally important Indonesian symbol for many reasons. This bird-man is Vishnu's vehicle, a hero of the Ramayana, and also the name of the domestic airlines that took us to Denpesar in Bali. Although a strictly Muslim country, Hinduism's Garuda is the national symbol of Indonesia.
Why is this mythological bird so significant?
The gods were to perform an important sacrifice. Everyone was expected to contribute combustibles for the fire – wood, kindling, etc. As Indra, the war god and king of the gods, was carrying a huge load of logs to the sacrifice, he noticed a group of knat-sized human saints struggling under the burden of a single dry leaf. They had gotten stuck in the footprint of a wild beast that had been imprinted in the dry mud. Glancing down, he laughed at their puny efforts.
The swarm of humans recognized Indra's shadow and his scornful laugh. Buzzing amongst themselves: "He laughed at us. He didn't offer any assistance. We need a new Indra." They immediately set their dry leaf on fire. The heat was so great that it drew the attention of Indra's father, one of the stars in the sky. The star god said, "We don't need a new Indra. We need a new god." Presumably to put Indra in his place.
The gnat-sized saints provided him 2 seeds from the fire to give to his 2 wives. They became pregnant. One wife gave birth to 1000 Naga serpents. Despite being pregnant for 500 years, the other wife still hadn't given birth. The first wife looked down on the second due to her long pregnancy. Due to trickery associated with a bet, Wife 2 became Wife 1's servant. She eventually gave birth to Garuda, the enormous birdman.
He was dismayed at his mother's position and requested a solution.
Nagas: "Provide us with amitra, the potion of everlasting life, from Indra's castle."
Garuda immediately flew up to the heavens. The heat and wind from his wings disturbed the heavens. Indra, always arrogant, demanded to know the cause. Agni, the god of Fire, after putting on a cloak of fire to protect himself from the heat, went down to investigate. Garuda requested Indra's amitra.
Agni: "Remember those little gnat-sized humans that you scorned. They produced a seed that gave birth to an enormous bird, Garuda, who wants your amitra."
Of course, Indra refused. A huge battle ensued. Garuda won, securing the amitra and his mother's freedom. Impressed, Vishnu asked Garuda to be his vehicle. As such, the two are both associated with preserving the peace and enforcing justice. Because Garuda is associated with the collective power of the weak, Indonesian freedom fighters claimed him as their symbol when they revolted successfully from centuries of Dutch colonial rule. As such, Garuda is associated with the power of the people.
In the greater context, the intent of the Hindu Brahmins was to replace the hierarchical and arrogant war god Indra with the more egalitarian and peace oriented Vishnu and his vehicle Garuda. As such Garuda also symbolizes replacing the militaristic orientation of the warrior cult with care and concern for the average citizen. The rulers should help out, or they will be replaced.
After our nourishment, we head out in his old and small minivan to buy Laurie’s treasure. After wending through a veritable maze of streets and turns, we come to an area where we see woodcarvings of Garuda everywhere. It seems that this section of Bali specializes in Garudas. We finally reach ‘the’ shop. As we enter the small open-air shop. The sculptor is plying his trade, chipping wood from a world class, over-life size statue of Garuda atop Vishnu, who has an enormous serpent at his feet ($3000).
Laurie settles for a smaller painted version of Garuda carrying Vishnu.
We also buy presents for the girls, sculpted hands for Laurie’s jewelry display and a cobra for me to bring our purchases to a round $200 total. “Best deal in town,” Dana assures us. (These objects combined with a wooden giraffe we purchased at the Bandung volcano were the sole physical souvenirs from our amazing adventure.)
Then off to a coffee plantation. Cat-like creatures called luaks poop out a high grade coffee bean – kopi luwak. Evidently luaks only choose the ripest beans and their digestion process leeches acid from the beans. After washing, they are ground with a mortar/pestle tool and then sifted.
The many Herbs at the Coffee Plantation
The Coffee Roaster & his Process
We sample this and other coffees in a lush tropical environment that we have come to expect.
Dana: "How do you like it?"
Me: "This premium coffee is certainly delicious, but missing a secret ingredient. We prefer 'Dana's' heart-filled brew. Can we buy a pound from you?"
"Of course," he beams proudly.
We skip the $25 per pound high tech caffeine and buy a sampler from the plantation instead. Then back to Dana’s compound.
I offer Dana money for the tour and his hospitality. He refuses. “Just money for gas and a pound of home-grown coffee. We are friends. You tell others. This is good enough for Dana.”
Needless to say, I am shocked, as most services in Indonesia come with price.
We walk back to the Villa Sarna for a well-needed rest. Unfortunately, our room is not ready. We extended our stay at the Sarna for an extra day so that we could experience the Village Ceremony this evening. Because our room had already been reserved by someone else, i.e. the Singaporian couple, we had to relocate from the Vishnu Villa to the Krishna Villa. It turns out that this is the Villa that Laurie had really wanted. Staying and waiting for the room was well worth it. It turns out that it was Villa Sarna's 'best room'.
For one it was a little higher up so it had a better view, if that is possible. Laurie particularly relished in the canopied bed and the Balinese antique furnishing.
The real treat for me was the coffee table. It had a glass top, under which was a beautifully and intricately undercut relief of a scene from guess what? The Ramayana. My jaw dropped and electricity shot up my spine. In an attempt to demoralize Rama, the demon king decides to slay Sita, Rama's soul mate. Garuda steps in to save the day. In the relief, Garuda appears to be saving Sita from Ravana's knife. How dramatic! How inspirational! On the coffee table? Needless to say, I was blown away by this world class (at least as far as I was concerned) piece of art.
After a nap, we take a swim in the pool-lagoon where we meet a journalist from Afghanistan, who is in Ubud to chill out for a few weeks. He says that things are so out-of-balance there, factions fighting factions, that it will take decades to sort out the rivalries and achieve any semblance of peace and order. “Most journalists are as honest as they can be – not creating deliberate propaganda – maybe inadvertent.”
We are shuttled to the restaurant that provides room service for the Villa. As we wait for the lunch, our eyes feast upon magnificent views of the valley – rich green tropical forests above, patterned rice paddies below. Our lunch: a half chicken with spicy sauce, an avocado shrimp salad, mango milkshakes and an apple tart tatin topped with vanilla ice cream for dessert. All dishes are beautifully presented – nouvelle style complete with an Indonesian twist. The chicken is served on a bamboo plate lined with a banana leaf accompanied by two folded banana leaf containers that contain unique spicy dipping sauces. The plate was finished off with a perfect cone of rice with a banana leaf hat.
We ask the waiter to arrange for a driver to return us to the Villa. We have the exquisite feeling of royalty – knowing full well that internal peace is the root of this externally triggered satisfaction. Our life's work, internally and externally, generated the self esteem that allows us to luxuriate in this marvelous spot on the planet. To complete this sensual Pulse, we watch a beautiful sunset accompanied by a sliver Moon with Venus at her side. Certainly an auspicious omen.
As the day's light is fading, we stroll back up the hill to the small village – excited to see a local celebration. We head into Dana’s family compound and are startled to be greeted by Rena, our driver from the day before.
He greets us warmly. "I am Dana's brother."
Laurie and I glance at each other thinking our collective thought: "Small world/tight knit community."
Evidently Dana is still working, so Rena is our host for the evening. He provides us with and helps us to put on sarongs and the traditional Balinese hat/headdress.
Rena responds politely to my many questions.“Each village has a temple with their own ceremonies. We only perform this ceremony twice a year. Other villages celebrate on different days.”
As Rena escorts us over to the village temple, we see Wayan, the young man we saw on the first day. Smiling, he says we look great. Evidently these two men are the mayors of the village. One deals with external affairs and the other internal. Laurie and I glance at each other with raised eyebrows. We are honored and excited to be escorted around by these village dignitaries.
Wayan: “I thought you were leaving before our ceremony.”
“We postponed our stay at Villa Sarna so that we could be here tonight.” [We actually forfeited our $75 deposit at another hotel to remain here.]
Both men beam with delight that the village ceremony was important to us.
Rena: “Clean your mind of bad thoughts. Only good thoughts are allowed inside the temple.”
Simple cement walls divide the multiple outdoor areas of the village temple. No roof is required, presumably due to the warm tropical air – high 70s to mid 80s Fahrenheit year round. Some areas are raised higher than others, perhaps due to digging out the earth and distributing it upwards. The floors are dirt, no wood.
Laurie and I in full native garb.
Rena leads us to the raised area, where there is a multi-layered altar with an abundance of colorful vegetal offerings. Dana’s wife had been preparing one of these vegetal offerings when we had been at the compound earlier in the day.
Rena: “This altar contains the Trimurti – the 3 gods as manifestations of the one god. Brahma creates the world; Vishnu preserves it; and Shiva destroys it. The cycle of life. Each god is equally important. Death balances life. Although the fruit is an offering to the gods, we consume it once the ceremony is over. The altar is sacred. So don’t take pictures.”
He then directs us to another area where young children (perhaps 4 to 14 years old) are enthusiastically playing the gamelan. The joy combined with the music sends me into ecstasy.
“Do you play the gamelan?” I ask Rena.
“All Balinese men are both musicians and dancers.”
Rena leaves us at this point, as he is one of the musicians tonight. Arriving later, Dana is one of dancer/actors.
We wait and wait for the celebration to happen, as it is already happening around us. Women are placing offerings on the altar. A whole roast pig is brought out on a platter, another offering. A holy man dressed in white blesses the instruments and the pig. Two men are making strange sounds through a microphone that issue seamlessly through the setting. And everyone is gabbing, socializing. Everything is slow-paced in Bali.
The Korean couple from the Villa arrive, also dressed in sarongs and headdress. Dana told them, “Mr. Don and his boss already there.” We are grateful for someone to talk to as we wait. Haeran, the Korean lady, must meet and greet the oldest person at the celebration. Further, we four must proceed in a specific order – men first, oldest to youngest. Evidently, this is an important Korean tradition. We arrange ourselves appropriately and go to see the Holy Man, who is oldest. Focused upon the ceremony, he barely acknowledges our presence. However, I am thrilled as Korea meets Bali.
Finally, everyone gathers around another area of the temple for the performance. Men are already sitting cross–legged on the dirt floor playing the gamelon. Dancer/actors in elaborate costumes, just as intricate as those in the downtown performances, perform a scene from the Ramayana. The intricate dance/acting is complemented by monkey children, who act/dance appropriately.
But the incomprehensible dialogue is endless, eventually putting me to sleep. The others see me fading and request a drive back to the Villa. Dana graciously obliges. We arrive home at 10:30PM. Evidently the celebration continues until midnight. Finally into bed after a long day.