Sunday, July 23, 2017

Evening Walk in Renon

Evening walk in Renon -- always the same, always somehow new.

Evening in Renon

Ah, such a pleasant evening. While the sun sets, a cool breeze soothes the tired brow of the day and lifts every care to careless caprice, all as insubstantial as paper kites. The children are out in the streets, and their parents, too, and the game of the day is badminton, of which the wind makes gentle farce. "Halo!" they shout, swinging their racquets, chasing the birdie, shaking the singing tree - men, women, girls, boys, bikes, bushes, storefronts, alleys, roses, dogs, cats, bells, gods, and the bakso man with the umbrella - Halo! Just being alive is an incomparable gift which neither wants nor knows a fee.

Friday, July 21, 2017


My not so "furious" friend here is Samuel, whom I believe I have mentioned before. Samuel is a hardworking young man and, aside from working as a doorman at Starbucks, comes here to the house once a week to clean and mop and so on. Additonally, we have found work for him with two friends. Samuel appreciates this, as his wife, who currently in school training to be a teacher, is six months pregnant, and they will need all the money they can get to support the new member of their family. Often, we will have Samuel and his wife stay for lunch. On the menu today: Nasi Campur. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Little Big Tree

A few flowers, pink, hesitant, have returned to the tops of the top branches of the little tree in the back yard which has now grown tall, like a son or a daughter whom one sees every day but sees again, suddenly, in a world apart, already grown, taller than oneself, stretching to its own ends. The late afternoon breeze plucks at the petals, plays the branches like a conductor's baton, a new song woven from two or three notes, that tune set down in the beginning, and fashions of these a life its own. If one listens carefully, one can hear it, though one must, for a moment, leave the foundation aside in order to fully perceive what is new. This composition composes itself, becomes what it is and what it will in the next moment be. It is a song of lifted arms, of open palms, of seeking leafs and blooming buds. It is the song we sang from the very first day, and before the first day, from the far end of an aged galaxy, playing its meaning on strings of starlight, the sole beneficiary of a harmony unknown. 

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Secret Signer

I remember reading in a biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald that he would, in the latter years of his short life, occassionally stroll into this or that bookstore, announce himself as "F. Scott Fitzgerald, the famous author", and request a copy of one of his now out-of-print novels. 😅 Inspired by his self-deprecating humor, I occasionally enjoyed a similar quest. I would enter a bookstore, search for a copy of my own out-of-print young adult novel, and then surreptitiously sign the title page, along with a brief, scribbled note. This always felt as if I were defacing the thing, or somehow defiling an otherwise clean copy, and so I would have whatever companion I was with stand in front of me in order to block the view. I could just imagine being detected by a diligent, though humorless clerk, who would wag a finger and say, "You mark it, you buy it!"

An American at the Carwash

Out at the carwash yesterday, a man abandons the little bench he is sitting on for one of the small plastic stools and offers the bench to me.
"Lebih nyaman bagi Bapak," he explains.
And so it is.
"Bapak dari mana?"
"Menerut anda di mana?"
"Belanda ya."
"Hmm. Aussie."
"Heavens no."
Hmm. He's running out of reasonable countries.
"Asli dari America," I admit.
"America! Wah! Hebat!" Thumbs up. "America negeri yang bagus. Sangat kuat. Bapak serdadu ya?"
"Bukan. Bukan serdadu. Ada banyak orang di sana yang bukan serdadu."
"Jadi apa? Usaha apa?"
"Sudah pension."
"Tapi sebelumnya, apa?"
"Kerja di rumah sakit."
"Bukan. Bukan doctor."
"Ada bisnis di Bali?"
"Nggak ada. Udah pension. Santai aja."
There are other men waiting on stools and my new friend turns about to call them over.
"Hey, dari America. Ini orang America."
They gather their chairs in a circle. Surely, I am about to say something fascinating. I wonder what it could be. But it turns out that just being an American is sufficient. Clearly, they have not been reading the news lately. Which makes me nostalgic for a bygone time. If only they knew.
"America mana?" one asks.
"America Utara atau America Selatan"
"Well ... North America. You know - The United States of America."
"Iya, dari bagian barat."
"Sering kembali ya."
"Belum pernah. Sudah enam tahun."
This meets with a general disbelief.
"Kenapa, Pak? Kenapa belum?"
There are a hundred reasons, most of which would be, pada dasarnya, disappointing, or disillusioning, or downright depressing. So I keep it simple, and do not mention the cost or the violence or the malaise or the hatreds or the poverty or the greed or the hard-heartedness or the clown at the top by whom the nation is currently being represented. I much prefer the stature bestowed by these men.
"Saya suka Bali," I say. "Suka sekali."
As things stand, what American wouldn't.