Archive for March, 2005

In Jungleland

March 19, 2005

Looking into the jungle. The light from the joglo’s covered walkway spreads through seven types of tree, extends past a shorter statue to a three meter figure decked in offerings on the far side of the garden. The light stops short of the steps leading down to the 2nd garden tier, and because I have switched the other lights off, it leaves my seat in darkness, too. A bat flaps through the trees and the light, and I recall a moment earlier today, exploring the royal family’s temple grounds, when I brushed a critter from my arm and discovered it was a scorpion on quite a stroll from its natural habitat. A faint breeze and quiet ceiling fan keep me comfortable in shorts without a shirt. I sit in darkness, and look across the light into the black jungle, silhouetted against a sky so full of stars I know there must be something going on out there somewhere. An old familiar feeling, turned strange by the awareness that even though I barely knew the stars of my life thus far, my instincts inform me more than my knowledge that these are not they. Look up at this spectacular night sky and you will not find the Big Dipper. A wall encircles the 2-joglo compound and the 2 tiers of gardens. Its gate opens below the lower garden to several tall stone stairs descending to an irrigation canal lining this side of a wide terraced rice paddy extending to the jungle on the left and in front, and the sky on the right. Leaving sandals by the hip-deep canal, crossing it and making my way across the rice fields, I could reach the bamboo bridge thrown across the river on the other side of the rice fields to walk through the jungle into the village of Mas. Today I walked the rice paths 400 metres alongside the canal to the infinity pool set above them and extending by some optical trick to the edge of the jungle. A large lizard scurried across my path on its way kersplash to the canal. Or I could take the road. But tonight I do neither. Instead I sit in this rattan armchair, pillow and notebook on my lap, legs up on a matching ottoman. A dim light on my keyboard. An iced guava juice cocktail by my side. A moat filled with aquatic life encircling my home for the week. Eons past, a local nobleman on Java built this structure with its columned expansive bale (BAH-LAY) in the center, its twin mahogany heat-trapping pyramided domes in the roof, teak floors, sliding walls. In my imagination, servants replace the ceiling fans, and the nobleman wears a thin sarong rather than my shorts. Some visionary (and moneyed) soul in need of more tranquility brought the joglo across the water and set it here. I am a white-skinned sweaty novice in an oasis carved out of jungle, and I watch the jungle slowly trying to take it back… it’s the dialogue in progress all across this isle, and sitting here I remain inarguably IN the jungle.

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March 19, 2005

My home for the week from the outside, with moat and bridge… sigh…

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March 19, 2005

The large central bale in the living area of my joglo. Daybeds on either side allow very comfortable reclining on the bale as well, and the sliding doors overlooking the garden are just visible on the right.

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March 19, 2005

the stairs to the 2nd tier, a bale at the edge of the garden, the gate just visible leading to the rice paddies in the background…

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March 19, 2005

Looking from the pool back along the irrigation canal to our joglos…

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March 19, 2005

The bamboo footbridge from the paddies into the jungle and on to Mas. When I actually tried it the bamboo split under my feet, and as the gulley appeared bottomless, we retreated.

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March 19, 2005

This is why these are called infinity pools over here…

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March 19, 2005

Visiting the still inhabited royal compund in Ubud, I brushed this assassin from my arm before I knew what it was. It pays to be hairy sometimes.

And the band played on…

March 19, 2005

So I recline and listen to all these shades of green… until tonight, four distinct frog types worked in concert with both a gamelan orchestra in the jungle town across the river, and the gentle jazz I often have going quietly behind me, while the rapid rhythmic drone of small winged beings did the rest of the soothing work. I am sure the conversations of the frogs are influenced by the quality and volume of the music. There is often an odd harmony, as if all are working from the same score, and perhaps they are, a cosmic one. Human music or not, the jungle sounds grow deafening over time, the way any sound does to human ears in the absence of conversation. And the louder they become, the more tranquil this world. These sounds, even the human ones, are at least two thousand years old. Gamelan is basically gentle orchestrated percussive music produced by anything that makes music when struck, whether or not music was it’s original purpose: coconuts, cauldrons, could be whatever. No gamelan orchestra sounds like another, but the effect is invariably like a family of independent wind chimes expressing their love for each other. In everything there is a comic element, and I find it here in the presence each night, even occasionally tonight, of the “sorry” frog, performing his occasional “sorry”-sounding repetitions, perhaps because he or she isn’t very musical. It’s all quite glorious, but reading a volume of short stories about Dutch colonists losing their sanity in this cacophonous verdure over months and years sends an eerie serpent slithering down my spine. How much enforced serenity can a foreigner (“bule” — BOO-LAY) endure?

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March 19, 2005

One example of part of a Gamelan orchestra.