1 September 2015

Mandi under the Full-Moon

"The birds are silent in the woods.
Just wait: Soon enough
You will be quiet too"

- Robert Hass

Last night whilst taking a shower out in the garden under the big old full moon - a gorgeous little owl appeared just meters away - silhouetted atop a bamboo trellis cloaked in tomatoes. 

No words can explain the significance and beauty. 

For a moment in time just me and this quaint little owl - Eye-to-eye - both naked - inhabiting the same ecosystem.

The last few times I’ve seen owls this year have been in the main city of Jogjakarta - tied up by the feet on a display perch for local tourists to take photo’s with... :(

One of the most challenging aspects of living in Indonesia is the 'in-your-face' degradation of the natural world - when we first moved into our place, in South Jogja, there was a gorgeous urban forest out back - sadly after 6 months this was chopped down – with plans to build another housing development still in limbo 2 years on.

 the view from our back window shows the small forest I first fell in love with in 2012

In the meantime the forest is now regenerating and remains a refuge for birds, bats and other resilient urban wildlife – I’m forever dreaming to somehow get this land secured as a kind of nature refuge / urban food forest / permaculture hub (woni piro mas - cuma 1.5 juta per meter!).

Every morning a couple of little forest quails duck under the bamboo fence and timidly walk through our garden - tiny dinosaur ancestors inhabiting an increasingly urban ecology.

Survivors in every sense of the word.

I often see men walking through the forest regrowth with trap cages to catch birds for selling at the local animal market - I'm still too culturally sensitive to confront them - there is nothing in their body language that reveals a sense of guilt or shame - just business as usual. 

My language skills aren't good enough to explain the theory of shifting baseline syndrome. 

Birds in tiny cages are a cultural staple across Asia - as wild populations plummet in even the most remote 'wilderness' areas. 

There's rubbish strewn along the side of the road, waterways clogged with single-use plastic, burning hazes, pollution, traffic.. Java is one of the most densely populated regions on our planet.

Illegal hotels are popping up like magic mushrooms on a humid summers afternoon - pembangunan terus!

No one I’ve met has any respect for the latest Sultan of Yogyakarta who seems to have completely sold out, increasing his loot by issuing dodgy permits to property developers.

I've had several close friends comment recently - echoing my own inner struggle with living here - 'I don't know how you do it Paul' living over here - and that is a question I ponder daily.

I'll admit - it is a struggle. 

I am outside my habitat, learning the language has not been smooth and swift as it has been for some. Understanding, and perhaps more importantly, connecting with the broader local cultural paradigm has not always clicked - as it does for some (although can't say that has ever happened in Australia). There's plenty I love and there's plenty that challenges me.

The honeymoon is most definitely over - and yet there is a deep love and connection I feel with this place and her people. 

Mostly I miss my family back home and green tree frogs croaking on a summers afternoon.

The question remains whether the struggle and sacrifice is worth the yield, and determining the yield on this journey is an increasingly challenging thing to do. 

With Saturn return confronting me with those socially conditioned voices; capital, competition, career.. and a deeper soul voice whispering poems of passion and purpose from a place of peace and playfulness - polycultural plentitude places Paul in the perfect playground.

Yep, classic saturn return symptoms.. Thank god for my bamboo ladder which allows me to sit on the roof and watch the mist dance around the moon.

And yet...

there is something special about this place and time – the little old lady who gets up before sunrise to make jambu – riding her bicycle with a rack of glass bottles full of ancient medicinal turmeric brews, I pull her over for a shot, 20 cents - the shared connection and smile equally as medicinal.

A car, several motorbikes, a horse and carriage and a couple of becat's (bicycle taxi) all drive past as I down the last of my yellow brew.

Road rage does not exist here. Greeting people with a warm smile is common courtesy - even if you just about ran into each other!

This place is such a melting pot of old and new – modern and ancient - cheesy, fake, plastic - authentic, raw and real. 

It is the ultimate land of contradictions.

Religious preachers project their call to prayer through red-lining speakers - voice out of tune - and people who humbly live their spirituality like the old ways - walk their talk, eyes glowing wisdom that need not be spoken about or else it is lost.

chop wood - carry water...


The Javanese culture, as much as I truly don’t understand much at all about it’s hidden depths and lineage - embodies a humbleness that can be felt most deeply in the gap between the ‘Mong’ and the ‘Goooo’ – 'Monggo' a phrase or greeting commonly used with genuine warmth and love. For no matter what demons we carry inside, a smile and a hello to your neighbour is the foundation of community over here.

And yet - there are seeds of change sprouting in some slow and soulfully cultivated soils - they say it takes a few years to transition a degraded farm into fertile abundance - and for sure the same goes for regenerating a forest ecosystem - where much of the core change is taking place underground - in the dark and increasingly diverse soil ecology - out of site from the world above - not posted on Instagram - new life sprouts from the realms of the unseen. 

140 million Javanese and 57 wild Rhino’s on one island that was once inhabited by Javanese Tigers...

And here I am in 2015 wondering if this is my 'spirit of place'?

It most certainly is right now - at this moment in time.

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