Monday, March 7, 2011

Soundtrack to Paradise- Part 1

The air is fresh and clean- washed by a light overnight rain. The wet season is slow to wind up this year.
It's time for a morning stroll. I head down the path from our cabin, brushing away black and orange butterflies dancing around around me in the garden. The sky is a bright white: overcast days here charged by the tropical sun somewhere above the scattered clouds. There is the promise of blue sky later in the morning.
A lizard, like a miniature dragon, is wandering across the cow pasture next to the resort. They don't bite, we're told, but its floppy swagger still triggers some primeval warning deep in my mind. It's just looking for fruit, I tell myself. My shrew-brain watches it anyway, glad to be moving at right angles to its path.
Gili Air has a horsepath that runs the perimeter of the island. A herringbone pattern in the grey sand shows the resort girls have already been out this morning, sweeping the path with their short-handled brooms. It seems a shame to put footprints across it.
The views are stunning as I turn down the path. Clouds still cling to Lombok, the island across a narrow channel from Gili Air. All shades of powder blue and mountainous in the distance, like a Toni Onley painting.
But today I turn down a connecting path, away from the shore. To the island's interior, following a new route this morning. I'm looking for the 'cross-island expressway'. For no particular reason, just to see if its there. This is tourist work.
I pull out the iPod and turn it on. The headphones are cheap knockoffs from Vietnam, tinny but functional. I let the player pick the music, hoping for inspiration in the algorithms created to shuffle the music.
A song from Another Green World by Brian Eno comes on. Back home this is fall music for me: sombre, electronic hymns, long quiet passages of ambient tones. Suited for the first snows of October, the dying light of November. I have listened to this a long time, 30 years now.
Interesting choice. I turn off shuffle, selecting instead to play the whole album.
Oh me oh my, I think it's been an eternity/
         You'd be surprised at my degree of uncertainty/
How can moments go so slow?

Strangely, this brain-music takes on a new character on this tropical island. Rather than sobering, it seems to celebrate the morning. The piano riffs are light. The music swells. Uplifting, embracing. Lyrics about the fall of night and passing of time somehow complement the daylight and the greenery, the richness of earth and water.
The path widens a bit, and an old brickwork pattern begins to reveal itself under my feet. Some old project, half-done, to formalize the path. The hedge grows bigger, turns into a canopy overhead, cooling the path below. I enter the locals' village.
Homes here are neat and tidy. Gardens, filled with palms and banana and mango trees. Flowers in pots and vegetables in raised beds, all order and care. Here, a goat stands on the stump of an old palm; there, a man is hand-cutting two-by-fours, the shavings smouldering beside him, the aromatics framing the scene. People move quietly through the morning, working at the speed of hand and foot.
You know how they build a fence on Gili? Take sticks- cuttings- from a tree. Commonly, it's caragana, or tamarind, or a grape-like stalk. Stick them in the ground in a row. Use some bamboo to keep them in line. Step back.
In a few months, the plain sticks sprout new shoots, new branches. A few years, you have a strong, fence.
Could you ask the earth for more? Stick a piece of wood in the ground, and in a while it will feed you. And cool you. And shade you. And keep your animals in.
I'll find a place somewhere in the corner/ 
 I'm gonna waste the rest of my days 

New life from old sticks.
New context for old music.
The earth provides on Gili.

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