Rice Fields

“Oh my threshed and winnowed one…”
–Isaiah 21:10

The rice harvesting season began during my last week in Bali. Each day from the yoga shala, I’d watch the women make their way into the yellowing field. With slow, heavy movements, they’d strike the gathered stalks against the rice collector, the rattle of loosening grains marking the rhythm of their work.

I’d spent nearly a month in that field, practicing the asanas, mudras, and meditations meant to strengthen and restore my weary body and soul. Still, I had insomnia, and my back ached the entire time I was there. During mealtime conversations, a single phrase would continually betray my lingering loneliness and confusion: “I don’t know why I’m here.”

Of course, none of the strangers around me had the answer.

One day, I tried to capture the majestic movements of the rice workers on camera. But as the shutter began to click, one of the women glanced up at me, with a quiet, questioning look, and a profound irony came into relief: Here I was, trying to “find” myself, on an island I couldn’t even point to on a map. Why had I thought I required anything more than a mirror?

Three years later, I can’t quite make sense of that time I spent in Bali. I only know that the island was gracious with me, allowing me to gaze at its ripened landscape, to be rocked by its gentle rhythms, to be comforted by the unwavering presence of its people; to find answers in the silence between the blows.

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