There is food in this post. Something will be eaten.
But first, admire the floral world of Bali. It deserves attention, for flowers seem to consume time here much like the preparation of a meal. They command market space almost equal to that taken up by the produce we put in our mouths. They are handled with a care verging on sanctity.
Wandering the boxes, crates and baskets of the Ubud Central Market one early morning, the evidence is clear. Flowers and petals are traded equally as routinely as rice or mangoes, or peanuts, or salt. One gets the sense that the floral transaction at a Bali market is part of a custom of duty, age-old and divine. Linked to holiness. Linked to luck.
The selection of variety, hue and shape is done with perhaps a particular design aspect in mind; what will please the gods today?
For those of less artistic bent, the design work is done, a splash of marigold, hints of blue chrysanthemum, a single perfect frangipani, all arranged just so in a tray woven from plant matter. It could be "buy three, get one free" - a kind of fast flower for the busy woman on the go.
Placating the gods, ensuring the harvest, making a happy and harmonious home is not just some whimsy undertaken when the mood strikes or when a favourite flower is in season. Part craft, part chore, the ritual of preparing and placing these little floral installations about one's surrounds is a task which takes time, including that taken at market to buy the 'ingredients'. Or alternatively, the period spent harvesting flowers from the botannical exotica of those surrounds.
Secateurs on a long pole or a rudimentary stick is used to gather flowers located up high. Down low, thumb and forefinger pluck but do not exploit. The garden still looks colourful. The trays are loaded methodically, much like the way chefs plate up dishes at a function. And, as alluded to earlier, there is food involved at this step. Amongst the flowers, tiny squares of banana leaf dotted with rice are placed; a tiny cracker, a sweet, a slice of banana also, perhaps.
Only is all in readiness, however, once the woman performing the ritual is dressed for the occasion. A sarong must be worn, secured around the waist by a narrow sash. Flowers adorn the hair. Incense is lit. Grace transcends.
Bali is renowned for it's dances and this is one of them, enacted on the pathways and in the doorways all over the island. There is something catholic to it; trays held upon high, plumes of smoke curling, water flicked daintily by a frangipani flower, serene but knowing looks.
When the offerings have been placed at various points on the property, the sarong shashays back to a work station, most likely a kitchen. When a rest would appear warranted after such undertakings, what actually begins now is the working day. Breakfast needs preparing, guests (like me) need attending to, children need to be hurried to school, other bigger rituals need more thorough preparation.
This marks meal time for Bali's wildlife. Down from trees, up from drains, from the air they come, but not to admire the flowers.