Grateful to Be


My best friend Edaine and I walk on the narrow path leading into the heart of the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces in Bali. A short way ahead is Diana, our driver and tour guide. He is a Balinese man with rich chocolate brown skin and jet-black hair. He is wearing a white collared shirt, light brown khakis and black slippers. He turns around, spots us and smiles. He waves his hand, signaling for us to follow him.

The white and gray clouds above shield us from the sun. A cool breeze blows in this warm afternoon. I hear leaves swaying, a gentle whoosh lulling you to sleep. The smell of earth and grass fills the air. I am in awe of the vastness of the rice terraces surrounding us. To our left, the terraces slope upward, each step taking you closer to the road above and the houses behind it. To our right, the terraces slope downward, each terrace curving like a crescent moon.

We finally catch up to Diana, who is standing beside some rice stalks. "Come here. I want to show you something," he says.

Edaine and I follow, moving closer. The long, green, slender blades of the rice stalks stand tall. Their yellow grains bow down, showing off their countless seeds.

"You see? The rice are green now. In a few months, their leaves will dry up and their grains will turn brown. Then they are ready for harvesting," Diana says. "But I like them better when they are green. Their greenness makes the earth feel fertile and abundant."

As we continue down the path, Diana points to a few coconut trees below. The trees have thin gray trunks but their palm leaves are green and plenty. The coconuts hanging from the trees are in different stages of development. Some are still green and firmly clinging on. Others are brown, ready to fall off the tree.

"When you see a row of coconut trees, that means there is a river beside it," Diana says. "The trees grow on the riverside which is their water source."

"Does this water flow to the river?" Edaine says, pointing to water flowing from a slideway on the side of the path.

"Yes," Diana says.

Edaine bends down and runs her fingers through the water. "It's cool and clear," she says.

"That water is clean and is used by farmers for irrigation. It comes from Gunung Batukaru," says Diana. He points toward a mountain in the distance. The mountain top is hidden beneath a cluster of gray clouds and we could only see the outline of its sloping sides.

"Water coming from the earth and going back to the earth," I say.

"That's right," Diana says.

We stop for a while to rest. I am thankful to have been on this trip to Bali with Edaine. We have been friends since grade school but this is the first trip we have ever taken together. We don't see each other as often as we need to and as much as we would want to. On the occassions that we do, we talk like no time has passed between us. There is a certain comfort, a sense of ease and familiarity that only a best friend could provide.

"It might rain soon. Let's start heading back," Diana says.

"Ok," I say. I look around and take it all in - the greens, the browns, the yellows, the whites. I close my eyes and breathe in the smell of earth and grass. I listen to the gentle breeze, the flowing water, the birds chirping in the distance. In that moment, I am grateful for this experience. I am grateful to be here. I am grateful to be.

I open my eyes and break myself out of my reverie. I turn around and head back to where it all started.

Rina Diane Caballar

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