Heathfield Souls

It’s so blissfully quiet. Just the faint humming of the heater, the tap of my fingers touching the keyboard and birds chirping in the distance. I’m sitting cross-legged on an old comfy couch with a piping hot cup of vanilla chai. I’m surrounded by glass windows in every direction, leaving a sweeping view of a Scottish loch, the rolling Highland hills and the greenest lushest earth on the planet. Week one in Scotland is in the books and I’m now finding this blissfully quiet moment to reflect on yet another powerful period of self-growth, graciousness and the best that humanity has to offer.

I’ve found during my first week in Scotland, that the absolute, purest, best that humanity offers, comes in the form of a few characters I’ve met recently; each showing me a different lens to life and each showing me something new in myself. Heathfield [[the old, original name for the 1870s Scottish estate, turned yoga retreat central, that I currently call home]] is a special place. It’s old. Really old. And parts of it are fairly battered up [[for which I’m thankful, getting to live out my HGTV dreams, tearing down old atrocious wall paper and revealing the real bones, ready for some love and a fresh coat of paint]]. But atrocious wallpaper aside, this manor has real soul. And so it attracts soul, too…


Sonya. For an accent-obsessed gal like myself, I have no idea how Sonya’s French-ness evaded me for three days. Though horrible to admit, maybe, I usually find a French accent quite piercing. But Sonya’s voice…it’s the softest, calmest voice I’ve ever heard. A yoga teacher for a reason. She left me with a softened ear and Indian incense to practice my yoga with. Soothing beyond measure. All of it.

Paula. She brought me back to one of my happy places. People always ask me, “so, do you miss anything about ‘home?’ to which I always reply…my kitchen [[and the gym, but that’s another story]]. While I still miss my kitchen, Paula tucked me under her wing in the Heathfield kitchen last weekend and it brought me back to the rhythmic meditation of chopping veggies. Done with so much love and so much focus, it was exhausting. Like Thanksgiving on repeat for three days, as we cooked for the yoga retreat group, 15 strong. But oh, how fulfilling those sweet hours in the kitchen were. Community is built around the table. And an adoration for Paula is built behind the stove.

Angie. With bold black specs, fierce blonde hair and a firecracker of a personality, I was drawn to Angie like moth to a flame. A professional matchmaker for the millionaires, an elegant cook and an even more elegant wine-o, some of my fondest moments this week were spent listening to Angie’s stories about relationship and partnership and family. I don’t think her life is perfect, but I think her journey is. And that’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it?

Mairi. Mairi might be my Scottish kindred spirit. She gets me. I don’t know how or why someone should ‘get you’ after only a few hours of newfound friendship, but somehow she does. She gets my story. She gets my fears and hopes. Hell, she even brought me on her precious family vacation back to her hometown in the Highlands for a night. She showed me the Scotland I dreamed of experiencing. And so here I sit, in this blissful quiet moment of reflection, all because of her. She’s a picture of generosity and understanding. For that, I hope she feels my overflowing grateful heart.

Lawrence. The reason I’ve come to meet any of said souls. My host. My teacher. My yoga partner. My Ty Pennington. Sonya and Paula’s friend. Angie’s brother. Mairi’s partner. No label defines him, but all somehow coalesce into the important print he’s stamped on my life in the last week. About a year ago, Lawrence bought into a dream when he took on Heathfield. He’s poured out his soul into the place, ripping up old tile, sanding down the beautifully strong wooden floors, creating a yoga studio out of ram shackles. But I hope he knows that the soul he pours into it is doled back out tenfold for the blessed souls who step foot on that estate.

How thankful am I to be one of those souls…

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5 reasons why every broken-hearted gal should visit Bali

So I’m standing at the edge of a Titanic shaped dock at dusk, looking out over cascading rice paddy meets tropical forest, the smell of coffee beans roasting wafts through the air, when I actually catch myself mutter the words:

‘Maybe this is why it all happened…so I could be in Bali today.’

Bali

Me. The girl who wrote this.

The girl who, not three days ago, cried herself to sleep because of all she misses.

Me. A young, broken-hearted American gal, for a moment in time, felt dots connecting, worlds colliding, God healing, smile cementing, soul affirming. And it’s all because of Bali…

Every time I tell my dad, ‘oh, I love this place’ or ‘this might be my new favorite’ or ‘you have to add this to your bucket list’ he asks me ‘Why?’ ‘What makes it so special?’ Usually, I have some non-specific, but sensible answer.

When he asks me about Bali, I will have five answers, that all add up to one big answer.

So here we go, the easiest post I’ve yet to write…here are the top 5 reasons that every broken-hearted gal must visit Bali:

  1. It will let you eat your heart out. Let’s face it. I love food even when my heart is intact. But there’s some unwritten law in the book of heartbreak that states that food = necessary, couch-devouring guilty pleasure. We’ve all been there. And it usually sucks because nine times out of ten it’s a gallon of cheap grocery store ice cream and a tub of empty calories. Not in Bali. In Bali, you can eat to your little heart’s desire and not feel one ounce of guilt or stomach rot. The food is so real, so pure, so raw and organic, you can very literally taste the difference. From Kafe to Taco Casa, there are a million fresh food and juice options to blow a health-nut’s [[or broken heart’s]] mind. Never have I seen so many menus I want to devour. Raw cheesecakes, honey-roasted beet salads, almond-cacao-coconut smoothie galore. It’s foodie #InstaHeaven, yall. If a happy belly were ever to happy a heart, then Bali’s it.
  2. It will help you pamper yourself silly. As if it weren’t compelling enough to know that Balinese hands give the best massage I’ve ever known [[I swear, they get down so deep, they massage your heart and soul]]– a 60 minute massage here in Ubud will set you back less than a machine chair massage at the Airport. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but not by much. For 250,000 Indonesian Rupia [[approximately $20 U.S. Dollars]], I bought myself a ‘welcome to the Spa shower,’ a 60 minute Balinese massage [[this ain’t no Massage Envy massage either—though I love that place—this is a get-on-top-of-the-table-to-really-get-in-there / no-place-for-bashful-butt-and-chest-kneeding / scalp-gripping-hair-yanking kind of 60 minute sesh]], and the longest, most detailed pedicure of my life. Note to all broken hearts: when someone wants to send you to an overpriced-over-stuffy spa to help you feel good, kindly request that they reallocate that spend for a one-way-ticket to Bali + under-priced-stuffy-doesn’t-translate-Balinese spa [[it’s probably a wallet wash, anyway]]. Indulging never felt so good. Spoiling yourself never felt so guilt-free. In fact, I think I’ll opt in again today. Probably tomorrow too. When in Bali, right?
  3. It’ll turn you into a proper yogi. Now, I’ve said it before, yoga is good for me. I love yoga and weird as it may sound, yoga loves me too. It makes me feel good and think good. Though I’m certainly no Antonella, I try. And I grow. And it is a physical reminder [[demand, rather]] to give myself grace. Bali is the yoga capital of the world. And for good reason. Yoga Barn. I don’t even know how to describe it. I think Yoga Barn is the kind of place that could convert a linebacker into a downward-facing-dogger. At the end of a small [[slightly chlaustrophobic, even]] alley tucked into the heart of Ubud, you’ll find the quaint little Yoga Barn welcome desk. The beautiful Balinese gals will invite you in and show you the way. You’ll wind through a palm-tree-draped stair case, cut through a sweet little café [[serving mouth-watering-things found on point 1, above]] where yogis are lounging out on the big day-bed-looking benches, and then down one more flight of earthy stairs. Then you will subconsciously let out an audible ‘ommmm’ [[mygosh]] as the quaint opens up into a vast and proper yoga retreat. There is a huge, cabana-covered deck. And bungalows off to the side, where yoga teachers in training can hang their bolsters for weeks on end. And there is the yoga barn. A big barn looking structure with a dual staircase that leads up to the most awe-inspiring studio I’ve ever stepped foot in. The dark wooded beams and soft lights and British gal invite a room full of travelers to practice. To mediate and find yin. I cannot say enough things about yoga here, so I’ll just beg you broken-hearted gals to come treat your soul to yoga in Bali.
  4. It’ll make you wanna straddle a Balinese boy. No, no, no, not like that. But I’ve maybe never felt so grounded but free; so wreckless but solid; so wild but beautiful, as I did on the back of Jo’s motorbike. Kara and Paul warned me how utterly wonderful it feels to ride helmet-less through foreign streets with a foreigner [[who, if you pick a good one, will become a friend in no time]]. They were right. We found Jo at the Mini Mart on the main Ubud drag, rented a motorbike for the two pros and then rented Jo for me. I hopped on the back of that bike, with a Balinese boy between my legs, and felt every pent up inhibition melt away with each spin of the tire. As we tore through town [[only to be stopped by a funeral procession in which the entire village escorts the casket, in full traditional Hindu garb down the streets…sad as it was, it was absolutely beautiful]], throttled through the rice fields bordered by palm trees and pointed at every temple [[and every stunning home, so pretty it could have been a temple]], I felt myself smiling the hardest I’ve smiled in so, so long. I physically felt God touch my heart on the back of that motorbike. I smiled so hard, in fact, that a lone happy-tear fell on my cheek. Broken-hearted gals, straddle a Balinese boy and letter-rip. Just leave enough room for God.
  5. It’ll fill the crevices of your broken heart with relationship. In the absence of your relationship, you will find the new and treasure it forever. If you come alone [[which you can totally do. Lots of gals traveled here alone]], you will find relationship with the handsome British boy sitting in the café next to you [[hellooooo, Harry]]. Or you’ll find relationship with your Jo. Or sweet Pia and her sister Mar, and Mar’s boyfriend. You’ll meet people like Pia and Mar in a hotel and bond over breakfast and then send ‘see you later’s to later find out you’ll see them later that same afternoon in the middle of a rice paddy. I didn’t come to Bali alone, though. Yesterday afternoon, after a motorbike ride for the books, a rice paddy hike and a coffee farm tour that I will savour for life, Paul and Kara and I defined relationship. Not by words, but by our actions. We ate food together and drank two pitchers of margaritas together. We listened to Paul strum his guitar [[live, acoustic guitar, by the way, is without a doubt, the most broken-heart-steadying thing you can do. I know this because of Robbie]]. We played cards and talked about drugs and religion. We sat in our wall-less private villa family room [[when you come here, stay at Michael’s Modern Eco Villa. It makes me swoon]], watching the fish swim laps in our moat [[there is literally a moat]]. Three friends became family last night. Relationship, no matter what form it takes, will find you in Bali.Family

Put simply, Bali is the place where, for the first time since my heartbreak, I longed for absolutely nothingRice Paddies

 

Sense vs. nonsense

I think Kara and I agree that Cairns agreed with us and vice versa. A box full of favorite memories of our trek so far.

Karen and Gavin, our amazing hosts, rolled out a rain forest haven for us backpackin gals. We showed up to an empty villa with a view ready to be oogled, a pool ready to be dunked in, beds ready to be slept in and an OCD-gal’s dream kitchen ready to be cooked in. We missed K&G for the first 4 days or so, but they graciously allowed us to make ourselves at home….and so we did.

From snorkeling the Reef; to a Cape Trib and Daintree day trip with our favorite tour guide / Dutchman / photographer, turned friend; to a lazy day on Fitzroy Island; to sinking our hands back in to clean cooking and eating, we kept busy and lazy at the same time. Oh, dichotomies.

The part I love most about doing Oz is that I get to do it with family. We get to ask unabashed questions and dig in to politics and pick up on local secrets and cook ‘thank you’ meals like we’d do at home. Sure, we sneak in the ‘must-dos’ as any visitor would, but doing it with a local lean makes it feel more real, more sensible.

Sensible.

What a concept.

Nonsense.

What a blood-boiling infuriation.

Here’s where I’ve landed on some Cairns-inspired sense vs. nonsense:

  • Sourcing, cooking and eating whole, local foods–makes sense and feels good. Gavin’s panko-crusted fish [caught and cleaned with his own two hands, right in his own backyard] is the most mouthwatering flaky white fish I’ve ever tasted. Doused with fresh mango / avo guac and a cabbage slaw, with a side of roast pumpkin, pine nut, feta salad. Yeah, go on and call it sensible palate heaven.
  • Preferences. Nonsense. Utter nonsense. That I can run for office in Queensland against Kara and Gavin, but Kara can have a side deal with Gavin to collect all of the votes he earns to count as her own is ABSOLUTE nonsense [[I’m sure you political junkies could point out equivalent neuroses in our American system as well]]. The things you learn over panko-crusted fish tacos.
  • Free community fitness classes down at the lagoon. Sensible. Smart. Hilariously entertaining, given that the class we watched was Aqua Zumba. But seriously, can you imagine all the local fitness clubs in downtown DC putting on free community yoga classes and pilates and dance classes on the Mall, for anyone and everyone who wants to join in? Move. Get healthy. Do it as a tourist or a local. Do it to feel rich and not get rich. Riotously sensible demonstration in CBD Cairns. We should jump on that bandwagon.
  • Media. Should be absolutely sensible, right? Should just be facts on facts on facts. But I’m learning that as in any country, media has more often than not, turned into a nonsense money-making business rather than an objective community storytelling service. It makes my public relations grounded spirit sad. Can’t we just tell honest stories as they truly unfolded, rather than splicing and dicing sound bites or covering atrocious behavior that rewards nonsense? We opted not to pay for cable back in our Woodinville Villa this year, but catching some news with the cousins and recanting stories of deplorable media behavior just reminded me how transactional our global culture’s become. Yuck. Big, huge yuck.
  • Then there’s nature, which we saw from both sides of the sense spectrum. We got to be at one with nature in so many ways this last week. We snorkeled with fish and just quietly observed their daily behavior, careful not to touch the coral and damage the thousand-year-old-Natural-Wonder. We saw a cassowary crossing the road through the juicy, thick Daintree Rain Forest. But then, at the top of ‘Killer Hill’ in Karen’s neighborhood, nature’s been corrupted by human hands. They’ve literally ushered in a pest by sourcing cane toads [a natural predator for some animal population they wanted to bring into balance], but unnaturally created a breeding frenzy for what’s now become a new nuisance. Just hundreds of cane toads scurrying from your foot before it squishes its guts. Nature’s a weird one that swings both ways, I think.

It was all just a glaring reminder at how seeing and observing and doing first-hand is truly the best way to learn—the best way to fuel an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Cairns, I just love you. You made me think. You made me do. You made me relax but aspire. You made my hair look a hot mess, my skin sweat beads like never before and nearly gave Kara a heat stroke. But you’re one hotbed of beautiful views.

Karen hugged me goodbye at the airport this morning and fared me well with a ‘you’ll be back; so we’ll see you later.’

Yes, I’ll be back, Karen. That just makes sense.