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I was riding sweep, bicycling with or behind the last guest to ensure his safety. The road was narrow and lined with lush green trees and plants of many varieties. It was a typical Balinese day in May, 80 degrees Fahrenheit with 80% humidity so that when it started to rain, it was a welcome relief.

I was riding with David, and just ahead of us was a skinny Balinese man on his single-speed bicycle. The rain started to come down in sheets. I saw the Balinese man ahead drop his bike on the side of the road and head down the slope. Without thinking, I motioned to David, as he wouldn't have been able to hear me even if I had tried to speak, to come with me as I followed the Balinese man. We set our bikes down on the edge of the road and slipped our way down the hill.

We discovered the Balinese bicyclist standing under an open structure, just four bamboo supports with a thatched roof and a cement floor. Under this same structure were four additional people who appeared to be taking advantage of the shelter temporarily. I have no idea where they came from. They didn't seem too surprised to see us as we joined them in our mutual desire to take refuge from the rainstorm.

Next to our structure was a second similar shelter with a man and woman steadily working. They had a fire going in a heavy black kettle. The man held a stick onto which was tied a piece of metal that he turned and worked in the fire. The woman pumped a bellows to keep the fire going. The man quickly turned the stick and shaped the metal. I was entranced. I had never seen a knife being formed. Here I was on a rainy afternoon in Bali witnessing the ancient practice of smelting a knife.

When the heavy rain stopped, ten minutes later, we all left the shelter and went on our separate ways. As I hopped back on my bike, I realized that had we not been riding our bikes at the same pace as the Balinese man, had it not started to rain in sheets, had we not spontaneously followed him, we would not have experienced this intimate view of daily Balinese life. It is one of my strongest memories from my trip to Bali in 1989 as a trip leader for Backroads Bicycle Touring.

I find that in my daily life, with all the responsibilities and schedules, it is harder for me to go off on an unintended path than when I am traveling. I have things to accomplish and people to see. While on vacation, my days are more leisurely, my eyes are wide open for the newness of it all, and I am eager to learn and take it in. It is easier to be spontaneous, to follow hunches and take risks.

At some points in our lives, it is not easy to focus on joy or happiness. Life circumstances may be such that we feel sad. At those times, it can be helpful to look for the small things that make us smile. Maybe it is the antics of a pet, or noticing the spring blossoms on the trees, or being thankful for a friend who reached out to us. For those people who are not naturally inclined to feel happy, learning to pay attention to the small things in our lives that give us pleasure can help to change our disposition.

It strikes me that I can bring spontaneity into my daily life. I don't need to wait until I am on vacation to experience the delights of improvising. I can open my eyes a bit wider and notice what sparks my interest.

As spring is upon us and the flowers are blossoming, I am going to set an intention to be open to spontaneity this week. Want to join me?

© Sue Schleifer, May 2009

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