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  • i walked down the moss covered stone stairs and galloped -yes galloped- up the road following the sounds of women laughing. it was 7:30 am and i was early. they tied on their woven hats and placed them on top of a thing sarong wrapped around their heads, creating balance and comfort between the rough natural fibers and skin.

    “Selamat pagi! Apa Kabar?” ‘Good morning! How are you?” I raised my voice loud enough so it would cross the paddies and they would hear me.

    “Baik- baik” They responded in Indonesian. Which translates to fine. The more times you say baik the more enhanced it is.

    “Dan Anda?” They asked and all of them smiled.

    “Baik sekali” I said. Very fine or very good.

    I took a few shots of the surrounding rice fields back lit by a beautiful morning bright blue sky. I walked along the path and then turned a sharp right, following the rice fields from a different angle. Baby chicks roamed around in paddies that had just been harvested, irrigating them with their little feet and beaks. Their parents were irrigating the paddies to the left. I stood there and photographed their movements for what seemed like 20 minutes, laughing out loud to their morning grooming, eating and stretching.

    A little while later the same women who I before said my good mornings too, started streaming across the rice fields. Oh how I want to go photograph them, I thought to myself, but feeling like it might be rude or uncertain if I could go across someones land without being chastened. I pictured a man with a bag of rice, running towards me shooing me off. I thought back to the time I had a rifle pulled on me while cross country skiing across someones back yard in Nederland, Colorado with my friend Courtney. I decided the worst thing that can happen is that I get yelled at in Indonesian and that I’d have to turn around. I also realized that the possibility of these lovely people yelling at me was slim to none. I walked forward, stepping in mud and grass to reach the women.

    “Selamat Pagi. Tolong minta anda photo?” I asked a man just below me as he hacked his machete across layers of rice. I also hoped I had said some of that correctly and in order.

    ” Foto? Ya, ya.” He smiled.

    I was free to pursue.

    I clicked away, capturing his harvest. Then watching while he tossed bundles of it into the hands of a woman beside him, who then tossed it to another woman besides her who then raised it above her head and slapped it across a woven basket- enclosed on three sides with a blue mesh netting reaching high into the air. When enough rice was released from the husk and the basket full, it was then carried on to another set of women, who shimmied it around in a circle in front of their bellies like a little dance, allowing small pieces of rice to fall through the cracks over a tarp lying below their bare feet. After this quick shimmy and picking out unwanted husk that had hitched a ride, hands would rise into the sky once again and the wide, shallow basket would tip, allowing the rest of the rice to fall to the ground. A quick wave of an empty basket, over the piling rice, would air brush any other husk pieces to the side. They would do this again and again, until the rice was husk free and the only thing that remained was the commodity that is so readily available.

    “Cintak anda” A women said while I snapped her picture.

    “Saya?” I said, meaning, me. I was confused. I was so captivated by them and their beauty, the beauty of the surrounding landscape and the moment I was currently in, I asked her to repeat herself.

    “Permesi? Tolong ulang.” Excuse me please repeat.

    “Cantik anad. beautiful. you.” and she extended her gloved hand towards me.

    “Saya?” I laughed. “Tidak, anda cantik.” I was shocked that she thought I was beautiful. I again repeated myself, returning the compliment and pointing to her. I then said, “Minta foto anda” I took her portrait and then I motioned for her to look at my camera while I pressed replay.

    “Ya. Anda Cantik.” I said again. Yes, you are beautiful. She was beautiful. Everyone here is beautiful. Some of them -aged by many years in the rice fields and lives full of long days of labor- are the most beautiful. They laugh and talk throughout the day -as the heat pounds upon them- and smile in kindness at every chance they have.

    I’m truly captured, as I’ve said so many times before with cantik in all corners of my life.
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