The Magic of Street Corn

I’m coming home. Back to the States. Back to my dad’s house where I grew up. Lying in the bright red hammock in my wall-less open living room I look out into the verdant forest of coconut trees across the ridge that serve as the background to my view of my backyard. I’m sitting with this thought of returning home. No, I’m not returning tomorrow or even next month, not until mid-November. But the slight contractions in my stomach and return of headaches (I ceased to get them in Bali) indicate that I’m starting to become nervous about my homecoming.

Letting one leg fall out over the parachute silk hammock, I use it to give myself a slight push. I gently rock from side to side, feeling a bit of natal comfort (no wonder mothers do it with their babies!). The rays of the afternoon sun tickle my head and shoulders. I feel just enough relief to allow myself to sit with what’s really going on instead of ignoring or pushing away the feelings.

Nervousness. Fear. Anticipation. I’m just as nervous to leave Bali as I am to go home. Bali has become my home. (Please don’t cringe; I did say that I’m coming back!) I can just imagine some of you reading this at your office desks sipping hot coffee and questioning if I ever really will come home. Well, the answer is yes, at least for a little while. So maybe not permanent, but yes, Bali has welcomed me with the warm, loving arms of a mother figure and has gently nourished and resuscitated me with her vibrant beauty, delicious fruits, healing waters, and loving people. Bali gave me the greatest gift one could ever give; she gave me back to myself. I owe at least a few more postings to explain how all that has happened, but that is what Mother Bali (as she is affectionately called here) has given to me. I feel like I experienced a rebirth here, and am still in my nascent phase of life. I have learned how to take care of my body, mind, and spirit. I have a new lease on life. In Bali I am free and supported to contemplate, to explore, to create, or to just do nothing.

While I am so excited to return home to reconnect with friends and family, I am nervous about the environment that I return to. The Washington, DC area is a vibrant, diverse, pulsating place. It is the Nation’s Capitol, where decisions are made that impact the country and the world. It also has a culture of being intense, fast-paced, judgmental, materialistic, and harsh. Matters of the mind and intellect are valued over the spirit and heart. Pressure is placed on career and financial gain over happiness and passion pursuits. I question how, or if I will fit into this city once again. I wonder if I will seem strange, ‘hippie-like’, or “off my rocker” to my friends when my response to questions about money and future plans may quite often be “I don’t know,” said with a reassuring smile.

My new self acknowledges these feelings and reminds me that these are just tricks coming from the mind and to continue to follow spirit; that everything will be ok. My old self chuckles and says sarcastically that the mind is powerful and a terrible thing to waste. It’s like that cartoon self-battle image where the angel and the devil each sit on opposing shoulders. I may have found my ‘new self’, but I didn’t say that I have it all figured out just yet!

As the late afternoon sky lazily set into evening, I find myself casually walking along the “busy” streets of Ubud later that day. Not a scene from the Big Apple (maybe closer in scale to a large grape), I hear and feel the whiz of the myriad of motorbikes zip by me and see the lazy hotel and tour vans on their way to return their tourists to their villas and swanky hotels. My eyes habitually do a cursory scan through the open air restaurants that begin to fill with hungry diners (the fancy, flashy overpriced ones for tourists, quaint, simple, and cheap ones for us locals). I keep my face molded with a half-smile and empty eyes that says “thanks, but no thanks” to the few women still lingering at their storefronts inviting me in to their salon for “cheap massage”. I unconsciously enjoy what has become my town’s standard backdrop as I stroll along, mindlessly letting the nervousness, stress, fear, anticipation, and everything else in between zip through my mind like the crazy motorbikes that intimidate me on the street.

A flash of golden light instantly brings me back to present focus. It’s the street corn stand! Half grill, half glass-enclosed case holding dozens of ears of bright yellow corn, sitting in a bowl arranged under the street lamp resembling a miniature sun. On motorbike I have ridden past this stand dozens of times, always eyeing it with longing, but never asking to stop. As I now approach, I can almost see the spicy, sweet aroma swirl through the air, tempting me, taunting me, telling me come and try. She beckons to me, becoming louder with each step I take as I approach her…

Once upon a time, many, many years ago in a land far away called Antigua, there was a beautiful woman and her family of four who had found paradise for the summer. This woman was so happy to have her family together for such concentrated time on this island paradise. She couldn’t ask for more. Until one day, while driving to discover a new beach, she sees a man on the side of the road selling fresh-roasted corn that he is grilling right before her very eyes! With child-like innocence she sits up straight, beaming with excitement and shouts out, “Look at that corn! We must stop to buy some to try. It looks so good! It reminds me of what we would eat when I was a kid growing up in Mississippi out in the country!” Her loving husband quickly responds no, listing all the different types of bacteria that corn probably has, followed by listing all the different types of illnesses the family could contract. In his loving, but knowing way, he says to her, “I know that corn would probably taste good, but could make you really sick. Is it really worth taking that risk?” She responds with a simple “No, of course not” looking wistfully at the street corn as they drive by. In the back seat sits a 17 year old girl, wisely observing the power of the exchange…

A broad smile spreads across my face as I am now resolute that I must stop for street corn. “I am aware of the risks, Dad, but I gotta do it,” I say to my dad 10,000 miles away (did you hear me that day, dad?). I must eat this corn for my inner child, and for my mom’s inner child that never got the chance. I approach the stand with purpose. “Satu,” I say to the man in Indonesian, indicating that I want one ear of corn. “Mentega?” He asks me. I nod up and down; yes, I want butter added. “Pedas?” I nod again that I want the spicy sauce as well. I proudly hand over a 5,000 Rupiah bill (about sixty cents). I’m proud that the entire exchange was in Indonesian. I’m proud that the time has finally come for mom and I to have our street corn.

Street corn is meant to be eaten on the street. No finding a private corner to sit and eat for me! Stepping away from the stand of past disappointments, I take in a deep breath and bite in to the cob of corn. The hot kernels burst open with glee sending tiny spurts of sweet corn juice into my mouth. The savory butter runs over my tongue, while delivering the subtle tang of the chili. I am in heaven. Settling into the rhythm of chewing while walking, I exhale through my nose. With each subsequent bite, I release. I release childhood burdens of needing to be mature, responsible, perfect. I release my mother’s spirit’s burden of not getting to play as an adult. I release my dad’s need to shelter and protect everyone. I even release my stress and fears of going home, of not having a clue what my future holds. As I eat this corn, I achieve my zen. I am fully present and in my body, nowhere else.

I am in bliss, and that’s all that matters. Now that’s magic!

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4 Responses to The Magic of Street Corn

  1. Mati says:

    That felt very honest, and like it was just as much for you, as it was for us. ( which I believe is a good thing) love you and thank you for sharing. I don’t comment, but I’m always reading and enjoy seeing you make your way through, outside and in. Have a great October.

  2. Danica says:

    Zuri Zuri Zuri!!!!! This post/your street corn experience has me lost for words! I started reading thinking ‘yeah Zuri is coming home’ and finished thinking ‘My dear Zuri has FOUND Zuri!’ I am so proud of what you have accomplished on your journey. My heart is filled with pleasure that You DID It! I think of our conversation during your layover in NY on your way to this experience often and have come to your page anxiously each day or so to see ‘what’s happening next’. You have no idea how your sharing this experience has helped/impacted me. Thank you my friend!! And welcome home.

    • Zen Diva says:

      Danica,
      Thanks so much for your awesome and inspiring words! Its funny to hear you say that it looks like I’m done. I have come a long way on my journey, but in many ways I have only just begun! Hope I get to see you soon!!
      Z.

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