If you've spent anytime in Bali, you've seen the small floral altars at the base of every entryway -- from surf shops to 5-star hotels, and tiny cafes to 9th century temples (see above photo), they're as ubiquitous as they are beautiful. Everyday while traveling there, I looked forward to seeing these offerings known as canang sari, noting the slight variations in materials and little differences in style.

Canang sari are presented at the home and temples for both the Gods and bad spirits. Made primarily of coconut leaves, local flowers, padam (a fragrant native herb used to flavor cakes and drinks) and incense -- the stunning little arrangements sometimes include money, fruit, cigarettes or even a tiny Ritz cracker.

Each woven basket is made by the women in the household (or purchased by a woman at the daily market), and set on the downstairs for the bad spirits and the upper levels for the Gods. There is an attention to balance in all things Balinese: the happy with the sad, each life and its present actions dictating the reincarnation for the next. According to a cab driver we spoke extensively with, "To be bad is to return a tree, to be good is to return an animal, to be extra good is to return as a human with much success" and so the cycle continues.

What I love about the canang sari is the little gesture of beauty within the everyday. They don't take long to make, all the materials are of the Earth and return to the earth when they shrivel up in the heat. The long-forgotten ones at small neighborhood temples were indeed my favorites, in their brittlely decomposed state. There was something imperfect and humble, yet striking about the balance of dead flowers and coconut husk.

I've tried to take this spirit with me, this attention to plucking a few natural elements and creating a display to usher in good vibes for us for the day . . . It takes work, but it is such a joyful activity and leaves me in a meditative state. Will show some of those soon. For now, enjoy the abundance of these offerings from Bali.


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