As I reach the summit, the stars wrap themselves in indigo blankets, and a cosmic cocktail of pinks, blues, purples, greens, and a splash of grenadine pour into the sky. I look out, and all around me the landscape billows out until it spills into the sea. From the peak of Mount Agung, the highest point in Bali, I have a 360-degree view of everything. Over there, just beyond that forest, I watched men and women in all their red and golden finery dance for six hours in the pounding rain. There, somewhere among the rice fields, my teacher blessed a small child with incense, flowers, and holy water in the same stroke that he blessed the buffalo-skin journeymen of a midnight shadow play. And there, across the water, are the mountain peaks I have yet to reach.

The days hold innumerable mysteries, challenges, and discoveries, which simmer into a thick, savory curry. I swim through textured batik fabrics and fall in love with the same chocolates and indigos over and over again. The songs and invocations, the melodic ringing of the gamelan, the trills of geckos and the early morning cockerels reverberate through my head like fireballs flung at a kecak performance. The hardwood masks whose eyes move suddenly and unassuredly, the jeweled hands which mix invisible honey in the air, and the puppets made of mirrors whose reflections shine godlike and ghostly: these images are now seared into my consciousness.

The year has unfolded in a series of chapters. In Jogjakarta, I studied Bahasa Indonesia, the national language, while getting to know the city and its culture. I studied traditional batik painting and took Indonesian cooking classes with fellow Indonesia-based Luce Scholar and star friend Mohammad Zia. Since arriving in Bali, I have studied the tari topeng (masked dance), wayang kulit (shadow puppetry), and gender (an instrument in the traditional Indonesian gamelan orchestra) with three wonderful, highly-skilled artists—I Gusti Ngurah Windia, I Gusti Ngurah Artawan, and I Wayan Wija—who have also become my friends and family here. I have attended countless performances and ceremonies, and been endlessly moved, confused, and inspired. Next, I plan to learn how to carve masks and build puppets from scratch.

I’ve also had the good fortune of becoming involved with an international collaboration in contemporary theatre between Bumi Purnati Indonesia, a pan-Indonesian arts organization, and the world-renowned Suzuki Company of Toga, Japan. The project is a version of the story of Dionysus, adapted and directed by Tadashi Suzuki, whose practical and philosophical writings on theatre have been very inspiring to me. Through my involvement, I have been able to gain a more intimate understanding of Suzuki’s rigorous and comprehensive process. I hope to continue working on the project in Japan this April.

My time in Indonesia has brought a host of unexpected wonders. Half-naked dancers caked in the muddy riverbanks of the Jakartan forest. Blue fire flickering from within the smoke at Ijen Crater. Ice sculptures in tropical weather. Temples that defy the rules of time and space. Bulls that emerge from the worn pages of a mythological manuscript. Motorcycle rides through rice fields and blackened fish between my fingers. Dirt and sand and water and coffee. And, of course, art. Art that is so deeply woven into the fabric of life that it seems as necessary and life-sustaining as food and water.

Looking forward, I plan to devise and direct a large-scale theatrical project as the culmination of my artist residencies at Rumah Sanur Creative Hub and the Bali Purnati Center for the Arts, drawing inspiration from all the sounds, sights, and flavors of my time in Indonesia. I will likely work from folkloric or mythological sources in the gorgeous outdoor amphitheater at Bali Purnati, collaborating with Indonesian actors and designers. I will draw lessons from traditional forms to produce a new, contemporary work. We may play with fire, masks, puppets, dance. We may get our hands muddied along the way. Of course, we can imagine all we like, but we won’t know what the full view looks like until we’ve reached the peak.