Just over a year ago I was half way round the world on the tropical island of Bali experiencing their ‘Day of Silence’, when once a year everything shuts down for twenty four hours. I have been remembering that experience this week as across the world we all contemplate a period of isolation.

We are all facing up to the reality of how fragile our lives are and how easily nature can bite back and turn all our plans upside down. It is worth reflecting on our place in the world. Not the racing about, shopping, working, driving, buying, using, spending world but the real world of sun and rain, life and death, sunrise and sunset. In these few weeks since our restless industry and transport have slowed, pollution has lifted around the world and nature breathes a little more easily.

What follows is what I wrote that day I spent alone in a rainforest...

“Been raining since daybreak. A blanket of white noise and cloud wraps Bali in its Day of Silence. No TV. No internet. No in no out. Radio silence.

There is one experience I cannot steal from this magical forest. I can take photos of the colours, light, faces and shadows. I can record the rattling splash cicada birdsong trickling cacophony. But the smells stay here with me in the forest.

Sweet fragrances hang heavy. Flowers, leaves, water, wood. Soft as Sundays. You can smell the heat and the rain, the sky, the ground … everything.

Swallows have flown on and off through the day somehow dodging the raindrops that hit any insects foolish enough to be on the wing with the full force of miniature hand grenades. Large heavy birds swim languidly across the thick sky.

Hundreds of tiny ants shelter like soot bugs in the shadow of my coffee table’s legs. I drop them a fragment of crisp and they scatter in crazy dangerous circles. An hour later the crisp has gone.

A gentle breeze sways the giant banana leaves and rocks the ripped fronds of the palm trees. The hours sag slowly in the rich rhythm of a billion raindrops. Could be now, or a million years ago.

Across the paddy fields, the streets are presumably empty. No one is there to see. All humans are indoors praying that evil will pass the island by, as they pray each year. Where a hundred thousand scooters usually weave and cough up and down every mountain road, for now there is only water, blind trickling, fumbling for the edge of the tarmac to disappear into the soft rich earth that feeds the forest.

A thousand offerings of flowers skate and skim down between the shop fronts on biscuit-sized banana leaf rafts, spinning, catching on a stick, coalescing like raindrops on a window pane. Orchids hang heavy. Rice heads bow. Everything is praying the monsters overhead will pass Bali by.

But the monsters I see are not overhead. My monsters slip sleek into every crevice, carried like a virus from human hand to hand, picked up in every shop, discarded like marooned jellyfish on a beach. Beside every perfect stream they gather in clusters like the tiny ants but, unlike the ants, they have no season. They will not fast fade, melt meekly back to the earth that gave them life. They exist to bring permanence, to preserve and protect against time, earth, sun and rain. A curious conflict that will not, cannot, end well in paradise.

These sloughed skins do not fester. The baby that dropped the plastic wrapper is now grown with children of her own but the bag that held her sweets still squats beside the stream as perfect as the day it fell unloved beside the road. In the village a thousand ugly Ogoh Ogoh paper monsters have been built, paraded and burned to purge the evil, but still the suffocating gangs of gaudy skin-thin membranes huddle unnoticed in drains and on street corners. Defying time and prayers alike.

This corrupt confetti rides the river ravines to belch into the sea where, mistaken for jellyfish, it is swallowed by turtles who will die in empty hunger. Slip slime sleek, limp like empty stomachs, the monsters are not flying overhead; paradise is poisoned from below.

Night falls and still it rains to purge the world. Radio silence. Darkness, the steep wet moss carpeted steps hidden in the lacklight between the rooms. And we are hidden from above.

Build me an Ogoh Ogoh monster from plastic bags then let’s kill it together once and for all; rebuild a better future before time’s rhythm stalls.”

Christian Vassie