Megan is knitting on the porch. Kai is playing in the pool with Gilang and Gita, twelve years and eight years old respectively. By this time, they are acting like older brothers and younger sister. They tease her, and at the same time, they appease her.
It’s the lazy part of the day for everyone. Ami, Agung’s wife, and Ayu and Komang, our house caretakers, are sitting in the shaded part of the yard eating cassava. Agung is napping from all of his work at the temple, from driving around three crazy tourists, from being a most gracious host.
The roosters are crowing, even if it’s almost noon. A bamboo wind chime offsets their discord.
There is still a lone worker in the rice fields, weeding along the trenches. The rice is growing well, and now it’s just the matter of keeping the water flowin’ and ribbons scarecrow-in’.
There is a tropical breeze that breaks the intensity of the tropical sun. From my vantage point I see five different shades of pink from flowers that burst out of the neon green leaves. A black and white butterfly just landed on the arm of my bamboo chair.
My heart is filled with a mixture of euphoria and heaviness as we extract as much as possible from these last few days in Bali. Of course, there has always been gratitude for this experience. I have wanted to come back here for years and I am still pinching myself that we are here. We have been blessed with many unexpected gifts on this trip, the most significant being our local Balinese hosts. I have also been delighted to discover that once I got over the initial shock of Ubud’s changes, I learned to love the town in a different way, discovering that one can still find charm, especially in the corners and around the edges. To have the choice of cool cafes (with wireless!) to hang out in is definitely cool. To come at this time of the year, after the rainy season, when everything is in full bloom and the backdrop oozes brilliant shades of green is the best I’ve seen yet of Bali’s beauty. Yes, it’s been a spectacular month.
But this time there are more complex emotions that I haven’t quite been able to process.
There is the absence of my friend, Michael, and the disbelief that he is gone from this earth. I sorely missed having his insight on this visit and although I have managed to keep the thoughts of him at bay and therefore keep the knot out of my throat, his presence is everywhere in Bali.
In paradise it is easy to forget your troubles. I have done precisely that, but with every little crack and broken brick in the sidewalks of Ubud (of which there are many) I have been reminded of my own brokenness. I have done such a great job of acceptance back home. Acceptance of where I’m at physically, and although I haven’t given up the hope and efforts of a healthier life, I have made peace with my physical limitations. Here, it has been a little harder to accept that I can’t make the walk from Monkey Forest to Jalan Raya, or that every choice I’ve made has had some sort of physical consequence. But we are lucky that there is ‘transport’ on every corner, waiting to give tired tourists a ride. We are extremely lucky for a pool where I could do my physical therapy safely and the massage lady who has come to our bungalow many times. I didn’t come to Bali looking to be healed, though I would have gladly accepted a splash of that holy water. And I do leave paradise a bit healthier, thanks to the sun and the endless supply of papaya.
Kai has said, “Let’s live here forever!” several times, and I have shot a glance to Megan to see where she’s at. Her brow rises a bit. None of us are ready to leave. We haven’t had enough of this slice of heaven. But I know once we get home, Kai will be greeted with Pooh and Tigger, her princess castle, and her friend Elizabeth, and she will slide right back into place. Megan will see at once that her garden that she started before we left is aching for her love and caring hands and she, too, will slide right in. And me, coming home to my kitchen, my morning writing sessions at JP Licks and seeing all of our dear friends and family will be sublime.
So, the happiness, the heaviness…it’s all good. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I leave Bali, perhaps not with a completed novel, but a whole arsenal of new memories to draw from for my writing. I have recaptured every sight, smell, sound and feeling…and when I am sitting in Boston, at JP Licks with my coffee and bagel, I will close my eyes and the awareness will be that much stronger.
Thank you for coming along on this journey. I am so grateful for the comments to keep writing, because every artist, I believe, needs that vote of confidence. The next time I write will probably be on U.S. soil as I am expecting that our last few days here will be to savor our time with our new Balinese family and those last few bites of nasi* goring…