Sunday, June 20, 2010
I never, ever had a pedicure before. That is, until I visited Bali. If I had visited alone, I probably never would have had one either. But S1 guided me to the top of a house where a girl with a fan would give me one. I could choose the colour I wanted from a rack of bottles, three stories high. Arnolfini Wedding green. You should have seen my toes before, or perhaps not. I told the girl the story about the peacock - a christian symbol for several things, I read somewhere - one of them appears in a story: the peacock is prancing about being wonderful and thinking he is beautiful, until he looks down and sees his own, very ugly feet. I said to the girl that I felt like the peacock that day. She took care of that. Green shiny toenails that reflect the sky: perfect colouring for the tropics. Afterwards she had fun comparing the colour of our skin...how pale I was!
It seems I am the lucky one. Not only do I get to visit Prague and get wrapped up in the warmest hospitality and taken to all the best, most exciting places. In San Francisco, in Bali, this happens too, and I get swept along in all things Californian and Indonesian, and all because of my wayward, traveling sisters. And in doing so you give me the greatest gift. I almost wish I lived in a more outlandish situation to be able to return the favour.
Jip says it best.
Yes, I have been to Ubud. Yes, it blew me away, part of me is still up there somewhere in the outer stratosphere, so my consciousness, we could say, has expanded. It is hard to sum it all up in a nutshell. And just as my postcards have taken a stunning 7 weeks to reach home, so too, it seems, have my thoughts taken their time to settle into something that can be communicated. Time to recollect while it is still fresh!
I LOVE BALI. Did I tell you that already?
When I left I was at a loss for words to describe everything that had happened. Like a dream with many rooms, or a room with many dreams in it, such intensity. Every experience is also soft as a smooth stone: by comparison, any scramble of words seems rough in its description.
Number one treat: hanging out with Jip and Rosie. They grow and have grown so quickly. It is a pity we can't see you all more often. I so enjoyed reading with Jip and giggling together about the book we were reading. It is heartening to know we have a similar sense of humour. Having a sarong photo session with Rosie. Hearing her sing: "One mata hari, two mata hari, three mata hari", as she was counting the suns on her drawing. The desperate begging session (which lasted for the duration of my visit) after she cast her magpie eye on my special fountain pen. In the end I relented. Unwrapping the musical instruments I had bought, partly to entertain them, and also to find out which ones they liked the best.. And the staring competitions with Jip are a real showdown. Of course when you leave you think of all the things you could have done better. At the same time, life is life, and you do the best you can as it rolls. I just think it is great to be a part of their lives and for this I am so very grateful.
Bali had this effect of overwhelming me. The first couple of days I was simply amazed: didn't know what I was seeing. I knew beforehand that i couldn't fathom much about the culture I would be visiting, but upon getting there, it turned out to be a real shock, of the kind when you see a picture for the first time, that is so full of complexities that you sense that, in order to understand it, you would have to study every tiny aspect in great detail. This stands in stark contrast with all the information and sensations that come streaming in.
You end up helpless........it made me pause, because that was all I could do. Pause and take in the smallest fragments, impressions, limiting my view almost, to what I could handle. The shadows and light in the pool. The mountain range of the sheets on my bed. The slow and the wide. The drawings the children made (amazing!). Luckily S1 had the wherewithal to take us both for several pampering sessions..and then slowly I dropped my consciousness that wishes to grasp it all at the same time...and slowly let go, submit to the treacly heat and the dreams full of mythological creatures (that do not make up part of your cultural background) that interfere with your spirit as you sleep, like all the energies want to get to know you. Feeling something stick to you after gazing into a green, mossy cave....
I got caught in the rain in a forest at the Botanical Gardens, without an umbrella, and went into the meditation court. It said "silence" but since I thought there was nobody there, I did some singing. The rain also did some singing which I recorded:
It turned out I was not alone but the tourists who passed me did not seem too disturbed by the tones coming from the bale I was sheltering under. It took a long time to subside, I wrote most of my postcards sitting under that roof in the company of ants, and when it stopped I continued, heading further into the forest, spotting droopy butterflies among the dripping bamboo trees and almost stepping on a tiny, slithering snake. I sort of got lost in the forest. Not a great idea when wearing flip-flops. I excelled as the dipsy traveler when I slipped in the mud and fell, hitting my arm on a post and just narrowly missing the steep drop to the right. It twisted me, got me off-balance, and prepared me to be careful for our adventure of the next day, climbing the big volcano.
There too I wore inadequate footwear, and the biggest confrontation was the effort it took me to climb up it, as I saw S1 dart up the mountainside like a gazelle. Never thought I would be the red-faced, puffing tourist that can't get up the mountain. At the same time, I sensed, when we were almost at the top, that we were being pushed, by the guides, to get up there more quickly. It transpired (as I perspired) that they race each other, or have some sort of deal going on with their groups going up...and who gets there first....and I suddenly realised I could do it in any tempo that I wanted. The guide later told me we had made very good time. So why had they pushed so hard? I am glad, and this is one of the lessons, I realised I can do it in my own time. When we got to the top I met my new friend, Vertigo, who seems intent on following me, after we were told of someone who plummeted into the crater after fooling around. One learns to have respect for mountains and hard earned sunrises. The view was amazing.
The signal to get fitter was maybe even better. In those mists, and in all the lessons I have taken, I in fact encountered the shadows of my own resistence. And that is essential to letting them go.
To be continued. You see my story is incomplete. S1, I don't know how you deal with narrative in Bali. Time is non-linear, expressly so... I have given up trying to convey the experience accurately. I hope this gives you an insight at least. It will for ever be big chunks of experience, like the emeralds I felt coming out of my throat when we were doing the group kirtan singing. Bubbles of intensity waiting to be digested; perhaps they never will. Maybe the Bali story is to be expanded on. I have bought books and listen to the music. Joined the prayer and tasted the food. The other night I dreamt I heard a gamelan playing in Belgium and it was so beautiful. I certainly am ready for more.
Love to you.