We’ve only just arrived in Bali and already feel we are in Nirvana. The most bedrock tenant for all life in Bali is the ideal of Beauty. The minute you get here you are bathed in it. The mountains, ocean, trees, rice paddies, the flowers and their smells, the birds and their songs, the people and all of their intricate and devoted art, music and dance, all pay heed to Beauty’s call. You cannot help but become gentler, more aesthetic, upon arrival.
Right now, the weather is perfect. Warm and humid but just right with the ever-present off-shore breeze. It is a much-needed break from cold, cold, Oz in wintertime. I am lying on my back looking up at puffy white clouds speeding across a candy blue sky. A large plumeria tree in bloom branches across of my view and in the corner, a canvas umbrella completes the look. Ginger naps blissfully on a carved wooden lounger beside me so that I am free to read or write or make my way across a vanishing pool that merges with the Indian Ocean where Ian surfs below. I got G to sleep in the stroller on cobbled paths at our hotel, then a kind man with beautiful cheek bones helped me carry her here, to our resting point. Bliss.
It was sweet of this man to help, or perhaps he was just doing his job. But I doubt it. The Balinese are a lovely, lovely people. I could happily sit and watch the wide shouldered, slender fingered, almond eyed women sweep a floor for hours, their glossy black hair mimicking the movement of the broom. Doubtless Ian feels the same way. And they all LOVE children. Worship them in fact. Now, we have heard this about many places we’ve traveled: Mexico, Hawaii– all true. But none as much as the Balinese. Perhaps you have heard of their tradition of not letting a baby touch the ground until 6 months of age, at which point an elaborate ritual (there is no other kind here) celebrates their full transition into this life from the spirit world. This reverence does not end at 6 months though. It is as if, when you cross the path of a Balinese with your child, they are being blessed with a deity. They get giddy and approach the babe, beaming and tinkling with joy. Actually, I can’t figure out if it’s more like a devotee meeting a holy figure, or a child meeting a character at Disneyland. Either way, the effect is adorable and incredibly helpful, actually. This morning at breakfast at the hotel, I watched a woman come in with a baby, hand him off to a thrilled waitress and then eat her entire meal in peace while the wait staff enjoyed her child. What a blessing for all!
The flight here was murder and it is a credit to this place that I’ve already almost forgotten. Suffice to say that Jetstar has incredibly strict restrictions on the weight of your bags and for every single kilo you go over, you pay 20 dollars. Our bill came to $525!!! Desperate, and in a mad rush because boarding was starting soon (the lines had been crazy), we hurried over to something called “unaccompanied baggage”. There we mercilessly chose items, including G’s porta-crib, that we could do without for a few days and handed them over to be sent when there was space on a future flight. This cost too, but about a fifth of the first price. I joked with the man who worked there about how many parents he got rushing over from Jetstar. Stone faced, he told me not that many, it’s on the return, once you’ve been shopping in Bali, that you really need the service. Yes, I thought with a sinking feeling, he’s quite right. Then Ginger proceeded to pull a near all-nighter and was still awake at midnight when we got off the 6 and a half hour flight. Those around us without kids thought, judging by her mania, that she must not be tired. Those who had kids smiled knowingly saying, “No, that’s just how tired she is.” It was about that time, with meals on our trays and G climbing the poor people’s chairs in front of us that we regretted not buying the Little Bear her own seat.
Anyhow, so happy to be here now.
We are staying at a place overlooking a surf spot called Uluwatu. This has always been a sacred place for me. For some reason, when I lived in Jackson Hole many years ago, as I hiked through the snowy backcountry to snowboard, the name of this spot would get stuck in my head. It would hammer me all the way up and then fly through my brain as I cascaded down. Then when I finally came here in 2000, the time I spent at Ulu was some of the most peaceful and meditative of the trip. At one point, I went days without having a conversation with anyone, walking miles a day to the beaches and sacred temple here, healing a soul that had been battered by a rough tumble with capitalism back home. As for Ian, the place is like magic for a barrel-loving goofy foot and he can’t believe our luck at landing here right from the start. We are both thrilled to show it to G.