Here is a Bali story that just happened to me!
Nowhere in the world is there a home like my home by the sea in Bali.
Today, I was reminded that this home I call “my” home (built by me) and this location I call “my” land (bought by me), has most likely been elected by the Gods and Goddesses of Bali, to prepare me to navigate through the Bardos after death… You know the tibetan buddhists say that when we leave the body, we encounter these terrifying, menacing, alarming realms that challenge our deepest , most primal fears, such as drowning, burning, dying….the trick, of course, is to make it through.
It all started on a very innocent morning. After my first night “home” in my golden bamboo bedroom overlooking the ocean on the first floor. I was lying in bed, contemplating about my approaching birthday and wondering what I could possibly have to learn, still, after such a long and eventful life.
Suddenly the raging waves started to make a very specific splashing noise, resembling that of a mass of water flattening itself on a concrete slab, and sliding on it, while another double, and even a triple splash followed, and flattened itself onward and screamed and screeched as it continued forward on the land.
Have you ever listened to the ocean? It has a langage of its own. So varied. Certainly worthy of respect. It tells stories of swallowing all that is in front of it and on it, regurgitating all from the depth of its bowels to the light floating slides on its surface, it talks soft and seductive and suddenly punches you in the guts while almost bursting your eardrums. The ocean is a dangerous but worthy partner. I love it and hate it.
So now, I am listening to the familiar, ancient, repetitive sound of the massive, giant waves… I imagine them as if they were speaking to me through their sounds. They shake, rattle and roll, they pound the ground below, hitting the rocks along the sea wall, while the earth under the house is shuddering under the impact.
“Hey”, I want to scream, “enough! We have Mount Agung right behind us, he is in charge of the shaking and the quaking… so keep quiet and leave the rumbling and shuddering up to him!”
To no avail. Finally I get up to watch. I am on the top floor overlooking the black beach 30 meters from my door step.
And my eyes cannot fathom what I see. It must be a movie. A dream. A horror film. A tsunami. Yes, I was always expecting one of those…any day… NOW !!!
GIGANTIC waves are rising above the land, engulfing my sea wall… And to think that, just yesterday, I paid my contractor 10.000 $… 130 million Rupiah (which here in Bali is a lot of money) for strengthening and patching up the holes in my sea wall.
And now? There is no sea wall, no shore, no boundaries… Just enormous walls of water rising higher and higher and crashing on the land, the stones, and leaving rivers of silver reflections glowing all around. Waves crashing higher and landing again and again, And shaking the land again and again. And I watch naked, mesmerized, hardly awake, in front of my bed…then walk on the deck outside of the bedroom… And the water is advancing, each wave sending a stream of foam showering through the wind which blows it on my skin, on the windows, only to start again relentlessly pounding all. Sending streams and rivers of liquid along every pathway, garden patch, irrigation gutter, Until there is no shore, no earth, just a lake surrounding my house with silvery water on which floats endless quantities of garbage: shoes, chewing gum wrappings, old t-shirts, pieces of multi colored cloths….
I cannot believe my eyes…. A part of me knew it would happen sooner or later. After all this talk of oceans rising.
But here now? How do I deal with this?
Not even one peaceful night home, and immediately nature greets me with it’s exaggerations! Why me? Why now? Don’t I deserve a little peace?
And as I look flabbergasted, the waves continue and the water now streams down the road, through my land, through the back garden, almost at the entrance gate.
I am so freaked out all I can envisage is to get dressed, find a paddle boat, board on it with my two as yet unpacked suitcases from Amsterdam… and paddle away down the road to some new place I could call home.
Where do you go when You are a global nomad? Every place is “just for now”…
In the middle of this impressive deluge, my cook Putu arrives to serve breakfast, smiling and kind as usual. Putu! I Scream! “This is it! I am leaving! I can’t stand it! what did I do to deserve this!!!” I am catharting my female hysteria and serving it to him for breakfast. He remains Olympian. And smiling.
“Well,” he says, “the travel agency called, they want to bring a client to visit your place.”
And now, I say, don’t make breakfast. Clients are coming… Oh… no… I forgot. We can’t show a house in the middle of a lake. That would not do!!!!
I am lost, befuddled, despairing and feeling utterly abandoned.
Well, I say to myself. Let’s stay honest. I must warn the real estate people. I must explain them: “It’s not a house this morning, it’s a boat on a lake!”
A nice Balinese young woman named Dewi answers.
I tell her: ”Ibu Dewi, we are swimming over here!!! It’s terrible! I can’t show the house like that… I am jumping up and down…”
And to my amazement she is completely unphased by the situation.
“No problem, “she says,” we’ll come two hours later. It will be all right!”
What ??? “But I will loose all credibility with the agency showing a house in a lake…”
Well, Dewi is a strong Goddess in the hindu pantheon. She proceeds very methodically and calmly to tell me all would be well and not to worry.
Beween 9 am and noon, the staff filled one huge rice bag after another (the biggest ones) with garbage. We called a pickup truck from the village next door. He took the garbage bags (yes, plastic… but what to do?), 5…. 10…. More…. Brought them to the dump nearby. I went to have a coffee. A toast… All settled on the land. The sun spread a benevolent golden glow on the landscape. The waves receded and softened.
By 1 pm all looked perfectly normal again. The water had sunk into the ground.(mmmm how good is that ?). No garbage anywhere. Sun shining. Flowers blooming around the entrance doors. Hanuman statues, smiling, guarding the doors with their red umbrellas. I go around the house and fix this and that, last minute. Again, I can’t believe what I am looking at. This just “didn’t happen” ???
The clients arrive. A whole tribe of westerners, young women with new born babies, several sexy men around 38 to 42. Super cool. I give them the tour. The main client turns out to be of german origin. An architect. His motto when I explain things to him is: ”I know”…. I finally discover he is an architect. He knows everything already when I try to explain this and that. Unfazed by the sea encroaching, he says he is satisfied that the sea wall looks well done. Unfazed by the many bamboo tiles falling on the sides of the roof…. He shows me some of the houses he builds on Bali : wood, stone, strong and elegant. Mmmmm.
Smiling, I invite them for a coconut drink. We settle down in the living room facing the ocean. I tell them why they should buy my house.
Finally they leave, happy. And I feel good. I go back in for tea. And I can’t believe what just happened. Another normal day at home in Bali.
I am stuck between the ocean and the volcano. I knew it would be rough. What a birthday present!!!!
Its true, a part of me loves it. And a part of me wants to run and have peace and security. Ah…well. Happy Birthday.