bali, blooms and salted chocolate

Trip-planning, blossom-coveting and cookie-making — that pretty much sums up the better part of my weekend. I’ve been planning, coaxing and writing a trip into existence. Observing, dissolving into waves of bliss and photographing spring blooms. Concocting, baking and savouring a new gluten/dairy-free cookie recipe (GLORIOUS). So there you have it: Bali, blooms and salted chocolate.

I haven’t done any long-term traveling since before parenthood. The notion of completely pulling up stakes and traversing the globe with small children is one that the hungry, adventurous spirit in me fully embraces. But the practicality of that in my own life wasn’t part of the picture. There have been short excursions, roots pulled and risks taken, but nothing that unleashed the nomad in me. It may seem paradoxical to say that I love and need the security of home, but that I can attain a feeling of sanctuary with very little and this feeling isn’t location-dependent. My children are older now. Dynamic, complex, thoughtful, inquisitive people who are creating their own adventures and finding their course. With three living on their own, and the youngest (15) possessing a new-found independence, the time is ripe for me to step outside the boundaries of mothering up-close, to navigate unchartered territory within and beyond me. It’s time—desperately so—to drift and pause, to revel and expand, to trek and retreat, to dig in to discomfort and loosen my grip on control, to make peace with the past and sit in stillness within the infinite capacity of a single moment, to push my body, to shake the shackles of thought patterns that no longer serve me … to rejoice in being precariously alive. To understand and accept that I have the choice to embrace ordinary beauty in a world filled with unbearable pain. And that in doing so, in excavating simple joy, I expand the space surrounding the ones I love and those I meet, and fill it with even more love.

There’s a poem by Jack Gilbert, A Brief For The Defense, that encapsulates our need to reconcile our experience of seeking—and honoring—joy amidst hardship and atrocity. In part, it says:

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world.
… We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

For years now I’ve wanted to travel in South East Asia. So that’s the trip I’m crafting: Bali for one month in the fall, and possibly two. I’ve discovered that a 30-day Visa On Arrival can be renewed for another 30 days without making a brief exit (aka doing a visa run), so have been brainstorming wildly to extend my trip. You know, finding solutions to things like apartment and cat care, and staying connected and attuned to my kids from a distance.

In the meantime, I have a three-month long work contract to fulfill and another two months of short-term work on the calendar. And if any of you have traveled in Bali (or long to, or are planning to) let’s chat about that. Tell me your stories, real and imagined!