Bali Days

Oct 6, 2015 | Bali

It’s early days in Bali but already there’s a rhythm that’s been born. I wake up, without an alarm, at 7:30 each morning. I part the mosquito netting and slide the curtains across the window beside my bed that overlooks the coconut fields. I shower in a bathroom partially open to the outdoors, my feet cool on the stone floor. Water trickles over me as I look up at coconut and palm trees, the scent of frangipani christens the new day. I step into the main Joglo and ritualistically, slowly, slide open the teak and glass doors, the garden rushes in and overcomes my senses. If there’s such a thing as magic, this is it. And already I know that I’ll miss it when I’m home in December. Standing on the stone terrace I conjure a memory spell, willing myself to breathe in, soak in each ray of sun, bathing in all that is lush and green.  I step down to the largest stone temple, the sun’s rays bouncing off its highest point. And I give thanks for this rising day and for every moment of exquisite joy and ineffable sadness that has brought me to this place of beauty. I ask for healing and strength, the ability to widen my heart, my reach. And I ask for blessings upon my four children whom I dearly miss, sending them love from a distance that I can barely fathom.

Wayan arrives for the next few hours, caring for the house and making me breakfast. It feels like such a luxury to have someone do this. And while I’m capable of making my own, the omelette and fruit plate Wayan prepared on my first morning here has spoilt me! I happily accept her offer. She shows me how to cut the watermelon and pineapple into beautiful, scalloped shapes, drizzling lime juice on the papaya and mango as well, and suddenly breakfast is elevated and has never tasted so good.

Nearly immediately, I find that my stress-eating has fallen away. And there are other revelations. Meat has always been a small part of my diet, but I find myself wanting only vegetarian food here and there’s no lack of raw, organic veggie cafés. I make it my mission to try as many as I can! Within days my appetite has completely realigned. I eat breakfast and a mid- afternoon meal, sometimes treating myself to a raw dessert. I don’t seem to need or want a late-in-the day meal and my sugar cravings have been squashed without any effort on my part. I allow my body to lead me in all of this. When I go the clinic to have my swollen knee examined, the doc’s pronouncement is arthritis. Dewa, my driver, commiserates, telling me that his wife battles it. He advises which foods to eliminate from my diet, including peanuts and spinach. And I realize that I had been eating, craving, copious amounts of both (raw protein bars and green smoothies) on a daily basis for several months before arriving in Bali.

I say goodbye to Wayan and head out on a ten-minute walk through the rice paddies to swim at a nearby resort. I climb down the stone steps at the bottom of the garden that overlook the rice fields. There are bamboo poles loosely fastened together to form a small bridge over the stream. The water is murky and I’m uncertain of its depth. I opt for the bridge, carrying a pack on my back.  I’m barely half-way across when it begins to tip, each pole moving independently. I have a moment of panic, reconciling myself to the fact that I’m about to fall. A woman working the rice paddies looks over, laughs and mumbles something to her husband. I give her a desperate shoulder shrug. She walks towards me and offers her hand to steady me, and I feel at once foolish and thankful that she hasn’t let me hang in the balance, as it were. On my second day I summon my inner-Canadian canoeing skills, remembering that in order to maintain balance getting in and out of a canoe, you have to lower your center of gravity. So I aim and throw my backpack across the stream and with feet planted squarely, I lower my body and move sideways. I’m ridiculously thrilled with my accomplishment and although I’ve barely avoided a plunge, I’m safe all the same.

It’s low season in Bali, and this small resort has only a few guests. So most mornings, I have the pool to myself. Eyes closed, I float on my back, drifting … exhaling. I swim to the stone edge and drape my arms over the it, resting … thinking … the coconut and palm leaves gently swaying in the breeze, the rice paddies a startling green. I pull myself out and lie in the sun, slathered in sunscreen, feeling the intensity of its rays. I last 15 minutes before slipping into the pool again. And so it goes: swim-sun, swim-sun, until at last I head home, both fearing the prospect of crossing that bridge and thrilling over it.

I’m off to Ubud to take the winding rice field walk out to Sari Organik. Lunch is blissful under the bamboo canopy and I just want to linger all afternoon. I walk through the organic gardens that supply the restaurant, pausing to say hello to the girls taking a break and a man working the fields. I take the path back to Ubud, past the artisans, warungs and family compounds that line it. The sun begins to set over the rice fields and its fiery power takes my breath away.