I’m Stuck in Bali: Stories of Pandemic Proportions. #1: In the Flow

bali speaking stories Mar 15, 2020

Tirta Empul Temple

I’m not good at this. But it’s my turn. 

I place my palms together and hold them to my forehead. The water is cooler than I expected. The air ripe with smoky-sweet incense. 

I’ve watched others as I waited. They know what to do. Prayers ready. Ritual practiced. I feel like an uninvited guest at a private party with a theme I know nothing about. And yet everyone around me is welcoming, gracious, joyful.

Petals of red, gold and lavender are scattered across the water’s surface as if nature forgot to sweep up. The beautiful litter of offerings. It’s a long while before I notice the fish. “Oh! Fish!” I exclaim to no one, probably too loudly. The fish are enormous with iridescent scales that glint like watery jewels. 

People are waiting for me. With my hands in prayer, I say a silent “hi” to my ancestors. It’s all I can think of. It feels rushed, a little anti-climatic and lacking. 

I’m not good at this. 

I release my hands from prayer and cup them together. I drink from the fountain gushing towards me, as I saw the others do. I feel the water enter my mouth, cool my body. Replenish. 

Then I hold onto the foundation and dunk my head.

The water is in me, around me, over me, behind me. It is suddenly and inexplicably everything.

I shut my eyes and I anticipate darkness.

But instead, there is an explosion of iridescent lights. Like the scales of the fish lit up like stars within my mind.

Then stillness. 

And then, you were there. 

I see you in our wooden row boat, my small child’s hands grip my bamboo fishing pole. You are drinking coffee from a plaid thermos. Steam rises from your cup like the morning mist from the lake. And it’s only us. A father and his daughter. But I sense there are others there too. There is laughter. You are happy.

I step away from the fountain. So much light everywhere now. My skin tingles. Two fish hover by my feet, escorting me away. Wet petals stick to my skin and fall from my hair.

I am alive in the world. And I’m good at this. 

I AM ALIVE. In THIS world.