Monday, March 30, 2015

To The Sea -- Water Purification for Balinese New Year

It's 5 a.m., still dark. We are all assembled at the village temple in Nyuh Kuning where I live. Hundreds of people in ceremonial clothes are busy loading trucks with sacred objects from the temple. The dark moon is a thin waning crescent, new moon approaching to mark the New Year. A gamelan orchestra plays music.

I heard about the New Year water ceremony performed by every Balinese village once a year; this is my first time. I could ride in a car, but instead climb up onto an empty open truck with many others and ride in open air.

We reach Purnama Beach-- Full Moon Beach. The shrines and offerings are unloaded and we join the parade to the sea.

Thousands of people from other villages are already here. The ceremony is spaced through the week, but this is the assigned time for many. The energy is electric, the colors are dazzling, the sacred objects are beautiful. 

An essential part of all Balinese ceremonies is waiting. We wait for priests to arrive, for their special mantras to be chanted, for our turn to accept the holy water and the blessings. While waiting, people do what they do . . .

Modern times in ancient ceremonies . . .

and things that never change . . .
After an hour or so, my village prays together, then marches to the sea where the priests gather water for blessings.

Everyone goes to the sea with offerings, shrines and protector figures.

At the sea edge . . .
Receiving the water blessings . . .

New year photo ops

We return -- a five hour journey all in all. I am honored to visit the sea for its blessing. This is what re-imagining water is all about for me, having a strong relationship with water, a deep connection. This is why I am here.

The next day is the parade of Ogoh-Ogoh from my last post. And the day after that is actually New Year's Day-- Nyepi  -- the day of silence and introspection. The entire island is silent, with all families at home. The rules: no electricity, no fires for cooking, no talking, fasting. The devout follow it precisely, the rest . . . Even the international airport is closed - no flights in or out of Bali this one day of the year. Amazing.

A friend snuck out to shoot the empty Ubud street. I will shoot another on a normal day and post it to show you the contrast!

Ubud street

Monday, March 23, 2015

Balinese New Year -- Nyepi -- Ogoh-Ogoh -- Water Ceremony Parade of Giant Monsters and Silent Day

Each year the entire island of Bali celebrates New Year together on the new moon in March. This year Nyepi was March 20 - 21. For a month before, the young men in each village built the Ogoh-Ogoh monsters. Day by day, I watched them progress.

For weeks before preparations are made for the three day event, beginning with the ritual of going to the sea for the sacred objects from every village temple to be purified and blessed by the waters.

The parade of the giant monsters is the night before Nyepi, the Silent Day. Their job is to chase demons away from Bali so the New Year ahead will go well. Live gamelan music plays for each one -- the video at the end has a bit of it.

Magnificent creatures! Every village makes them, but the ones in Ubud are legendary as this is the cultural center of Bali, the town of artists.

People come from everywhere to see the Ogoh-Ogoh

Performers enact stories about the monsters

When these giants pass by carried on bamboo platforms by dozens of men, we are all shoved back by the traditional Balinese police so we won't be trampled, especially when they spin around -- very exciting indeed. We all yell in fear and glee.

The next story -- To the sea for purification! I have waited years to see this.
In my next post . . .

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Behind the Smile

When I ask Adi, the young man who graciously picks me up and takes me places - otherwise known as a driver - about why people smile so easily and genuinely in Bali, he smiles. 

I Made Adi Wahyudi's smile

He tells me that behind the smile is respect for everything -- people, nature, community and the gods.

                                                    Respect for everything.

The day before he told me that from 11 years old through high school they learn about the Six Enemies Within -- lust/desire, greed, anger, confusion, excess, jealousy.  They learn to recognize these difficult feelings and then let them go.      "If we hold onto them, we will fall into a misery."

If you feel them with someone in your family, what happens, I ask? "We talk quietly about it and say 'I would appreciate it if you would not do this.' Then we let it go."

"It's really important to control these enemies inside us so we can feel peace, calm, comfortable and always have a good attitude to everybody in this world. We have a good attitude by smiling. Not a fake smile, but a real smile for everyone. From our hearts."

The Balinese are among the calmest, most relaxed people I've met. Easy-going, easy laughter. It may seem it's the heat that slows them down to mellow, but it's the heart. Gentle kindness embodied. Come to Bali for the beaches, the sights, the warmth and lush greenery, but it is the people who make our visits gracious and lovely.

Thank you Adi, you wise 23 year old teacher-driver. Thank you Bali.

Thanks to Atum O'Kane for inspiring this story. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mangrove Forests

I met my first mangroves in Mexico. Snorkeling through them was enchanting, their roots like watery arms. It was love at first sight for me. A few days ago I spent hours in the Bali mangrove forest at the southern end of the island. They still enchant, as you can see.

They are dutiful guardians of sea and earth, cleansing the waters, sheltering fish, protecting us from storm surges. Trees that can live in saltwater tides, unique and beautiful.

But the story is more complex now. Their numbers are rapidly declining at an alarming rate – 50% lost. We who treasure the sea, land and creatures want their interconnections acknowledged.

Causeway built close across from the mangrove forest
Respect and understanding create change.

There are organizations here that strive to educate people about the mangroves and build community support for mangrove clean up and well-being. Change is slow, but persistent, like waves on rocks.

These Indonesian students visiting Bali’s mangrove forest were a delight to meet.

Students from Irian Jaya Polytechnic School

We practiced our Indonesian and English together.