A place only embraces you when you embrace it. We had no choice with Villa Seraya, not only because it was prebooked and already paid for, but also given its remote location. It seemed an unlikely spot to call home, but it has grown on us in surprising ways.
One aspect that I love most about staying at Villa Seraya is that we are enveloped by natural beauty everyday. The views of the vast Lombok Strait at any given moment, from anywhere in or out of the house never cease to instill a moment of reverence (including the dolphin shows). Nonetheless, what I have appreciated most about Villa Seraya is that being here has forced us to simplify even beyond the notion of just going to an island and relaxing. We must enjoy what we have and each other, because that is all there is!
It took a lot of slowing down to get to this point. We have been blessed with less stress and more fun since this trip began. Like a chipping away each time we plop down on a beach or gather for a nicely prepared dinner, our soft centers emerge further, our onion layers peeled off a little more, bit by bit. It takes a while to truly unwind, to untie tenacious knots, to get to the point where being busy and busy-ness becomes unnecessary. We have reached a whole new level of chill, like chill within the chill.
The kids have blossomed with this simple, nature-filled, rich yet quiet routine, especially Merle. He is quickly becoming even more curious (if that is possible), pleasant, helpful, loving, compliant, and thus an overall increasingly reasonable kid. Furthermore, his reading, with the patient help of Chris, has really taken off. Mathilda has so much space to dance, feel the breeze in her hair, and flowers to sprinkle around. The high quality water colors we found in Ubud have been a great treat. And, the kids love sleeping with one of us every night.
When I am given time away from my children, sometimes I just want more, because I realize all that I can get done. We all need space, but Chris and I are getting very little of that here. By accepting this as well as letting go of the desire to keep busy, we are enabled to simply face wholeheartedly these irrepressible creatures. We are endlessly rewarded with their quirks, smiles, and bursts of affection. Like time lapse photography, they grow with each minute. I find I want just hold the moment (and them), because I know these days are fleeting.
Not only are we enjoying our family and its inescapable togetherness, the environment around us, both natural and cultural, has been enough to keep us relatively stimulated. As a native of Colorado, Bali’s tropical weather patterns remain fascinating as they are stunning, fierce and sublime. The rains are mostly directed by the massive, imposing volcano Agung which rises steeply behind us. For Balinese, “Gunung Agung” is considered sacred. It is thought to be a fragment or replica of Mount Meru, the center of all physical, metaphysical, and spiritual universes in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist cosmology.
We also enjoy the patterns of the locals, like the sinewy guys in underwear off our beach who (at various times throughout the day) sit in inner tubes and paddle their way out to sea to drop fishing lines, and paddle back to wait for hours for a fish hopefully bigger than the usual mackerel that is so plentiful in these waters. We know they have caught something when we hear a resounding, high pitched “whoo!” over the crash of the waves.
It so great to have our own car here, of course for the convenience, but also just to get out and see what people around us are doing.
No matter what, at least someone is dressed up and on their way to a temple or fervently praying at a roadside shrine adorned with sacred textiles and fresh, bright flowers.
Rain or shine, the perpetually squatting wives of fishermen sell piles of mackerel at little stands along the road. It’s always in big demand among locals since it is so cheap: only 50 cents a fish. They carry the mackerel by the bucket loads on their heads to the market. On this trip, the only other country we saw widespread head carrying was in Burma, though this practice is common in many traditional cultures around the world. In motion, the women always look tall and elegant even under the heaviest weight.
I am also amazed at the rice farmers, at their skill, patience and artistry in preparing a terrace for planting.
Over the course of one morning near Ubud, I observed a man most likely in his 50’s removing weeds and debris and methodically squashing mud and water in a square plot with his feet. Over the course of 4 hours, he eventually made a perfect terrace ready for planting. Recently nearby Villa Seraya, solitary farmers placed rice seedlings in tidy rows by hand, stooping the whole time, all in impossibly perfect carved terraces. No machines were in sight.
The rice terraces of Bali actually have major cultural significance, so much so that they made it on the UNESCO World Heritage list. I originally thought it was for their undeniable natural beauty, therefore in the “nature category.” However, they were awarded this designation as a cultural treasure, for the ancient history and philosophy behind the terrace building and intricate irrigation system.
At Villa Seraya, the hard working staff are our only friends, including the dog “Simut,” who somehow reminds me of Hazel. All spend time with us a few hours a day, warming the space with their lovely presence.
As our hearts have opened up to Villa Seraya, we have also found ourselves longing for home. Any time when one is forced to slow down, life becomes simplified and connections in turn become stronger, not only with the place, but with ourselves, one another, and that which we love, such as home.