Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tirta Empul & the Center of the World

With red flowers between my fingertips I prayed, palms pressed together at my forehead. Lift this burden from me. Let me start over.

Breathe deep. 

Tuck them behind your ear, he said, and get in. Cold water. Deep laughter. God watching. I was hoping he’d clean up all the ways I twisted myself into disaster: the smoking, the bad eating, the constant you-suck-at-life chatter. Wrapped in the sarong, patterned shades of brown, orange and cream…I felt myself very earthly.

All of those forgiveness flowers floating. Confetti on the water. Offerings were stacked on the statues. Crammed. In. Everywhere. Square trays made of reeds stuffed with tokens, bits of candy and string. Proof that we’d give anything to make our lives better. The smell of incense reminded me of a funeral pyre. We followed each other, spout-to-spout, pausing to pray, to ask again and again at each fountain.

The pool reflected the grey-green stone, I could see the bottom, the pebbles smooth beneath my feet. One foot in front of the other. The path, the long distance from home to here. Halfway around the world to break the pattern. Monster koi fish close enough to touch. Those faces, whiskered wisdom, those feathery fins. Their calico patterns of orange, yellow, white, black, silver and red. Fat, slippery, good-luck-dragons.

Be brave.

To purify by water. To wash clean. If purification isn’t a heavenly virtue, it should be. Purify: to remove the dirt, to make new. To start over. A clean slate. Rebirth. A way of viewing yourself in the world…as a person. To once again make whole the parts life chips away. 

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