My eyes open to a dark morning here in my apartment. The end of night pronounced in unequivocal fervor by the neighborhood gang of roosters, followed with only a touch less passion by my longing for coffee.
It is December.
That knowing strikes a romantic chord in the chorus of my nostalgia. For a moment, I snuggle close to the darkness and wrap myself in the warmth of my blankets under the ever flowing a/c. I know full well that on the other side of my heavy curtains lie a tropical heat, a bustle of strange and beautiful celebration… and none of my favorite lullabies.
I sing them all year long. My voice knows every harmony and yearns, every year, to pilgrimage to doorsteps, proclaiming my Hallelujahs with as much gusto as the roosters greet the Sun. My daughter is just barely old enough to roll her eyes at me. Even she knows that those songs know their homes only in the shorter days of December, in the long nights where I take comfort in layers of close fitting fabrics and elusive dreams of a family that was or one day will also be close. But we live alone now, in the path most favored by the Sun, and the days and nights know no difference from June. Santa is a foreigner here with an impossible wardrobe. Pine is an essential oil, diffused at night to confuse us or bring us ‘home’ (wherever or whatever ‘that’ is)
December 26th marks one of the most important celebrations of the year here in Bali. Galungan. We will gather flowers, learn to twist banana leaf into shapes that please the Gods, and help our village make offerings. My pagan heart says it’s quiet prayers on Winter Solstice, but the part of me that knows herself to be a pack animal, the part that yearns for her own tribe and culture, seeks refuge in the communal rituals of Christmas. It is an exciting honor to be present, in this deeply spiritual village of Penestanan, to take part in the ceremony of Galungan. December 25th will pass unremarkably this year.
As I drive past plastic trees dripping in disco balls, illuminated by flickering LED, I allow myself to wonder if I’ve done the right thing bringing my daughter here. I trust my choices and in the guides that brought us here as much as I trust the questions of my own heart. This December, I find myself lost in wonder. What would it be like to KNOW I was making my bed in the right place on this Earth? I’m curious what fantastical dreams I might discover in the heavenly peace I’d find sleeping there.