Let me just say that motorbikes were never my thing. Until I came to Ubud. By now, I have traveled around behind different drivers. I have put my arms around gorgeous washboard abs, potbellies, and fleshy female middles. I have traveled in cloudy weather, in sunshine and at night in pouring rain. I never imagined it could stir my juices to be on a motorbike!
But when we traveled to see Ketut Liyer’s son, we went on foot. I could have chosen to get on a motorbike, to get there faster, but there is something about walking to him; the curious journey that gets you there.
Dita came along for the fun of it. We spent half the day stopping at cafes and restaurants, trying out the lovely offerings of Bali; banana lassi, tom-yum soup, sweet coconut juice straight from coconuts as big as bowling balls.
They should make coconut juice the new water. Witches who kidnap children to steal their youth should be given a chill pill and a big coconut to drink because that's youth right there in the hull.
We shopped around and stopped to ask for directions to Ketut's place as we went along. Then we meandered some more, haggling here, nodding politely there and almost buying things we would later regret.
Late into the afternoon,we were close to the Liyer house. Ketut’s son Putu is now taking up his father’s tradition and practice. I was excited to meet him. A part of me was worried, however, that we would not find the house. What if he was not at home?
That would be just my luck.
Shh! Don’t say that!
The road took us into a rural neighborhood where the asphalt merged with the dirt. The chickens and roosters were kings and queens, here. So many houses with tiny elaborate doorways jumbled up together between the palms. The facades were faded and more ramshackle than they were in central Ubud. I tuned into the quiet purr that my curiosity makes when I’m just about to find out something.
Finally, Dita found it. We entered gingerly through the doorway. It felt odd to just be able to enter the house of someone so revered in the village without so much as a knock, let alone a ring. But then, you could enter all the houses in Bali because almost all of them, kept their front doors open.
The medicine man was sitting on the steps of one of the raised platforms, chatting with his family. I asked if I could speak to him. His matriarch (I’m not sure if it was his mother or his wife) told me to pay then signaled for a small woman to take care of the sacred business of putting me into a sarong. You cannot speak to the medicine man in cotton pants!
A moment later, I walked up to the platform where Putu was waiting for me. He gestured for me to sit on the wicker mat, opposite him.
Now, I could write in exact wording what he said to me and what I said to him but I would like to point out what seeing Putu meant to me. This man, as soon as I began to talk to him, had a lemony-sweet energy, like a frangipani flower. I never experienced this energy with another human being. He emitted such pure and childlike joy that must have bloomed a multitude of times in his life that he has probably forgotten what suffering feels like by now. I was in such gratitude to be in this presence that I bloomed myself, starting from the heart and out to my limbs.
Putu seemed rounder and stockier than his father, less intimidating (at least from the pictures). His face shone, especially when the apples of his cheeks were pulled up in a wide grin. So many glistening teeth! The smile almost made his eyes disappear behind his spectacles.
I put my palms together and said “I’m very happy to see you!"
“I’m happy to see you too!” he responded and the grin got even wider. As he spoke to me, I became more and more present with him until, for a few seconds, I experienced the merger of myself with my surroundings, with him, with his grin and all the lines became sharper, like the cut of a mold. It was both frightening and exhilarating, like a spontaneous brush with nirvana.
“You are very beautiful!” he said to me, “You should learn dancing! Balinese dance!”
“Oh I want to!”
“Yes, your face very good for dancing. And you have - I forget in Englees - you have dimple!”
The joy made me giggly. Then just like that _
“You are artist.” he said, “You must to continue work. You are very luckyyyy! Okaaay? You must be creative! More like dat. Get experience. Okaaay? No more problem! No more sad!”
“No more sad!” I repeated.
“Yes. You very sensitive. Don’t let problem problem come to you, okaaay?”
“What you do for job?”
“I work in TV. I’m also a writer.”
“Ooooh you like - you know Eleesabet Gilber?”
Don’t I? He proceeded to tell me about how Elizabeth Gilbert used to come to his father with her troubles. He spoke about her like she was a distant relative we both knew and cared about. And maybe she was.
“Lees not believe my father at first. Now she very happy. First she go to Italy. She eating eating. No good. Not happy! Then she go to India and praying. Good for her praying. Still not enough. She come to Bali, then, love!”
He ended the story with a laugh that shook him backward. The best synopsis of Eat, Pray, Love I ever heard. I wondered, however, if Ketut’s family used the success of the book to boost their business. It could be that. Or it could be that Putu was truly proud of Liz for her inspirational journey which has touched millions of lives. Or it could be a synchronous instance of chance that he mentioned her just then as I'm very much enamored with her story.
“You also be happy!” he continued, “You continue working. You do - what is dat I forget in Englees - you looking looking, writing.”
“Yes! You experience. You learning and den you write. Like dat, you see? You do research.”
I never even mentioned this blog to him. That took me by surprise and filled me with the serenity of assurance.
Then, I told him I was heartbroken.
“Don’t worryyy. Love will come to you again. You are so very luckyyyy! Okaaay?”
He opened my palms to read them. I remember what he found in my palm. I remember clearly what he said to me. He explained to me what every line means and what my own unique imprint foretold. But as he read my fortune, and most of it was wonderful, I was already dismissing it as we went along. I retracted internally a little bit because I did not want to be told how many husbands I would have or how many children. Least of all when I would die.
Something hit home for me, however. He found a second life line next to the primary one. He traced it, a small forking almost imperceptible line.
“You see dis one? This mean you have second life. Second chance. You unhappy where you live, you can move again. Don’t go back to unhappy. If Saudi make you unhappy you don’t go back der. No more problem!”
I never mentioned how I felt about my home country, either.
“You come to Bali!”
Yes, move to Bali. Can I admit here that I’ve thought about it? This fruity chunk of paradise that fell from the heavens. I have not seen suffering on the faces of the Balinese. Even the beggars on the sidewalk keep their palms open, asking for kindness, but with a smile and unshakable serenity. And I have heard the most heartfelt “good mornings” here. Not offered out of politeness or social decorum, but from a genuine place that cares whether or not you have a good day, or whether you arrive back safely at the end, or whether you have a nourishing meal, or if someone will have kissed your heart today.
Well Putu certainly kissed mine. I thanked him with my palms together and got up.
On our way out of Ketut's Place, Dita seemed a little aloof.
“How was it?” she asked.
“It was beautiful.”
“Yeah but what did he tell you that you didn’t already know?”
A protective stop sign came up within me. Here again, an experience being discounted, yanked back into the world of reason and skepticism. I grew up in this world and I knew how it goes. I was so used to having my experiences discounted by the “adults”. This world has done its job on me perfectly well. I am a tenacious skeptic myself but I am in recovery.
“I’d rather let it sink in before I talk about It.” I said to her.
Dita had certain convictions about palmistry. I heard about them all the way back. I had my own too but I was not ready to share.
Later, as we had tea and coffee, she mentioned her angel numbers, a mode of communication with the Divine that she believed in.
“I can’t understand angel numbers.” I said to her, “I often find that the interpretations are vague enough to be what you want to hear.”
She raised her eyebrows slyly. “Like seeing Ketut.”
“Exactly,” I told her, “Angel numbers obviously mean something to you. They have a truth to them and they make sense to you. They don’t to me. It’s the same with seeing Ketut. Intuition communicates with us and comes alive through many channels and we each connect with the channel that feels right to us.”
My meeting with Putu was not only words, or assurances, or even magical fortune telling. It was an exchange of energy. Yes, the words pleased me. They pleased me so much that I forgot about my heartbreak and haven’t thought about it or felt it since. I have even reconciled myself with how my consciousness feels in the aftermath of the relationship that I lost. I’ve felt and accepted the elevation that it brought me. Some great hand in the sky had forced the banana peel off me to reveal the rambutan within.
But I thought about my coversation with Dita for a while afterwards. I wanted to fairly and in a heart-centered way detect what it was that bothered me exactly. I knew exactly what I was taking in my heart from my encounter with Putu. I knew exactly what I left behind. If I was so sure about my own discernment then why did it bother me so much? The answer came from Miriam.
Miriam is a wonderful witchy woman I met here. She is from Ireland. We became friends over fried fish and steamed rice. Miriam has had many struggles in her life and has come to Bali to heal. We talked about our journeys and about Ireland and fairies and leprechauns. We talked about demons. We talked about how the Balinese lack the understanding of privacy; her landlord was in the habit of entering her rented home without permission. This was due, of course, to the Balinese culture of keeping all doors open day and night. It is said to allow the Gods free entry.
Miriam and I segued into discussing our personal truths and the boundaries we need to lovingly set up around them, even if it is to keep our loved ones from crossing over.
“People make you doubt yourself,” she said. “And you let them.”
Yes. It’s that feeling of being patronized and infantilized. I reflected internally that that was what I received from Dita whether she intended it or not - the influence of my own mother and father and a host of teachers in school, possibly my aunt too.
Miriam and I recounted the instances in both our lives when our experiences or truths were discredited by the people in our lives, our families, our cultures, our schools. I’m finding it appropriate to share with you Miriam’s very charming and very Irish point of view.
“A pig in shite.” She said with a thick Irish accent.
“A pig in shite! You know! Shit!”
I was a little confused. She proceeded to explain with her almond blue eyes brightening.
“If you are happy with your pig in shite, that’s great. But if someone else is not happy with your pig in shite well that’s their shite! Ha!”
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, probably the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time. So be happy with your pig in shite. In fact, roll in the shite yourself.