The Earthquake of last Saturday, an intense experience, reminded me of one I experienced here about 30 years ago and how in 2 seconds everything can be destroyed.
During this one, the Earth shuddered and rocked as if trying to free herself of some great and painful burden. The trees outside my window shimmered and shook, as if blown by sudden strong winds. Leaves and flowers came showering and coconuts crashed to the ground. The waters in the rice paddies made waves as if they had suddenly become little seas. The birds were silent. People screamed with fright as they ran for safety.
After the initial ‘heart lurch’ of recognition, I went outside to stand where I could be sure the roof wouldn’t suddenly cave in and bury me beneath a pile of bamboo and straw.
“Wow, this is the biggest quake for years. The epicentre must be in the ocean, as it moves in a horizontal direction. Hope no-one gets hurt”, I thought. An old Balinese friend once explained that when the Earth shook sideways, it meant that the centre was out to sea and when it moved up and down, it meant it was in the mountains.
I didn’t feel afraid as I stood there. However I found myself thinking of all those concrete and steel buildings that have landed all over Bali in the past few years and how dangerously unsuitable they are in these parts of the world. The traditional methods of building were far superior and were the result of an in depth understanding and wisdom. There was a whole science involved, which even included the season for cutting the wood, bamboo,‘alang alang’(special grass used for roofs) and the different methods for curing, which were in harmony with the natural environment.
I could fill pages on the subject, for it is something I feel very passionate about.
Standing in the garden, which feels like the large deck of a ship in the middle of a stormy sea, so many thoughts pass through my head.
Time seems to stand still. Nature seems to hold her breath. The shudders increase. Suddenly it’s over.
A few minutes later, some Balinese friends come rushing through the gate. They came to see if we were all right and if the house was still standing! Having assured themselves that all was well they regaled us with stories of what they had witnessed and experienced. (“Ibu Pertiwi marah sekali”) Earth Mother is very angry, because so many of us are forgetting to be thankful and our thinking is becoming too heavy with the stress of modern living. ‘Money thinking’ is eating our brains and the banks are invading our sacred spaces with empty symbols lies and pretence. We are eating the lives of our grandchildren. We know that there is good and bad in everything, and it is up to each one of us to remember what is important in life, so we can help restore the balance to our lives". This is as literal a translation as I can manage and it expresses what many of the older Balinese people have been saying for years, as they grapple with the enormous, and for them meaningless life that is claiming their land and their people.
Later in the afternoon, come the offerings for the temple and the Earth, in the form of beautiful flowers, incense and holy water. The whole place is blessed and a feeling of peace and gratitude fills the air.