Monday, 17 August 2015

dream retreat part two

Home is a funny thing. There have been many places that I have called home in the twenty-two years that I have been alive, which is impressive considering that I lived in the same house from birth until I was sixteen. My time in many of these places was fleeting... often only a few weeks or a few months. I fall in love with places easily. It doesn't take much for me to slip into a sense of home.

Returning to Ubud felt like returning home. I had left a part of my heart and soul there a year before and going back was beautiful, but the parts of my heart and soul that had followed me back to Canada the December previous had weathered so much and I couldn't ignore the fact that though it was the same place, I was not the same girl. It was so good to be back and my new friends were so incredible, yet I soon felt like Ubud was pushing me away and I was pulling away from Ubud. This feeling intensified after the first two weeks. Many of my new brothers and sisters left for their homelands. I started to grow restless. I had no idea what I would do or where I would go after Bali and everything seemed impossibly possible and terrifying. I spent many late nights talking with Bella or Mercia about life and love and purpose and happiness. Plans and energies were shifting rapidly. One of our favourite cafes burnt to the ground. And then two of our kittens passed in spite of all our efforts to keep them safe. Meeko wandered away never to return and Ernest suffered a fatal fall on our last morning together. There were hard days. But there was so much light too.

I went for long scooter rides nearly every day, always craving the wind and movement. I soaked in the land. Breathed it in. The rich greens and rolling hills and thick valleys. The evening sun turned the landscape into a fairytale and the light became pure magic. I could always find peace on the road, even when everything else turned chaotic. Sometimes Natasa or Mercia would ride on my back and we would try to have conversations even as our words were blown away.

We ate a lot of cake and raw lasagna. There were many photoshoots and though I was never the one doing the shooting, I enjoyed watching my peers in their enthusiastic creation. I assisted Bella sometimes and took sneaky pictures of Natasa and Isabel. There were monkey bites; a few more scooter accidents; and several incidents with cockroaches and other flying creatures, which caused several quick evacuations. We danced in the heavy rain that comes to Ubud at the end of November when streets can become rivers in a blink of an eye and you can truly shower under the open sky. Jarrad Seng came to visit us for 48 hours. Natasa, Bella, and I sang karaoke at the warung down the street. A group of us visited a waterfall and the ocean, getting soaked first by rain and then by waves. We watched many sunsets in complete amazement.

In the waning days of November, I felt ready to move on. In 2013, I had wanted to stay in Bali forever, but this time, in 2014, I knew that I had learnt all I could from Ubud and that I had to seek my path elsewhere. I have so much gratitude for everything that Bali has given me and I do miss it, as I miss all my homes, but I don't think that I will go back for quite some time (you never know though!). A few days before I was supposed to depart, I tried to delay my flight so I could follow my friends to the Gili islands and then to New Zealand. There wasn't enough time. I flew away from Bali late on November 30th on my way back to London.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

dream retreat part one

My first trip to Bali was in November 2013. I lived in paradise for a month, sharing a large villa with other artists and travelers from around the world. We had been brought together by Nirrimi Firebrace who called the gathering, "Camp Bliss." This was my first trip overseas and my first time travelling alone. So much of my life changed during and after those thirty days together. I forged so many amazing bonds, including a friendship with Bella Kotak and Aaron and Dominique Skinner-Chapman.

Bali sticks to your heart long after you leave its shores. We had to go back. So many of us felt the call but only Bella, Dominque, Aaron, and myself (and Dom and Aaron's little girl) were able to make it work. We were going to go back. And this time, we would be bringing new souls with us. Our own "Camp Bliss." Our "Dream Retreat." The name fell into Bella's and my laps during an early morning spent at an airport in Malaysia. Dream Retreat.

Returning home to our villa nestled in the ricefields of Ubud was surreal and beautiful and painful. Bella and I got there late at night on the 30th of October, two days before the others were due to start arriving. I was asleep for most of the drive from Denpasar, but Bella couldn't shut her eyes. It was so strange, coming back. I'm a drifter and returning to the places that I have left is always an uncomfortable sensation for me, yet the magnitude of this reunion was especially hard. It felt as if no time had passed and nothing had changed. The truth was that time had passed and everything had changed. Everything. I could walk the halls of our villa and sit in the same bed that had sheltered me the year before and remember the girl that I was and her life and her lover and her thoughts and recognize that I am not that girl. Her life is not mine. We share no lover. We are the same soul but completely different. I can never go back to that difficult and blissful time and while I have bountiful gratitude for the new life that I have created, it hurt to relive what was lost.

Bella and I didn't do much during our first day in Ubud. We were both overwhelmed. We ordered vegan burgers from one of our favourite restaurants from the last year and played with the new kittens that inhabited the villa. That night, Claire Hart invited us for dinner at Down to Earth and then to ecstatic dance at Yoga Barn. It was Halloween. Meeting Claire and her friends was exceptionally beautiful as they are all exceptionally beautiful people. Ecstatic dance moved my feet and soothed my heart, the haunting Halloween-inspired music filling the giant treehouse where dozens of bodies spun to their own unique rhythm. After, we sat in a circle at Soma and listened to hand-crafted music, singing along to the songs we knew. Ubud's magic was again all around us and I felt blessed and quieted.

It's hard to describe the days that followed. Our new family arrived and our hearts soared. We photographed, rode scooters like the locals, savored delicious healthy food, swam in our little glistening pools, gorged on vegan cakes, talked about everything imaginable, danced freely, laughed loudly. We laughed so much. Those first two weeks possessed unrivaled bliss. Alex Cohen, Michelle Burks, Tyler Ammons, Jess May, Raphael Carroll, Charlie Huston, Samantha Williamson, Caitlin McKone, Ryan Kurkowski, Melissa de Blok, Kylie Board and her partner Martin, Mary Parker, and Katharina Dor Phine. Claire Hart, Madison Dube, Chloe Slattery, Torrey Joyner, and Claire Hauge were our extended family. Momma Cat and her sons Hati, Ernest, and Meeko were a constant sight in our villa. More friends would join in the last two weeks (Natasa! Isabel! Mercia! Namita!) but that's for my next post.

We were a happy family. These amazing and gifted and kind and wonderful human beings mean the world to me and I know that we will all be together again one day. We still keep in touch and several of us have already reunited in other corners of the Earth. We still send each other silly messages and share so much goodness. One of the greatest gifts in this wandering life of mine is the people that I have met. One of Tyler's tattoos read, "It's not where I am, it's who I'm with" and it's true. The company you keep, the laughter you share, the love you have, it's everything.

Thank you to all the friends who traveled across the oceans to live outside of time in a magical land for a month with me.