Oh, how much more you’ll appreciate the things you have as soon as you don’t have them anymore! Bali is hot. Very hot. The humidity makes the air thick and our clothes heavy. Sweat is dripping everywhere from everyone all the time. The heat does more than make me hot- it also drains my energy and productivity. So how can I spin this experience into a positive?
I can begin by taking note of the things that I failed to pay attention to before. Today, as I write this on the school grounds in the village, there is a gentle breeze that I am learning to love. We can feel a brief reprieve from the exhausting heat in those moments of wind when we let out a loud sigh of relief. And though the wind is ephemeral, it is powerful and soothing.
Then there’s the rain. I’ll tell you how grateful I’ve become for the rain. For the first few decades of my life I associated it with misery and dreariness. It would ruin my outdoor plans, my hair, and my motivation. But after a month without rain, when it finally did arrive, I welcomed it so sincerely. It was a night out in Ubud with two friends. We sat at a shisha lounge with live music and they played a favourite song of mine, Valerie by Amy Winehouse, and then the rain arrived in one of those heavy downpours that they warned me about before I arrived. The two girls I was with ran out into the evening sky and laughed and danced as it soaked them silly in a soccer field. I sat back and watched their joy, then stepped outside and gently felt the rain in my hair. This was an occasion worth celebrating.
I met a woman from India on my journey who told me that when it rains back home, the people celebrate and thank the gods. For them, the rain is vital for the growth and survival of many things. For my old self, the rain was just a nuisance. Even as the dry season comes to an end, I find myself eagerly wanting more rainfall in Bali. They say that those impossibly green rice fields get even greener after the rainy season.
This past weekend on the island of Gili Air, it rained in the afternoon while I was snorkelling with a friend. You’d think this might put a damper on things, but it did the opposite. The rain was light and cool and felt great after a hot morning. After the snorkelling we found ourselves at a cheap roadside warung (a quick roadside Indonesian type of restaurant) when the downpour started. A little boy ran out into the streets and started dancing and playing in the water. He grabbed a running hose and sprayed even more water around. I remember doing things like that as a kid. It’s funny how children have no issues playing in the rain, but adults do.
The fog shouldn’t be forgotten. What once served as a danger for me when driving now acts as a shroud of mystery in historical Hindu temples. Last month I had one of the most chilling experiences of my life because of a heavy cloud of fog that descended in the evening at a holy temple. I was wandering the grounds and taking photos when I discovered a small gate in a long wall. As I stepped through, I discovered calming grounds with only a man fishing, and two women walking. The lake was covered in a blanket of heavy fog and a light wind was in the air. That moment in time will stay with me for a long time. I felt I was in the presence of something far greater than me. I’m not a religious person and I don’t ever need to be to realize that the universe itself is so much more powerful than me alone. It is the combination of everything that exists in past and present, and together there was such a particular combination that evening which left me speechless.
Then there’s the chilling, biting cold that so many of us learn to despise. Bali never gets cold the way it does back in Canada. Not by a long shot. There are slightly cool evenings when I feel the need for a thicker layer (this happened once), but they never see snow, ice, frost, or blizzards. It’s easy to hate the cold. It causes car accidents and it makes us stay indoors. But again, a slight shift of perspective can make you change your mind about it. Oddly enough I find myself thinking about colder days spent inside. Maybe being indoors now and then is a good thing after all. For me, winters back in Canada served as a time to accomplish goals and get busy work done inside. Maybe it was cleaning and reconfiguring my home, maybe it meant reading books and catching up on personal development exercises, or maybe it meant being inside with friends and having great talks.
The Danish have a word called hygge which is brilliant and can be adapted anywhere, in any climate. But I best learned about this word as it relates to the cold. In the winter, the Danish create environments that are very hygge, indeed. That means you may invite friends over on a cold, dark evening, and then provide them with heavy blankets and fluffy pillows. You’d light some candles, maybe serve a warm dessert, or maybe sip a warm beverage in front of the toasty fireplace. It’s about creating an atmosphere of comfort in what you have. Isn’t that a better approach instead of complaining about the cold? The cold is more powerful than you- it’s not going anywhere, so you had best adapt and make the most of it.
Substitute weather for most other grand things in life. The point is that our perspective is what ought to shift, not the weather. So yes, in this very moment here in Bali, I am very hot. The sun is shining brightly and I find myself with low energy. But there’s a slight breeze coming now, and I see it as a reminder to be kind to myself and appreciate the fact that I’m in paradise after all.
What weather brings out the best in you?