We arrive in Ubud at 2AM. The streets are strangely quiet, and the stars glitter above us. We are so excited to be here for the Ubud Writer's Conference. But we are too tired to truly appreciate the beautiful hotel, De Munut Balinese Resort, with the multiple pools, gardens, or even our private outdoor shower. We fall into bed utterly exhausted.
The next morning is a new day. I breath in the air, clean with a hint of flowers and fruit. The conference doesn't officially begin until Saturday, so we have a day to explore. Madi and I decide to try something new with my friend Shana (who is also here for the conference). We want to visit the Empul Temple. Our driver, Budi, explains this holy Hindu temple was built in 962AD. For over one thousand years, people have come to the temple to ask for blessings. With an adventurous attitude of "When in Bali do as the Balinese do" we drive north of Ubud to the temple.
Water pours from seventeen small fountains. I try to step into the cold water bravely. The icy water comes to my waist, and I can't see the bottom. We stand in line with a group of Balinese school children. We shiver together, our teeth chattering audibly.
My feet maneuver blindly on the uneven stones. My toes grasp for balance. And I try not to think about what else might be at the bottom of the pool.
Moss drips with spring water, coating the black stone like carpet on the wall. Koi fish swim around my knees - I see flashes of bright orange and white. I wait in line for my turn. At the first fountain, I am tentative. I quickly duck my head in the water, soaking only the front half of my head and face. The water is so cold I gasp, then panic reminding myself to keep my mouth closed and not swallow the water. I look up sheepishly at Budi who stands at the edge. "Your whole head" he instructs. "For full blessings, you must wash your whole head."
I am braver at the next fountain and submerge my head in the water. While the ladies in front of me offer their Hindu prayers, I offer my own prayers. I start with gratitude. I pray offering thanks for this day, this experience, my family, living in Indonesia, and my incredible job.
By the sixth and seventh fountain my prayers turn to pleas for blessings - blessings of health, joy for my children, to grow old with my sweet husband, safety, finding the right house for our family next year, publishing a book, health and happiness for my parents. My prayers pour forth like the constant water. And I am swept up in the whole experience. I think of the importance of water in my own religion - baptism, sacrament, washings and annointings. And by the time I've prayed and washed seventeen times, I feel very blessed indeed.
Here we are at the end. Before getting out, I look down the long pool at the Balinese people waiting in line, and I know we are more alike than different. All of us pray for blessings.
On the way out of the temple grounds, we walk through rows of shops and stalls. This beautiful Balinese child sands a Buda statue.
She works alongside her mother. We pause for a moment to watch and admire. When we round the corner, I reach out and link arms with my own daughter. I am so grateful to be here with Madi. And I know absolutely, to be here in Bali with my daughter to attend a Writer's Conference, life doesn't get much better than this.