Celebrate good times! Come on!

Tonight however, I hear fireworks from all directions, dogs barking, only one persistently verbal frog, and one voice amplified from Mas in a mesmerizing performance that does not sound religious. I have an urge to cross the river in the dark to find out which story is being told, but I will wait. My senses have swallowed enough over the past few days that tonight I process quietly. But I do believe that the absence of gamelan and my jazz, and the presence of the fireworks and dogs, is keeping most of the frogs as quiet as the gekkos of many different sizes that crawl everywhere there might be light, mostly helping the dogs that guard against evil spirits (at least in their dreams and in the spiritual beliefs of the majority) at gateways everywhere we go. The explosions continue because this is Balinese New Year’s Eve done deeply and with specific purpose. The nosiest night of the year because tomorrow (hopefully tonight at midnight), is Nyepi, or “Silent Day”, a strictly enforced day of abstinence from noise. I’ve now done four New Year’s celebrations in five months: Moslem in November, Western in December, Chinese in February, and Hindi/Balinese tonight. I like this one best. Tomorrow, no one on the island leaves their compound (family members live together in a walled collection of villas, huts, and a temple — like a small fort), no electricity or amplification used, no contact outside family. Silence is enforced so that the evil spirits won’t detect the humans here, and will give Bali a miss for a day, and the dogs a rest. The slightest noise, and it’s game over. This evening on the way back from town we pulled off the narrow road by an expanse of temple built into a jungle town, to observe the culmination of the last two days of vivid decorations and offerings to every temple, shrine, and entryway (not limited to massive stone arches, but including driveways and any other large opening) we had seen going up over the past three days. Towering (the taller the holier) bamboo poles decorated in ornate colors and tied with bowed strips of leaves line the streets. A ceremonial tiger and lion, constructed over three days in temples dedicated to the Hindi triumvirate, surrounded by happy people in traditional indescribably beautiful dress (priest dressed just the same) were spoken and chanted to, respected among several fistfuls of incense sticks (cigarettes often in the other hand). Umbrellas whose colors (mostly yellow, red, and white, but also blue and black) represent the spirits and gods protecting the various regions of the human realm, are later used to escort the animals back to their primary temples in the village. The obvious thing to these still somewhat Western eyes is that the whole town is happy to be here, has participated in preparations for the previous weeks and months, and has no problem or issue with any of it. The “priest” looks just like the rest of them, they all stand together within a temple compound under the emerging stars, and perform their peaceful religious rites enthusiastically and happily. No youngster look pulled away from video games or tv to meaningless church or temple… a fully-integrated, community-wide shared faith. It takes a village indeed.

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