Another Summer in Indonesia

(I wanted to write this in a very honest way, so instead of writing to you, my dear readers, I am writing this to M. Because he is the only person I can ever be entirely myself with.)

You and I drive our little car out to Toowoomba to collect my 9 year old cousin, Sommer. She is so excited it’s like a light is shining brightly in her mind, making her eyes glow. She hugs her mama tightly and for a long time. There is no shyness in her love. I try to imagine a day Alba will leave us like this but I just can’t.

When we arrive at the airport Sommer wants to wear Alba in the Ergo carrier. This is one of her favourite things to do. She wears her snug to her chest and tells us happily that Alba is in the perfect place to give her kisses.

First we visit your family in Perth, who are coming to Bali with us. Sommer makes friends with your youngest sisters and while they run amok around the yard we sink into the contentness of free time. We slip out of our mutual kindness in Perth, it happens every time we visit. We both lose our patience in the heat and emptiness.

We fill out the immigration forms as Sommer looks out the plane window, casting her soul out over the foreign country. This is the first time she has ever left Australia.  Then suddenly, like flicking a switch, we are in Bali and the air is both sweet and rotten. The smell instantly floods me with the memories of our last visits.

One, a new couple, washed over with the intensity of new love. Making out on the beach, endless cheap ice creams, launching fireworks and speeding down lonely roads on a motorbike in the middle of the night. Two, for a Christmas with your family. Connecting with your siblings and lounging on big boats above clear water.  And three, in hope that the hell that had become us would be healed by a familiar joy. My selfishness, your desperation to keep us from falling apart and the inevitable hurt. And now, four, evolved and loving again, bringing our new family.

Our first hotel room sits right on the pool’s edge. From our private deck we can dip our limbs in and let the cool spread deliciously through us. I feel as though I am so far away that stress and depression can’t find me here. I uncurl myself on the big bed and breathe contently.

Alba, the born traveller, eyes the place brightly and squeals in delight. “Look! Alba is so happy to be here!” Sommer tells us. She disappears into the cool blue water and only reappears a week later with an ear infection and instructions from the doctor to stop swimming. In-between she makes friends with a blonde girl from Finland.

After midnight on Christmas Eve, we have the worst fight we’ve had since the great rough patch of our lives. I love how rarely we argue now that we’re parents, but this time we’ve been so busy that all the little things have gotten bottled up and compressed tight. It all spills out in a ugly mess of accusations and name calling and eventually you leave with anger, and I am so exhausted I do what I used to do, I curl into a ball and cry. The hopeless, messy kind of crying, spiked too with hot anger.

Then suddenly a kind voice in my head reminds me that I am the one in control of how I feel. That’s right, I am. I sit up from the tiles outside our hotel door, wipe my wet face on my wrists and smile. It feels wrong to smile but the smile works its way into my brain until I actually feel happiness. A concerned security guard passes and I give him a reassuring smile too. I let myself back in, fill Sommer’s santa sack with gifts, crawl in the bed beside my daughter and wait.

Then the door opens slowly, like I knew it would, letting a path of yellow light grow into our room. You pull me quietly up and together we retrace the yellow path outside. You hold my face in your hands tenderly, giving me your full gaze, and you apologise again and again. Then I apologise too. I feel the highness of love, backdropped against the recent anger and I’m glad for moments like these where I can feel fully. We recognise each other again. This is the way it always is now, no matter how small the disagreement. We can never stay mad at one another for long and never overnight. We say sorry, we talk it through with new understanding and we melt into one another again.

I have mixed feelings about arguments. On the one hand, it is a way to release energy and speak about issues without boundary, a way to reset love. After all, it is too easy to get so used to love and contentedness that it feels like nothing.

But on the other hand, it is an ugly thing. Doesn’t every child want parents who never fight? Doesn’t everyone want perfect love?

Before I fall asleep I think I hear the jingling of bells. When I wake up a few hours later Sommer is sitting cross-legged in bed, grinning to her ears and staring at her sack of presents. Among other things she unwraps Indonesian flashcards and tells us she will be able to teach her little sisters Indonesian now too. She hands Alba a present and helps her to open it. It is a small stuffed lion. Alba plants a kiss on his nose and then throws him off the bed. We all laugh because that is Alba, her love is sweet but painful. We spend the day with your family, and I love them dearly but I still miss my own. It doesn’t seem like Christmas without them.

We move to an eco bungalow in Ubud. Our backyard is a food forest, with rabbits, goats and chickens. We share big organic salads, fresh from the gardens. We eat well in Ubud. I’m still unsure of where my intense passion for plant-based food came from, but I embrace it here. I watch with pride as Sommer wolfs down a raw lasagna and a green smoothie. And so far, there is not a single food that Alba hasn’t liked. Somedays it seems I’m just filling the time between delicious meals.

Stress begins to creep itself back into my nights, as it always does, wrapping itself around my thoughts with it’s wiry black fingers. I can’t sleep with the fear of things unfinished, emails unreplied, mistakes I’ve made. You feel me tossing and turning in the middle of the night and you murmur in sleep “what’s wrong?” and as I begin to list you say shhhh like you do when you’re calming Alba. “Don’t worry Nirrimi, I will take care of all of these things.”

Still I am unsettled, so you walk me through (with your gentle words) the ways in which you will help my problems disappear. You wrap your long arms around me so I feel as safe as a child held by a loving parent and so I can escape from complex adult worries. We sleep, us three tangled in the warmth of one another, dreams intermingling like passing clouds.

I wade into the clear water with Alba. The creeping crawling of the water through my bathers wakes me. Most of the time I walk around in a haze, in a kind of autopilot. I barely recognise where I am. But now I take it all in. I am standing with my daughter (oh, my beautiful daughter! Ringlets of hair golden in the sun, blue eyes bluer than the sky above us!) in the Indonesia sea. You, the boy I have loved half my life is photographing me, shouting out across the ocean just how beautiful we look. I think I can feel the individual grains of sand beneath my feet and the water current feels like a breeze at my legs. I wish I could feel this deeply forever.

I spin Alba around and she is overflowing with joy. She’s a thrill seeker, I love finding out different aspects of her like that. She also loves to dance, to put on jewellery, to be in the garden, to have her eyebrows traced when she’s tired and to make music. I love the way she always wants to kiss me just after you’ve kissed me, the way she mimics our quirks, her squealing as you chase her and of course, snuggling her into me as she has ‘boobah’.

We move on, to Kuta for two nights. We used to always come to Kuta, but we no longer have room for it’s chaos in our hearts. We are here because it is your sister’s birthday in the Waterpark and this way we will be nearby.

One night, as Sommer and I are walking past the night clubs Sommer yells to me over the music “I will never want to go to those places they’re so terrible and loud! Why is it so loud?” I explain that it gives some people a kind of energy, like a fire inside them. You might want to feel that too one day. She asked if I ever did and I remembered myself a few years ago, going into these same night clubs with you. I was curious and hungry about that world. The constant chase for feeling. “Once” I said “But none of it was very real.”

One day we get lost down a rice paddy trail. For hours we walk precariously by rivers, trek through streams and follow beaten paths. We ask locals for help and end up where we began. Eventually we find a restaurant where they grow all of their own food. We all share a large coconut, scraping the white flesh out to eat once the coconut water is gone. It is the perfect thing for us weary adventurers.

Very soon it is time to go. We hear Sommer as the plane takes flight say “Goodbye Bali.” Australia smells so goddamn good I throw myself into it and spin around in the blue Perth evening. Then Brisbane, big-hearted Brisbane where our home now is. You’ve been gardening, I’ve been cooking, Alba’s been learning to walk and talk and we’ve been settling in with our big new family. Life is good, but it always is, I’m just learning how to appreciate it more every day.

Images part one // part two.

69 love notes

  1. Your writing is so beautiful my heart wants to break!

    My sister used to read your blog years ago. I remembered it a while back and made her send me the link. I love reading about your young family, soul mate love, and adventures.

    And I SO appreciate that you are writing for YOU now. I can tell a big difference between this post and those before.. I feel more connected to your journey and it is requiring me to be a lot more reflective.

    So, thank you for sharing. Even the hard, ugly parts of life. Because those feelings are just as real and necessary as all the “milk and honey” feelings.

    Hope you all are doing well <3 I am still catching up.

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  3. I don’t remember how I came across your existence, but every time I look at one of your photos or read one of your posts I am glad I did. I feel like a better person just by reading them, its a strange feeling. I often wondered if you ever got angry or stressed. You write so beautifully that it’s hard to imagine, and even in this example your arguments appear beautiful. The love you and Matt share and now your love for Alba is something I have always longed for. They say your life is what you make it but it truly isn’t that simple for some. Your kindness and beauty, and by beauty I’m not taking about the stuff in magazines, seems to come to you so naturally. I read about you neglecting housework to spend time playing with Alba. it makes me feel warm and I hope that one day if I have children that this will be me, as it is something that I missed out on when I was young.

    I hope you never lose the fire that burns within.

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  5. You must compile the story of your lives into a book one day. The pictures and the writing make me feel like I have someone who thinks like I do, but while living an incredible life. Until now, I believed that you and M never fought and were the perfect couple with a perfect traveling family. But, as i read your story, i was amazed and actually relieved that you have friction. As much as we hate to admit that out lives arent perfect, its that willingness to accept out humanity that makes us happy without that horrid perfection. That friction is important. Heat separates the two identities so they can be seen, but not torn apart. If we did not have our own opinions and feelings, how would we love another? That’s the best part, loving yourself, but all while loving someone else’s qualities because they are different and beautiful in their own way. And it’s the same with how they look at you. My parents have blowout fights, but their love and sacrifice in the end shows their commitment after 40- some odd years. Many of us think that love is when someone has everything in common with you, but when you taste a meal with one flavor, where’s the joy in that? You and M are a loving support system, hammocking Alba in the watchfulness of her parents, all the while she feeds off your own relationship’s love. Keep being awesome, haha you have a friend in America that would do anything for y’all, and I’ve never even met you! Xoxo Julie

  6. I began reading in the centre and had to retrace the words all the way up then reach the final word. I feel your smile in the airport and the warmth of a lover who quietens anxiety with rational resolutions. intimate, wholehearted nirrimi. will you write ‘fiction’ someday?

    does perfect love consists of the darkest cumulonimbus’s? I believe so. passion; it is purest when in it’s natural succession. x

  7. Wow, just utterly wow. You’re writing is pure emotion put into words and it took my breathe away. Thankyou for showing an alternative way to love and live xx

  8. And that’s how love is. In the midst of all its greatness there’s also sorrow and pain, I guess it makes us appreciate both sides, the goodness it brings to our souls but also the realease of built up energy which shows that we care.

    amillionreasonswhy7.blogspot.com

  9. “she makes friends a blonde girl from Finland” ??? I was so excited to read that part because I am from Finland!! So is that blonde girl the same as you photografed on the beach, and you put the some pictures of the two girls here in you blog:)?
    But wow, this is like reading a really good book! Except this is a real story about your beautiful family.
    I just love to read your about your life and look at your a-ma-zing pictures.
    Thank you Nirrimi!

  10. Echoing what other people have already written, but I love your honesty. It is a comfort to me to know that other people fight and feel anger and insecurities. I of course know people experience this, but to read it raw and real is very comforting. It’s also lovely to know that you and M have gotten better at the fighting and healing process, something some couples never get to experience.

  11. Dears,

    I’m so glad to be here, on your blog. It’s very refreshing to see you being so true to your feelings and your life. I wish to all of you a wonderful life! <3

  12. This was so beautiful, it brought a tear to my eye and it make me appreciate what I have now.
    I was feeling heartache and resentment but you have made me realise again we are in control of our emotions.
    Thank you.

    ♥ ♥
    thirteenlittleloves.blogspot.com

  13. Thank you for your honesty. Many times I thought ab conflict and avoiding it vs burning out. Specialy with a kid in the family. Right now I feel as long as the making peace process is there after a fight, the restoration & mutual attempt at healing. Although every conflict does feel like death. You guys have a lot on your shoulders, may you have strength to fight for your love, and draw closer through everything.

  14. Please know that as you heal, you heal others by letting your stories out into the world like this. You are a light, sweetheart. Keep being yourself.

  15. it is a very lovely post and beautiful writing. Through the argument, we learn about each other. We learn it and fillful the love commitment.
    Reading your blog, it really brings me out of my busy working life, like a free bird, love this feeling.

  16. nirrimi, you and your family are so loved and adored! your honesty only enhances that. you remind me so much of natalie goldberg. you make writing seem effortless and alive, while making the reader thirst for more. i always look forward to your posts. much much love xx

  17. Oh Nirrimi, I wish you would write a book. I’m getting lost in your words. You’re totally right, nobody force us to be unhappy or angry. We can choose. Do we want to see the bright side of our life or not? Thank you so much for your entirely yourself, it sounds wonderful! xxx Sarina

  18. I have just read this for the second time, I am so glad you have moved your writing here back into such honesty, it is beautiful and raw to read. I know you receive so many comments both here and facebook, I imagine it must become almost overwhelming, but as a reader and viewer of your images, you manage to brighten up so many peoples days. We were thinking of heading to Bali for my birthday this year, and your photos have sealed the deal for me.
    Much Love, Rhiannon x

  19. This is the second time i’m reading your adventure, and i reminded myself to write a comment this time! You’re painfully honest and see the world and people in the right way, (i think anyway)!
    And if only i could take as chilling photographs as you, definitely an inspiration when i have image mind block.

    Keep warm,

    WanderBug

  20. You have hard moments, but they’re rimmed with appreciation and love and beauty… it makes me sad thinking about it… I wonder what it is like to be loved by someone, to feel things other than loneliness and denial…

  21. what a beautiful and honest text! and the photos of your trip are stunning,too.
    when i come to australia i also want to visit bali. can’t wait to be there!
    lovely greetings
    maria

  22. I’ve been waiting for a new post from you since I recently found your blog. I could read stories from you all day long…they inspire me to move, to write better, to live better, to absorb every moment.
    Your beauty and honesty and that I feel like I’m right there with you, is what brings me back to you. I know there is no ‘perfect’ life but I’m glad you’re exploring and living so beautifully while being true to yourself, your family and your dear Alba.
    I look forward to your next story in your beautiful life……xo
    Sarah

  23. Beautiful in your sincerity.

    I love your thoughts on arguments, releasing negative emotions uninhibitably. It is one of the uglier aspects of being human, but as you said, a component to a fulfilling relationship. The moments after the argument are those that are more difficult to master, as it is simpler to cry or hold a grudge. Thank you for the inspiration to love.

    Lots of love,

    Katie

  24. Dear Nirrimi,
    thank you for sharing your life in such a truthful, real way and beautifully written. Reading your writings often brings me a hope I lost somewhere amongst the days that are passing fast. I feel connected with what you say, often because you see many beautiful things in life even thought they’re small or simple but you are not naive. You also know the ugly and sad side of things and you have love despite of them. I think in this way I am similar to you and sometimes when I’m losing myself, your words like these give me strenght and motivation.
    Thank you for existing.
    Take care.
    Sending love to your family,

    Mária

  25. you’ve left me feeling so beautifully sad, dear girl. deliciously sad. nothing about this could be any better. i don’t know how you combine magic with reality so well.

  26. Your honesty in both your pictures and your writing is so refreshing. I come here to your blog time and time again – I love how it just feels so real.

  27. Beautiful post, everyday yo write better, i’m glad you are brave enough to share your feelings with us. Great pics as usual. Warm hug from Spain

  28. Wow, I’m just speechless..like every time you tell your readers a little story out of your life.
    The way you live your life with Alba and your friend is just wonderful.
    And I can’t explain the great feeling that overcomes me while reading this.
    I mean it’s like your giving hope, to live a life as wonderful as yours sometime.

    Thanks another time for letting us share such a great part of your life.

  29. this post is full of such raw honesty, it’s so brave of you to write from the heart.
    i can relate so completely to your thoughts and words. especially those about life, love and stress. if only more of us were brave enough to write of our experiences and feelings so openly.
    thank you lovely, for your honesty has made me feel a little brighter tonight, and much less alone.

  30. Your words really move me… you ar ea whole inspiration… thank you so much for sharing…!!!

    “I wade into the clear water with Alba. The creeping crawling of the water through my bathers wakes me. Most of the time I walk around in a haze, in a kind of autopilot. I barely recognise where I am. But now I take it all in. I am standing with my daughter (oh, my beautiful daughter! Ringlets of hair golden in the sun, blue eyes bluer than the sky above us!) in the Indonesia sea. You, the boy I have loved half my life is photographing me, shouting out across the ocean just how beautiful we look. I think I can feel the individual grains of sand beneath my feet and the water current feels like a breeze at my legs. I wish I could feel this deeply forever.” This is pure magic! love the image and its story…

    <3

  31. I love reading your writing. you tell your stories so eloquently. it’s real, and it’s beautiful. what an incredible journey you have been on this summer x

  32. Your writing is so natural, open and honest!
    Thank you for sharing all this with us, some we know so well…
    You are a really beautiful family. I am much older, but not having my own family yet.
    But I wish to have my own one soon… You are inspiring!
    And Bali is my second home, cause I work with people in Bali and love coconuts and the places with all the good food as Sari Organic in Ubuds rice paddies.
    All the best for you!

  33. Nirrimi, these pictures are so alive, as always.
    I have an obsession about your blog; let me tell: when I see that you write a new post, I delay to read it, cause you don’t post very often!:) Thus, I can preserve this for later and later…For example now, I just only skip them, but I wait for a very proper time to read and see every little details on your pics!

    Best wishes!

  34. Your words are so lovely to take in. So honest . The good and the bad.I can really relate and understand to the tales you tell. Your family is beautiful and i wish you all the happiness in the world .

  35. Oh my … how lovely! I absolutely adore your writing and stories and photos. I think you are part of the reason I moved to Australia (WA is so hot, NT is so brown, and right now Mt. Eliza is perfect) Someday please publish a book; it can go on the antique coffee table in my future home that is decorated with things, photos, and paintings from my travels. I have been adoring your photos since the first days on Deviant, we are the same age, it is mindblowing. Always sending love, Hilary.

  36. Nirrimi, you are an inspiration. I have been reading your blog posts for years now, since I myself was a teenager. The work that introduced me to you was “Freckles Like Stars,” or some similar title, on DeviantArt. I have always been moved by your images, your words, your absolute bravery in the face of a judgmental, insurmountably difficult world. I am a bit older than you, but, like you, have been young in my environment, and I look up to you. You are a beautifully inspiring individual, following your own heart and aspirations, and I find your every post to be encouraging, not only because I appreciate your ideologies, but because of the gravity of your passion. You’re an impeccable photographer, a sincere lover, mother, young, bright writer with a true artist’s vision. I hope I don’t come off as fanatic–I don’t intend flattery but utter authenticity, because my admiration is so much less trivial than that. I appreciate your transparency, your willingness to be raw-ly YOU when in the digital age anyone can comment on you, your lifestyle, everything and anything, without consequence or remorse. I take courage in your courage, and can only hope to one day live as strong and free as you and your enlightening family. Love from Portland, OR, Kylie.

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