An Elemental Home

By Richard Boughton

I do some writing here for a certain magazine. I guess you would call it a tourism magazine. You know, one of those glossy little packets with slippery pages, slippier prose and full-colour photography featuring white-washed villas, green garden paths, verandas and pools and beach-front vistas overlooking the azure sea. Jimbaran stuff, right? Nusa Dua destinations.

I make no money in this venture – my services being purely gratis – but it gives me a chance to see some of the island, as well as to meet some of the island’s people, though not many, mind you, as most of the people I meet live in castles that may as well be somewhere else. In fact, for all practical purposes, they are somewhere else.

And so I began to think one day, during a staff meeting concerning what sort of story we could do for a German home-appliance supplier that had just bought a full page advertisement, about the sort of real-world story we could do instead. One about Bali – the actual place as opposed to the brochure dreamland.

And so, reader, I make a bit of a departure below. No villas here, no Ming Dynasty vases, no gazebos or gardens or gothic towers -none of the usual glitz and glimmer. Rather, we shall visit the island of Bali, and hope, if only for a moment, to impart a new, more down-to-earth taste for the palate of our typical reader.

Here, then, is the classic Balinese homestead. This simple one-room dwelling is made completely of stone on the outside. It is also made of stone on the inside. In fact, the stone on the inside is the backside of the stone on the outside. It is, in short, the same stone, inside and out.

Within these understated walls we find furniture in the well-loved antique style, cleverly constructed from aged planks of pre-used lumber found in the pristine field out back (which is where the pre-used nails were found as well). On the armoire, brightly nostalgic in the classic red and yellow hues of 1950s plastic-ware, sits grandma’s unfinished bowl of fried noodles, although grandma herself has not been seen for several months, and may, it is thought, have succumbed to dengue fever.

From the square, eco-friendly front window (for it has no glass or other impediment to the cooling breeze), we turn and take three steps to the far side of the house, careful not to stir the dust along the way. There in the corner sits a tiny crutch, propped just so, waiting for its tiny owner to return. And a chicken. Beside the crutch and the chicken are a few pellets of chicken dung, as well as one dog turd.

Lighting throughout this classic-style home is unobtrusive, as indirect as a tongue-in-cheek comment – none of those glaring overhead globes, which do, after all, require electricity, not to mention money for payment of the electricty bill. Therefore, we are inclined to call the interior lighting here a suggestion rather than a shout, a rumour rather than an actual fact.

Mother’s bed is on the eastern wall, nestled beneath several rather artistically imperfect stones that jut from the wall and serve as convenient, natural nightstands. Or handholds, if need be. Father’s bed is there, too. As are the beds of junior and his two brothers.

A short distance further into the interior of the home (and I do mean short), we find we are actually in the backyard. In fact, we find ourselves standing in the bathroom. It is a sharing of space, a dialogue with nature, a marriage of the elements inside and out – air, greenery, light, earth and stone. Again, the accent is on simplicity, on an intimate relationship with the land.

And the evidence of this relationship is all about.

Filed under: Practical Paradise

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