There are often moments of awareness that sporadically hit me as I travel. There is a certain clarity and presence that distinguishes itself from my previous life. Tonight was one of those nights.
The grass beneath my bare soles was soft, warm, and so inviting. It had deceived me. Before I had even felt it I had already judged it. It appeared harsh, dried up and with little green left. It must be course, itchy, and possibly full of stickers ready to implant themselves in the uncalloused parts of my toes. This was Australia in the midst of summer. But as I stepped from the concrete, it welcomed me as fondly as family would.
Across this sea of deceptive grass was the place I intended to be. Under the arms of great, full trees were the many bodies of luminous souls. They laughed, danced, and drank the wine of each other’s company as the sun began to set behind those lush trees. Props were scattered among the crowd, hoops and poi and staves and clubs and unicycles and drums and didgeridoos… We planted ourselves among them, rolling out my tie-dye sarong and plopping down with hoops and sun-warmed jugs of water.
I was still ocean-swept, having spent the previous few hours along the Victorian coast line, floating in the pulses of the waves and watching fish skirt around me. We had enjoyed the sun at its peak, warming our backs and ushering us into the cool embrace of the sea.
Soon after we arrived in this suburban park and greeted a few familiar faces, one of the many jumped from group to group to gather everyone together. We all deserted our seats and interlaced our fingers, spreading out wide and forming one large, smiling circle. The circumference was impressive, at least a hundred people strong. One person took the lead and began to pull the circle in a trotting rotation, faster and faster until someone broke and continued the momentum into a spiraling vortex of laughter. Closer and closer the spiral pulled inward, moving quickly into a group hug and cheer to celebrate another well-lived day.
Now I sat cross-legged, relaxing for a moment before taking to the open grass with hoop in hand. It was twilight and the air was still hot as I moved through it. I suddenly became aware of the salt on my skin and the way it felt against the humidity as I danced. Something about it, mixed with the occasional scent of marijuana and kerosene, and the sounds being pounded out from the drum circle, brought me into that crisp, clear feeling of Now.
With that feeling still lingering, I returned to my little tie-dyed seat to watch the others spin fire, weaving those flaming geometric arcs through a darkening sky. Above us, against that vast, lapis canvas, came the bats. They had just awoken and at first it was only a few of them soaring by ever so elegantly. More began to appear, and more, and more – until the sky was spattered with them, all moving in the same direction: toward the dying sun.
Vivid orange streaks of fire blazed against the deep blue background and the drums were thunderous, abbreviated with piercing Kecak chants. The dancers were electric and the sound began to crescendo as the bats poured out in the largest mass yet. They flew across the sky more like eagles than the sporadic, tiny bats I knew back home. The energy was peaking and I sat in awe of it all. The build of the drums had reached its deafening apex and just as they came to their abrupt halt, the mass of bats had ended. The gatherers exploded into cheering and applause.
Like a lucid dream, it was one of those moments. As the feeling left and the bats disappeared to their destination, I sought out the next round of dance within the drum circle.
Above photos by Simon Nguyen.