Gifts of the Sea

You never quite know what will emerge from the sea in Bali. I don’t mean sun, sand and waves; nor do I mean the flotsam and jetsam that floats up onto beaches, damaging the eco-system, creating public health issues, widespread discontent and eyesores everywhere.

I mean the unexpected.

One of the beaches in Sanur is visited by the Hindu Balinese as a pilgrimage site, before Nyepi (Day of Silence) and after a cremation, where they scatter ashes.

The husband of Jakarta-born friend recently passed away, and thought not Hindu, her desire was to scatter his ashes there as well.

A group of friends (and his caregivers) gathered, prayed, chanted a mantra, sent the boat off into the sea with people, offerings and the box of ashes; and then we dined and drank coconut water alongside his photo, burning incense and their whimpering pugs.

But the unexpected part unfolded simultaneously, distracting many of us who were congregated at the beach. A loud announcement rattling through the air, issuing a tsunami warning. And then, a boat at a distance, just close enough to see that it held passengers – but neither were they Balinese people nor tourists, rather…cows.

Turns out that there is a daily shipment of cow cargo that arrives from the fields on the island of Nusa Penida to the shores of Sanur. Once disembarked from the boats – normally, the boats are beached on the sand – the cows are herded into open trucks, and driven to the nearby market. They are purchased by farmers, priests and regular folks who may use them for farming or food.

The wind was so breezy, the waves so high and choppy, that the cow-boat nearly tipped over. In the end, it dropped anchor on the sand but couldn’t come into shore. So a large group of men lined up in the water, handed the cows, one by one, from the boat into the water, guided them towards the shore and, once the animals found their footing, herded them onto the waiting trucks.

It was a sight to behold, at once surreal and heart-breaking.

Gifts from the sea.

You never know what might Mother Nature might have in store, what may spring forth from the ocean, the skies and the trees…

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