The day after the US presidential inauguration, I sought refuge down under. Taking cover in Perth was one way to avoid obsessing over the egomaniacal coup and crackdown that was beginning to unfold up over.
My own reasons for heading to WA (Western Australia) were less musical and only incidentally athletic; a daily early-morning yoga class, led by a senior instructor who had trained under BKS himself; Aussie-born but now spreading Iyengar gospel – teaching – around China.
Once mats were folded, and props put away, most of us would gather around a large square table at the back of a café across the street, dining on very-trendy morning treats such as almond macha or turmeric latte, a super-sized savory muffin or chai tea.
The rest of each day followed its own rhythm. Often, a nap followed.
Otherwise, I visited areas with playful-sounding names: Fremantle. Subiaco. Gnomesville (a secret garden)… in Cottesloe – one of the most pristine beaches I’d seen in ages. I sunk my body into a hot tub at the edge of Swan River, while a duo of elderly women walked lengths in a nearby pool wearing wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeves, their faces coated with titanium cream, blocking out the sun’s rays, Marcel Marceau-like.
I spotted remnants of royalty everywhere; walking through King’s Park, and at night, along Queen Street and into the Majestic Theater.
I gorged on vegan delights at the Manna Emporium and, for Chinese New Year, nibbled on Indian dosas and thalis.
But it was because of the house in which I stayed, a cozy brownstone government-issued bungalow built in the 1950s, because of the well-tended and loved backyard garden, and because of A and K, the mom-and-pregnant-daughter (both of whom are also Iyengar teachers!) whose home it was, that my visit was such a memorable one.
Do you ever get that feeling, when you enter a house that, despite its creaking floorboards, its non-functioning light switches, its temperamental water taps, its cracked ceilings and rumbling water tank, radiates warmth, exudes coziness and echoes through its walls and photographs, a lifetime of a family’s joys and tears? This was precisely THAT.
Despite all the sterile-looking, mini-mansions surrounding this sanctuary, despite the call of Perth’s CBD and cultural events waiting to be discovered, despite being lured by the beach, I reveled most in the time spent at home:
I pored through yoga books and manuals; read poetry and the selected letters between Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz; flipped through photo albums filled with images from Bali in the 1970s (till the 90s); meandered through the garden, a few tall trees (gum and other), strewn with bushes, flowers, herbs, tomatoes, basil, lettuce – and an assortment of Balinese souvenir-ish items: prayer flags, Ganesha statues, hangings, mirrors and other familiar knick-knacks.
And to think that all of this fell so easily into place, while I was out for a morning walk a few months ago, in Ubud’s rice fields… and there I first met A and her other daughter. Come to the yoga workshop in Perth. Stay at my house. Serendipity has never been quite so sweet!