What are your walls saying to you?
My sister, Lynda, emailed me a snap of a new display of photos she’d hung above her bed. It was a shrine to her life, her daughters’ many successes and the dedication to her marriage of more than 40 years. Family is everything to Lynda and her photo wall reflected a life well lived.
I also have a photo wall, in fact many photo walls. Why settle for one when 6 walls can drip with memories? They showcase the fifteen years I’ve lived in Bali. There are portraits I’ve collected, a few of my own paintings, scores of photos of friends, family, my lover and of course Rina. She’s my pet poodle and the greatest love of my life. My adventures stare at me, celebrating and reminding me of the diverse life I lead.
In my past Australian life I also adorned my walls with reminders of life , especially my vacations. I was a hard working school principal, but every holiday I would jet off to Indonesia to enjoy a different and vibrant culture. And because I hung out with artists, every holiday I would buy a painting that I would add to my collection. I had paintings of a village barber cutting hair under a tree, a group of six women is ceremonial costume, Widi paddling a canoe, a flute player, Balinese dancing girls and at least five portrait-heads of Balinese friends. Viewing these would keep me going for the ten week term until I could be reunited with Indonesia.
My life was good, my career successful, but I was suppressing my dreams. Life’s demands had overtaken me. Returning home from work in February 1999, I sat in my living room with a glass of wine, looking at the walls and thinking, “Just 9 more weeks and I can return to Bali.” As my eyes moved between paintings, the conversation began.
“What are you still doing here?” asked the barber from Lombok.
“Are you too scared to leave?” the barber’s client asked.
“Why have you got rid of all your junk if you are not going anywhere?” whistled the flute player.
“Why did you get your tax returns up to date if you weren’t going somewhere?” asked Inung through pouting lips.
“You’re learning Indonesian. When are you going to use it?” questioned the sextet of Balinese maidens.
“Why do you keep buying paintings instead of painting them yourself?” asked the big Wayan head.
“You keep going to Bali and your friends there are all artists. Why is this?” Ketut’s dancing girls demanded to know.
“Why haven’t you been looking at the signs? They surround you. What are you going to do?” they all asked.
“Please take me with you,” pleaded Widi, the boat boy, “I miss my home.”
As I looked and listened, I realised that the paintings on my walls were not a celebration of my life, but rather prompts to change. Together we made my decision and the following day, I tendered my notice after a teaching career of 25 years. June 1999, I moved to Bali to paint, write, create and live. Fifteen years later the adventure continues.
What are your wall telling you? I hope they celebrate a life well lived. If they are saying something different, perhaps it’s time to listen.