Time’s Sands: The Pattern of Life in Legung

Away from prying eyes is where the myriad myths and legends grow. Unfettered by the ebbs and flows of the real world and its attendant beliefs, ancient practices ferment and grow and solidify among the shadows. So far do they exist from the conventional and traditional, it is no wonder to the untrained eye they convey the impression of quaint and old-fashioned narrow-mindedness. Nevertheless, their reality is as truthful and vital as any of the greater conventions of our time, and their existence is that of lesser mercy.

Thus goes the thinking in Legung, one of Sumenep’s more obscure tributaries. Superficially at least, there’s nothing untoward for the visitor to experience. The palm trees sway in a requisite manner, the attendant beach is no cleaner or dirtier than its cousins elsewhere in the regency, and the atmosphere is somewhat typical of an Indonesian village. Generations of families exist under the same roof and the community is, apparently, bonded as though by steel.

Still, the traveller notices something as they enter one of the housing compounds. Four or five buildings, constructed of ornate marble slabs in the Madurese traditions, converge upon a sizable courtyard. Its floor ripples with the mottled effect indicative of recent and sustained rainfall, and scattered across the yard are sandboxes. For purposes or play or relaxation, the traveller understandably wonders to themselves.

However, they walk inside the buildings and encounter the same thing; a small room, no bigger than that of the exterior sandboxes, lies covered in sand. On its surface is any number of family members. It appears as though they take it in shifts to sprawl upon the sand, in varying states of disrepair; the older generations bristle, unsure and surprised by the unestablished, unsought attention of the outsider.

The logic is simple: the sand is more comfortable than conventional furniture. Over the years it has come to replace the traditional seats and tables and other accoutrements associated with living space. The villagers prefer it this way: the sand cools them down when it’s hot, and vice versa. It allays health difficulties to such an extent that some are adamant it has life-giving qualities.

Theirs is a symbiotic link with the sand. In Legung they are born on the sand, they live on the sand and they die on the sand. Such is the flow of life.

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