By Jim Poling Sr.
I was having one of those bad days that everyone has. Hot water tank gave out, thunder storm took out satellite service and a boat flying a flag with an obscenity for the prime minister raced along the shoreline for all the young swimmers to see.
(Covid seems to have robbed some people of any small bits of intelligence they might have possessed. Many of us dislike Trudeau but intelligent protests are done at the ballot box, not with obscene language in public).
At any rate, it had been a heavily depressing day so I took a walk to a favourite place in the woods. There’s a marsh there, almost 100 per cent covered with lily pads and their spectacular star-like blooms.
It was early evening and I noticed the pure white blooms with their yellow centres appeared shrunken; not widely open and smiling at the sky as they do on sunny mornings.
Then it struck me: here was another important lesson from Mother Nature, the greatest of all teachers.
Water lilies wake up in the morning, spreading their petals wide to take in whatever the day has to offer. It may be happy sunshine or rain and ripping winds, but they accept it all and go about their business of providing food to beaver and moose, shelter to fish and pollination for the ecosystem. And, of course, calming beauty to an increasingly frenetic world.
In late afternoon or early evening they fold their petals, closing the book on the day’s events. Then they rest, recharging their energy for when morning light opens their blooms for another day.
Like many things in nature, the water lily is smarter than we humans. It knows when to close down and recharge, and when to open a new chapter. Tomorrow is another day.
Too often, humans don’t know when to stop. We push ahead with tasks and disputes without taking time out to pause, reconsider and regroup.
Water lilies are magical. They grow out of the mud several feet below the water’s surface, producing waxy pads that float on the water’s surface. The flowers produce seeds that sink to the pond’s bottom and produce new growth.
There are several dozen species of water lilies growing around the world in different sizes and different colours. Ones found in the Amazon can have flowers 100 to 200 centimetres (three to six feet) in width and pads that can hold as much as 30 kilograms (66 pounds).
Water lilies have spiritual significance in some cultures. In Buddhism and Hinduism the lilies symbolize resurrection because the petals close at night and reopen in the morning, similar to spiritual rebirth.
Buddhists also believe that the water lily represents enlightenment because its beautiful blooms emerge from the darkness of a muddy pond bottom. There is an Egyptian creation story that says the Sun God, the earth’s creator, emerged from a primordial water lily and banished the darkness.
It is hard to think of another flower that has been more drawn, painted or photographed than the water lily. There are tens of thousands of water lily photos to be seen through books, magazines and online.
Claude Monet, the famous French impressionist, produced a series of 250 water lily oil paintings over a 12-year period. They depict the flower gardens at his home in Giverny, a village in northern France.
His water lily paintings are wildly popular and sell for millions whenever one is put to auction. One of the paintings auctioned in 2014 brought in $54 million U.S, dollars
Vincent Van Gough, another famous artist, is not known to have spent a lot of time painting water lilies. However, he produced a pen-pencil drawing of water lilies in a pond when he was young and deciding whether to become an artist
Water lilies do not seem to have caught the eye of writers as much as they have of painters. However, the Turkish writer Mehmet Murat Ildan has written a line that captures the essence of this wonderful plant:
“In a marshland amongst the crocodiles, there float beautiful water lilies! Even in the Hell, one can find the good and the beauty.”