The Lotus Sweetened by Summer Light

August 17, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

These serene nymphs reside year round at the Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC. Their graceful forms are at their fullest in sublimity around mid-July to the end of August. A lotus is actually quite different from a water lily. The lotus, scientifically called the Nelumbo belongs to the family Nelumbonaceae.  The genus Nelumbo contains only two species, the Nelumbo lutea and the Nelumbo nucifera.  By contrast, the every-day water lilies in the genus Nymphaea, include a plethora of 70 species.  Molecular studies and fossil records have shown water lilies to be among the earliest of flowering plants.  The lotus flowers in my series on this site convey a certain attitude that in my mind equates to ballet. If you look very closely, one can identify certain ballet positions; the cou-de-pied, carte, the petite changement, the arabesque, even the batterie in a strong gale.  As the lotus does not sit on top of the water, it rises from the water level to extend above and beyond, attracting those art deco symbols so well-known as dragon flies to cling to their petals. The individual flowers bend, and sway, point their toes, and curve this way and that, leaning and splaying themselves in all their nudity to reveal their inner selves to spectators.  The standing leg may be either bent, in plié or straight.  These beauties are native to southern Asia and Australia, having large leaves, pinkish hued flowers, and that infamous broad, round, perforated seedpod, which is commonly used in dried flower arrangements.  Their hyacinth-like scent floats above them in a bewitching cloud. Their extensive leaves allow plenty of shade from the boiling sun allowing fish and turtles to sun themselves without that abhorrent sunburn we all dread. 

Photographing these exquisite gems was something like a dream.  It was a dream with a subject that could do no wrong.  There is no "good side" to their profiles, no unattractive sagging parts or marionette lines under the mouth. All their sides are "good".  They are fully aware of their gorgeousness and they flaunt it.  They pose for the photographer allowing one to move around slowly and capture every elegant angle.  The nights are not rough on them, and they awake each morning dewy-eyed and refreshed.  No dark circles on their perfect skin.  In their religious meaning, they convey a symbol of rebirth, and represent all that is true, good, and beautiful, with a deeper meaning of good fortune, peace and enlightenment.  Lotuses are often portrayed in Japanese and Chinese art and are a common recurrent design motif.  You see, the humble lotus grows up from mud into an object of tremendous brilliance.  Therefore, the symbol conveys human nature showing a transformation from the struggle of life at its most basic level. Who could have imagined that a Sunday morning trip to the Kennilworth Gardens could expose one to such sage wisdom?

Moreover, the ancient Egyptians saw a powerful healing ability in the lotus flower.  The perfume was not only pleasing to their culture, but the flowers were used to counteract poisons, treat the liver, and regulate the urine.  Lotuses were used as an overall panacea for good health and for enhancing sexual vigor, creating a feeling of well-being and euphoria.  The blue lotus was found in the tomb of Tutankhamen scattered over the Pharoah's tomb when it was uncovered in 1922.  Fit for a king, these plants have long-held an indelible place in history.

So, perhaps, we can all identify in some way with the Lotus.  Delicate, fragile, but yet strong, we, as people, come from nothing.  Like the lotus, we float, unfold, and blossom into the life where we belong.


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Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! `I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?' she said aloud. `I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth. Let me see: that would be four thousand miles down, I think--' (for, you see, Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a very good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over) `--yes, that's about the right distance--but then I wonder what Latitude or Longitude I've got to?' (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say.)


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