Originally published in the November 2020 issue of Lakeside Living magazine. Click here for the magazine issue.
I stared at the last lotus of summer as if it were a dying flame. Right on schedule, the seasons have turned from spring to summer, summer to fall, even though day-to-day life has largely remained unchanged.
Looking at the pale petals hovering above the lake, I can’t help but think of the Lotus-Eaters mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. An island where the people consumed the lotus flower, forgetting their former lives and routines, living out each day in a dream-like, monotonous state.
These days, sameness seems to be a chief complaint. We rise, dress in practically the same clothes as yesterday, eat basically the same meals, complete a similar set of tasks, mostly in the same place, sleep, and hit repeat. So go the days. It’s like we’ve been shipwrecked each to our islands, slowly forgetting the way life used to be.
I glance again at the delicate blossom rising above the murky depths of the lake and think about how lately, it’s easier to look on the darker side of life. But aside from its mythic associations with forgetfulness, the lotus plant has been admired and prized as a symbol of purity, persistence, and new beginnings for centuries.
Each lotus plant begins its life embedded in the thick muck of the lake bottom where the slender stem grows slowly upward through the dark waters, searching for the light of the surface. Then, in the soft glow of early morning, the lotus flower blooms.
Often dubbed “the flower of the dawn,” the lotus flower opens each morning, closes its petals in the afternoon before sinking back beneath the water’s surface only to repeat the same process the next day and the next and so on until the last petal falls. Though born from mud and submerged underwater every evening, the flower remains remarkably pristine. A special wax coating on the petals repels all traces of dirt and muddy water, leaving the bloom untarnished despite its environment.
There’s a lesson in the life cycle of the lotus if you care to look for it, and I’m starting to think now that the Lotus-Eaters missed the point. Forgetfulness isn’t bliss. Living unmindfully isn’t the path to pleasure. If the lotus teaches us anything, it is to live with purpose, conscious of our passing days, even when they seem tedious or the same.