Guest Post by Cathan Kabrelian
Being caked in mud
The bath is all the sweeter
Patience now, my friends
There is a park in the heart of Tokyo, Ueno Park, which holds a little lake, they call it a pond, which, in turn, holds a celebration of the lotus. When I visited last, a little over a year ago, it was a gloriously blue day. In a city (the most populous in the world at 37 million people) where hustle and bustle reign and busy intersections fill with thousands of walkers at once, there were surprisingly few people in this lovely oasis.
I walked around the lake enjoying how the sunbeams sparkled on the surface and made my way over to the lotus beds, full of expectation. Alas, I was not met with a sea of lotus blossoms as I had hoped, just a sea of large, green leaves. How disappointing. I noticed this. So I closed my eyes, basking my face in the sun, breathing in the smell of the water, the leaves, the mud. “Just breathe. Be.” Feeling the sun on the skin, the slight pressure of the breeze, hearing the sounds of the city, the lotus leaves gently nudging each other in their watery beds below. A few minutes there, breathing, noticing, changed the disappointment to full-on gratitude, remembering how incredibly privileged I was to be standing in such a beautiful spot half way around the world.
When I opened my eyes and began to walk away, I noticed a touch of pink out of the corner of my eye. There, rising above the greenery, was a precious lotus blossom, just starting to open its petals to the sun. Stopping to appreciate this gift, in that moment, it came to me that while all the others were sleeping, this one stood tall, testing the waters, stretching, patiently waiting, slowly opening one petal at a time. Only one blossom; all alone. Beautiful.
And that would have been lesson enough, but there was more. It came to me then that this was not the first in the beds to bloom, leading the way, but the last, for it was the end of lotus season. My heart filled with love at the thought that this little bud had not felt ready before now, had not trusted that it was safe to open, surrounded earlier by swaths of blooms but nevertheless closed to the possibility of the sun.
What depth of wisdom I saw there in that little lotus. Each in our own time. Each with our own understanding. The last to trust and open is just as beautiful as the first.
I turned to go, and there by the very edge of the pond were a few tightly closed lotus buds, tinged with brown edges. I smiled and whispered to them, “It’s okay, little ones, maybe next year you’ll feel safe.”
With gratitude for the last lotus of the season.