The French master Claude Monet created a large pond from a stream within the Japanese style garden he built in front of his home. It was here that he put brush to canvas to paint his final series called “The Water Lilies.” The most famous of those paintings, of course, was simply named, “Water Lilies.” His pond was full of Nymphaeaceae inspiration and so was my summer.
I didn’t paint this summer and I don’t claim to be an artist anyway. However, this summer was a masterpiece for me. It was by far the best one I’ve had in a very long time. Nature painted me a beautiful picture day after day and, with the world slowing down due to Covid 19, I slowed my pace to enjoy it.
My days were still filled with work, though from the safety of my home, but my evenings and weekends were often filled with simple adventures. Walks, hikes, and swimming under the sun. A few nights filled with star gazing and comet spying. I reconnected with my outdoor loving self and embraced the lifestyle coined by the Scandinavians as friluftsliv. It was this reconnection with nature that inspired me to take up a new hobby and thus admire and inspect the Monet foliage more closely.
I ordered the first reasonably priced paddle board that Amazon would deliver the fastest. Summer is short in Seattle so there was no time to waste! My teal blue board arrived shortly after summer officially began and I was able to embark on its inaugural voyage on a small lake north of the city one evening when the sun still remained high in the sky.
Floating on the surface of Silverlake were water lilies. Lots of them. My first response was not the same as that admiring gaze that Monet’s masterpiece has always elicited from me. It was more like panic as the wind took me, inexperienced and not yet steady on my board, closer and closer to the pretty patch.
Of course I love the bright petals that point to the heavens from their circular, glossy green pads. I still look for frogs to perch on them and sing out songs like from a Disney cartoon. However, the water lilies don’t just float on the surface. They are attached to slimy tubes that root in the soil at the murky bottom of the water. I feared falling in and getting tangled in the tubes. I didn’t want to sink to their origin never to resurface again. So I fought many times to keep them at a safe distance. I feared what lurked beneath. I feared the unknown.
After awhile, I felt secure on my board. I no longer feared falling in. If I did, I was prepared for the parts of the plant hidden under the surface. I no longer thought I would be drowned by them. I even began to seek them out and paddled through the water lily laden Washington Park Arboretum. It was beautiful. So much life. I explored a bit and even touched the slimy stems beneath the surface. Not so bad after all. Knowledge often conquers fear and so I learned to love real life water lilies with all their parts and not just the pretty flowers on pads that seem to float in paintings.
Summer is now over though. My paddle board is packed away. The lily pads have been dying back and I am very sad to say goodbye to them. I take comfort in knowing that their essence, their roots, will live on below the surface through the winter months. They will slumber until spring when their new leaves send champagne like bubbles to the surface and then follow with a beautiful display of flowers again in the summer.
I am already dreaming of next summer, water lilies, and the new adventures that surely await me.