Friday, June 18, 2010
Beauty Floats on the Water
Claude Monet is one of my favorite painters and the water lily is also one of my favorite flowers. Once, when I was visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art some of Monet's paintings were exhibited. I stood there in front of his gorgeous work completely mesmerized. It took every ounce of effort not to reach out and touch the canvas.
In summer's past I have vacationed in New Hampshire, high up a winding mountain road that leads to a lovely cottage. The front porch offers a gorgeous sweeping view of the lake, home to loons, beavers and water lilies.
When I am there, one of the most relaxing moments for me besides reading on the porch, is kayaking among the delicate, white water lilies that speckle the lake. The experience always feels magical, almost reverential, as I slowly glide past, gently touching the velvet, soft petals. For some reason, the flower came to mind today and so I offer you a few stories to add some magic to your day.
From the earliest Indian collection of Buddhist sutras, from the reign of Ahyu, comes this description of the beginning of the world:
“Between the mountains there were many rivers, flowing in all directions along 100 different routes, moving slowly downhill, without waves. The rivers were shallow and their banks weren't steep, making them easy to ford. The water in them was clean and pure, and flowers floated on the surface in abundance. The currents were full of them…”
According to this passage, the lotus was the first flower appearing in a world of water.
THE WATER-LILY. THE GOLD-SPINNERS
by Andrew Lang - The Blue Fairy Tale Book
Once upon a time, in a large forest, there lived an old woman and three maidens. They were all three beautiful, but the youngest was the fairest. Their hut was quite hidden by trees, and none saw their beauty but the sun by day, and the moon by night, and the eyes of the stars. The old woman kept the girls hard at work, from morning till night, spinning gold flax into yarn, and when one distaff was empty another was given them, so they had no rest. The thread had to be fine and even, and when done was locked up in a secret chamber by the old woman, who twice or thrice every summer went a journey. Before she went she gave out work for each day of her absence, and always returned in the night, so that the girls never saw what she brought back with her, neither would she tell them whence the gold flax came, nor what it was to be used for.
Now, when the time came round for the old woman to set out on one of these journeys, she gave each maiden work for six days, with the usual warning: "Children, don't let your eyes wander, and on no account speak to a man, for, if you do, your thread will lose its brightness, and misfortunes of all kinds will follow." They laughed at this oft-repeated caution, saying to each other: "How can our gold thread lose its brightness, and have we any chance of speaking to a man?"
On the third day after the old woman's departure a young prince, hunting in the forest, got separated from his companions, and completely lost. Weary of seeking his way, he flung himself down under a tree, leaving his horse to browse at will, and fell asleep. Click here for the rest of the story: http://www.mythfolklore.net/andrewlang/309.htm
I love how legends and folklore travel. Here are three legends, all with the same title, from distinct and different cultures. A bit of trivia before you begin: Some Maya believed that the earth was actually the back of a huge crocodile, resting in a pool of water lilies.
The Legend of the Water Lily - Folklore from Central Java
The Legend of the Water Lily - Brazil
The Legend of the Water Lily - Native American - Ojibwa Nation
An Education Resource from the North Carolina Museum of Art - Grades 6 - 8
Information about Water Lilies by Monet
Karen's Whimsy - Beautiful images of waterlilies for your use.
Water Lily Coloring Page
Image: Claude Monet - Waterlilies