Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

gang_of_four.jpgWe were a gang of four in make-up, prom dresses, high heels and dangling candy cigarettes sitting on the front steps talking about boys, parents, school and what would we do next?

At some point, we would ditch the fantasy dress up clothes, wipe off our mother’s stolen make-up, and change into our play clothes and sneakers (the ones that we could get dirty without our upsetting our “Leave it to Beaver” mothers). It was the fifties in Manhasset, Long Island , where I spent an unforgettable sun drenched summer time. It was a magical time for growing up. It was before Kumon and Sylvan tutoring centers popped up in every suburban strip mall. It was a time when a child could discover his or her world without constant parental interference.

Our gang — I’m pictured on the far right — would cross over the street to our neighbor’s backyard where we climbed over his modest wooden fence and then scaled over the much higher richly ordained iron fence and steal into the desolate Vanderbilt estate. Oh, there were signs about guard dogs, and security but that never stopped us. Our older brothers had already been over the fence so we knew it was a safe bet. The abandoned gardens were mysterious and exotic with stone statuary covered with ivy and mosses. We loved pulling the ivy down from the statues in key anatomical areas. We would howl in laugher at our arrangements. The highlight of the garden and favorite meeting place was an overgrown lily pond partially shaded by mature trees where we traded secrets about our lives and families. We picked many wildflowers on the grounds of the estate but never touched the glorious pink, yellow and white water lilies. It was there that I believe my love of flowers and spiritual connection to the water lily was borne.

water_lilies.jpgIt was Odysseus in classical mythology who discovered the “lotus-eaters” who languished in a dream like state after eating the fruit of the legendary lotus. The adeptly named “Logaphi” tribe was a band of dreamers who had escaped the weariness and indifference of the material world. The lotus-eaters became a favorite theme for numerous writers the most notable among them Alfred Lord Tennyson, Somerset Maughn, James Joyce and Robert E. Howard. In a television episode titled “This Side of Paradise”, Captain Kirk encounters aliens who eat magical spores putting them into a state much like the infamous Logaphi of classical mythology. This flower has captured the soul and imagination of writers, philosophers and painters throughout time. The lotus flower in Buddhism is one of the most symbolic motifs representing a state of spiritual enlightenment and purity.

It was then with a deep sadness that I read in the Los Angeles Times that the water lotus beds were of Echo Park Lake were perishing. (Claude Monet’s Nympheas, or Water-Lilies, from 1908 is shown here.) The park is an oasis for many Angelenos who go there to escape the headaches and pressures of daily life. Echo Park is a tranquil place where among other enjoyable activities, children play ball, lovers take strolls and where painters once flocked to the park to paint the magnificent water lilies. Legendary singer/songwriter and political activist Pete Seeger wrote the song, “Where have all the flowers gone.” I find myself humming this song these days and shaking my head at the lack of love shown to our earth’s most precious gifts.

Flowers nourish the gardens of our souls and as the Buddha sutra states:

“The lotuses of heaven can change according to people’s wishes, flowering when needed. In this way, they bring joy to the hearts of all. There is no need to declare one false and the other real. Both are called the wondrous lotus flower.”

Therefore, I call upon our City Fathers to show some enlightenment and purity of heart to help bring back the famed lotus beds of Echo Park. As the song plays on “when will they ever learn?”

margie-murrayMargie Murray

Margie Murray is the Vice President of Valley Democrats United and the Newsletter Editor. She is an elected representative of the 41st AD of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. Margie is a painter whose works can be viewed at www.margiemurray.com. She is currently working on a series of paintings with fellow artist Otto Sturcke.

Margie (on the far right) pictured in the above photograph with the girls.

Other articles by Margie:

Published by the LA Progressive on July 22, 2008
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Comments

  1. Flowers Moscow says:

    That’s really awesome news. Indeed it is really great that Eric is help out to restore the park. It would be really an awesome park one’s it’s done. And thanks a lot for taking the initiative Margie. Really great of you.

  2. Thank you Stacy! It was great to see that Eric Garcetti is helping restore this wonderful park.

  3. Great write-up Margie. Brought back so many memories of my child hood. Nicely written. and the letter shows some great signs. Its really good to here that repairs are underway. keep up the awesome work. Your awesome. Cheers

  4. Margie Murray says:

    Wanted to share this letter:
    On Mon, Jul 28, 2008 at 12:09 PM, Mitch Ofarrell wrote:

    Hello Margie:

    After receiving your post on his facebook page, the Councilmember asked me to get back to you regarding the Lotus Flowers at Echo Park Lake. As part of an 80 million dollar restoration of Echo Park Lake that is gearing up as a result of funding from Proposition O, the clean water bond that city voters approved in 2004, complete restoration of Echo Park Lake and the Lotus Flower bed will be under way in the near future.

    In addition to that, the residents of Echo Park are extremely engaged in this effort. Echo Park is one of the most involved communities in the 13th Council District. Between the Echo Park advisory Board, the historical society, lake advocates, the bird watchers club, the Improvement Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Neighborhood Council, there is great interest and advocacy for the Lotuses.

    Over the decades the water quality has degraded significantly due to many factors; heavy metal deposits, silt build up, polluted storm water run off, and leaks from pipes that bring water in to the lake, and poor drainage and water circulation. To a lesser degree, some people will dig up Lotuses since they’re in very shallow water. Also, the genetic age of the Lotus tubers could be reaching the end of their life span. Currently, Recreation and Parks is engaged in water testing, evaluating 9 Lotus plots in a fenced in area that they recently installed, and evaluating the possibility that turtles are eating them too!

    However, the bottom line is that once the comprehensive lake repairs are underway, hundreds if not thousands of Lotus plots will be re-installed. This will begin in about 2 years. If you’d like to monitor this process, please contact our contractor, Black and Veatch. They can be reached at 213/485-5933. They can answer technical questions way better than I.

    I hope this helps. If you’re interested in partnering with us in the future regarding bringing back the Lotuses, please contact Echo Park Field Deputy, Albina Ferreyra. She is copied here and we can be reached at the number below.

    Sincerely,

    Mitch O’Farrell
    District Director of Constituent Services
    Office of City Council President Eric Garcetti
    5500 Hollywood Boulevard, 4th floor
    Los Angeles, CA 90028
    Phone 323-957-4500
    Fax 323-957-6841
    http://www.cd13.com

  5. Robert Illes says:

    It is getting to be a puzzlement, as the King of Siam might have put it, what our kids are going to remember fondly. The tiger is disappearing for goodness sake! The disappearance of the lotus flowers in Echo Park (agreed – a tranquil place in the middle of LA, a nice stopoff after a Sunday Dodger game) is certainly a dark metaphor, a warning, as if from Buddah himself. But certainly from Margie Murray, in a sweetly done essay. “They” – the advocates of “drill now, drill tomorrow, drill forever!” – scoff at Al Gore and the others who weep for our environment. Of course Gore is not just weeping, he is doing. That is our charge, to DO, at least for the future memories of the children… not to mention our ability to be surrounded by beauty – or simply to just breathe – right now! Be one with the zen, or risk the karma.

  6. Sharon Kyle says:

    Margie,

    What a sweet tale of yester year. The photo brought back memories of my own chilhood spent with my sister in the Bronx. We didn’t have the same vice you had. We used cigarettes made from bubble gum. You could blow the powdered sugar that coated the gum and pretend it was smoke.

    The cigarette industry marketing dept was pretty smart. All the kids in my neighborhood “used” them. It’s a wonder they never came up with toy tourniquets, hypodermic needles and little fake packets of heroin for children to play with and pretend to be adults.

    It would truly be a loss if the lotus flowers die off. Let’s hope this is widely read.

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