We 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.
It 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 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.
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