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One image can sum up a holiday, a phase of life. You wonder what draws you to photograph certain sights, certain objects. What makes you strive to capture this particular image this way or that. Or when you take so many photos like I did when in Japan recently, it’s surprising how one or two images can capture the whole time and experience, the reflection in the lens coming back.

The image and symbol for that recent holiday and right now is the waterlily. The photo I took of two waterlilies in a pool of many at Yahiko, a little village in north west Japan, somehow captures this time now.

I’ve always loved waterlilies, the beauty rising from the mud, the perfection blossoming, the majestic clarity they carry and hold.

They have popped up at different times in my life. An etching I did once years ago at a time of immense change when I was pregnant, features me jumping from one lily pad to another in some archetypal riotous spiralling motion.

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At another earlier time, Australian author Kate Llewellyn’s ‘The Waterlily: A Blue Mountains Journal’ became a favourite reflective piece, read at a time of great turmoil many years ago when my heart was somewhat broken.

Kate captures twelve months of making a life in the Blue Mountains in her poetically infused language and style and especially the sense of being present through the flow of days and the feelings that ebb with them:

Shall I say in similar fashion, that it is now clear to me it is all visitors coming and going and then being alone and then visitors and cooking and cups of tea and talking and picnics and looking at the vast blue valley and the fire and the autumn, and then meals and making dinners and breakfasts and then looking at the plants and feeding the birds and stoking up the fire and writing in between. Something like that.

IMG_9186I must reread this lovely book and lose myself again in the rhythm of her days to refocus mine. There is pain and longing there but the calmness of the moments being harvested is soothing.

‘The Book of Symbols‘ tells me that the lily generally is connected with queenly divinities, identified with purity and innocence. Further…

Highly regenerative, the lily surfaces even after fire or drought. Alchemy honored the lily as evoking the very essence of Mercurius, the spirit of pysche’s unconscious depths and transforming opus. As the quintessence, the longed for goal of the adept, lily represents psychic integrity that is no longer pulled apart by affect.

The waterlily particularly symbolises the cycle of life, birth and death, and with its ability to produce blossoms and fruits simultaneously represents universality.

In the spiritual arena of Hinduism, the concept of resurrection is symbolically denoted by the water lily. This is because at night (or during darkness) the lilies close their blossoms and with the first ray of the sun, they open. It is also a symbol of purity, because even though the plant grows in mud, the flower is pure and free from blemishes.

What does a water lily symbolise?

So many ways of interpreting this image, so many water lily thoughts.

For me right now? It’s a symbol of renewal, of optimism, and of quietness, recognising the stillness and productivity in each moment and in the everyday. It’s about beauty and positivity rising so perfectly from an environment of muddiness and complexity. It’s also about honouring the fact that the mud the plant grows from is the anchor and the grounding for so much more. Without it, the beauty simply would not exist.

What images are you noticing and what are they saying in your life?