I recently had the delight and privilege of visiting a place I’ve heard of for years, but had never seen, called Lotusland. Since I’ve lived in this area for most of my adult life, I was actually a bit ashamed to admit I’d never taken the time to visit before. Granted, for many years the estate was not open to the public because it is housed in a residential neighborhood in the VERY posh environs of Montecito.
Montecito is one of those kinds of places where you drive through and wonder what in heaven’s name someone has to do to be able to afford such opulence. When I was younger, we used to call it the elephant’s graveyard. As the very mature woman I have become (no laughing allowed), I realize those elephants would have to have some substantial scratch to even think about this being their final resting place. Actually, you are more likely to see the Hollywood elite or the dotcom darlings in Montecito these days. And, if you happen to see me you will know that I am either lost, longing, or as in the case last week, on a tour.
When one of my good friends got a job at Lotusland she said no more excuses, I needed to see what all the fuss was about. Thank goodness!
Although Ganna Walska’s estate is known as Lotusland, it also has a cactus garden, a butterfly garden, a fern garden, a topiary garden, a bromeliad garden, a theatre garden, a succulent garden, a blue garden, a water garden, an aloe garden, a Japanese garden, a cycad garden and a tropical garden. There are only a few more gardens than there were husbands, (Madame Walska was married six times) which also adds to the mystique and allure of the place.
Everything about her estate is awe-inspiring and unbelievably beautiful, but the actual lotus garden really touched my heart. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a lotus other than in pictures, so that in and of itself was very cool. But what I didn’t know was the lotus has to grow in mud. It can’t survive in any other environment. And, although it grows in mud, when it emerges it is completely, totally clean as though it had just come from the purest possible place.
The docent actually took a handful of water and tossed it at the lotus’ leaves to show us how the plant repels anything that gets on its surface. She also told us the lotus flower is regarded in many different cultures, especially in eastern religions, as a symbol of purity, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth. Its characteristics are a perfect analogy for the human condition: even when its roots are in the dirtiest waters, the lotus produces the most beautiful flower.
I couldn’t help but compare this to my breast cancer journey. There is something about nature (if we can just remember to take the time to experience it) that speaks to the soul. I love that the lotus flower pushes its way through the mud not only to show its beauty to the world, but with the natural ability to remain pure and clean regardless of what the environment throws its way.
The next time I’m tempted to feel a bit diminished by my health scares, or experience anxiety or anger about what I’ve been through, I’m going to remember the lesson the lotus flower has taught me, and recognize the beauty this experience has brought to my life.