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Spirit of life

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment.

–Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace

All that lives, on this planet, depends on oxygen to keep its metabolic fires alight. –All, that is, but the primordial and still vitally important orders for which it is toxic and which have, since the Great Oxygen Catastophe, therefore retreated to murky depths and anaerobic sludges. For the rest, ourselves and plants included, that element might be considered an enabler to organized life secondary only to carbon (most versatile of structural nodes) and water (universal solvent, general acid and base, thermal buffer, etc. etc.).

The air we need is made in the main by shallow-water algae and cyanobacteria, a minor third by land plants (from which, in turn, come most of the fuel we burn with it). Some sources stand between, with roots in the muck and crowns floating upon or stalking above the surface. The former include Nymphaea odorata;


the latter Nelumbo lutea


as well as escaped exotic cousins, all rich larders for valued pollinators and diverse other animalia, and a delight to multiple senses. This display of purity-from-defilement underlies representations of the Buddha on a lotus seat, and perhaps, by extension, the Sanskrit mantra Om mane padme hum.

Whether erect or afloat, the pads of either may collect splash or rain into a kind of pool-within-a-pool, a refuge large enough to host diverse mobile life-forms for a transitional visit


(though not always with very steady support)


or a somewhat more extended incubation:


The lotus leaf, like Norton Juster’s Humbug, has the unusual property of being practically unwettable; with contact angle near 170º reducing adhered area below 1%, a droplet rolls around like a ball bearing,


while a frog can wrap itself in a wet blanket


and contemplate a crystal ball (closeup here).


Technical references to this “lotus effect” include

Who dedicates all actions to God without attachment
is unaffected by sin, as a lotus leaf by water.

Bhagavad Gita  Ch. 5, v.10

In the middle of this flooded field, one partially filled lotus pad stands out (if not up) not only for color and cleanliness, but also for the silvery shimmer of partial reflection at the water-air-leaf interface:


On a bright summer day, the normally invisible exhalation is trapped by surface tension, in the main sliding laterally to where hydrostatic pressure lessens rather than forcing its way directly upward:


Closer inspection shows a bathtub-ring of pollen, dust and other debris left behind as the pool shrinks in hot sun; all this will be washed away when (if?) it rains again.


Same pad, in action:

Numerous and admirable are the flowers of land and water, herb and tree.
… I love only the lotus, which from filthy mud arises unstained
Laved by pure waters, yet not seductive
Freely open within; without erect, neither rambling nor branched
Distant, the fragrance more delicate
Slim, clean, upright
To be enjoyed from afar, not over-intimate …
Where are those who, like me, love the lotus?

–Zhou Dunyi,  On Loving The Lotus   1071