In her beautifully written book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer has a chapter about water lilies. Kimmerer is a botany professor but she is also a poignant writer and has this incredibly wise and wonderful way of linking our lives to those of the plant world.
She tells the story of her two daughters leaving home. She has just visited the older one who is attending university in a distant state and now she is driving the youngest daughter to the college she will attend. Robin recalls all the responsibilities she had as a mother keeping a household running for her two daughters and supporting them in their various endeavours. There were constant demands on her to give and give and give. Yet she is grieving deeply as she drives away after dropping off her daughter at her dormitory. Robin decides to go canoeing and the time she spends in nature feeds her and restores her. Just as she has been giving to her daughters for so many years now nature is giving to her.
Robin talks in particular about the water lilies she encounters canoeing and how they look so beautiful. She knows as a botanist that water lilies get their air and light on the surface of the water but they are anchored below by a rhizome as thick as your wrist and so strong it is almost impossible to break. Robin also describes in delicate and lovely language how the old leaves of a water lily and the new ones are inextricably linked and how they help one another survive.
Robin is wise enough to let her readers come to their own conclusions but her words reminded me so much of my parenting experience. How we hope when our children leave home we have given them a strong enough anchor as they seek the things that will bring air and light to their own lives. How we hope that the bond we have with our children will keep us linked together albeit in constantly new and changing ways and that as our lives move forward we will continue to help one another survive and thrive in this world.
This chapter in Robin’s book is entitled The Consolation of Water Lilies. She named it perfectly.