Lessons from the American Lotus

Sunlit Ice on Pond

American Lotus through Sunlit Ice © 2011 Bo Mackison

  Nature is a mirror held to our view so we can see the ongoing process of growth, renewal and transformation in our lives.

~ Mary Anne Brussatt

I love this east corner of Strickers Pond in Madison. It is the only part of the water that has these pond plants which I’ve photographed for a few weeks, and I just discovered what they are – American Lotus plants.

The American lotus is an emersed native – the roots of the plant are in the muddy bottom of the edges of lakes, and the stalks protrude from the water. Their leaves are circular; they do not have the familiar indentation that water-lily leaves have.

Before the stalks weaken and break in late fall, the plants look like open umbrellas, all together, rather like big-city commuters, hurrying home in a downpour.

Plants are fascinating to study throughout the seasons. I didn’t see these in bloom, but I’ve read they have large, plate-sized blossoms, bright yellow.

Sounds lovely, but I rather like them at this stage, in their winter existence stance. Some will keep standing, especially if the pond gets its typical snow fall. After a good storm, they’ll be supported by a foot or more of snow. Some of the stalks will be smashed to the surface by the ice storms that often precede the snow accumulation.

American Lotus Seedheads

American Lotus Seedheads © 2011 Bo Mackison

No matter, each plant already dropped its seed head, the seeds have loosened from the heavy protective pod, some settled in the pond’s muddy bottom waiting for winter to come and pass into spring, for the long dark to turn into days of lengthening light. Next spring a new crop of lotus will be waving their green high above the water and in summer a sea of yellow flowers will show off for the neighborhood.

These plants give me hope. Today they are brittle brown, broken, most are leaf-less. They stand in disarray. Yet, I still see a deep, rich beauty in them. I know the new plants will fascinate me when they rise from the water, and entrance me even more when they form a yellow floral carpet above the water.

There is a beauty throughout their life cycle. Just as I am learning that there is beauty in all of us, both in our up and down periods and throughout the cycle of our lives, too.

When I stand with my feet in the mud, broken, ashamed, worried about my future, I am beaten by the cold and winds of indifference and harsh words, even hateful words. But also by my sensitivity, my fear. I feel alone and vulnerable.

And I walk around the pond and I’m reminded of the promise of fresh growth, new experiences, deepening awareness — these thoughts hold me upright through the darkness. The light will return. The cycles will continue.

Seeds. Light. Water. Earth.

The cycle of life continues.


Bo Mackison is a photographer, owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She anticipates the approaching winter solstice, and the promise of lengthening days.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Joanne Keevers says:

    What interesting plants these are Bo. The first thing they reminded me of were used floor mops, up-ended to dry! It sounds by your description that the summer growth of the plants is rather beautiful, but as you say, there is also beauty in their disarray. Love how you’ve likened them to the cycles of life. 🙂

  2. Yes..natures’s cycles are truly amazing..and always filled with promise and hope. What fascinating seed pods and plants..and what a wonderful textured image they create!

  3. what an awesome view. I love both photos.

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