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A Ripple in the Pond

(A Tale of Self Image)


       At this very moment in time, in a small pond nearby, lives a colony of yellow pond lilies known as “The Spatterdocks.”  They are a cheerful group, with their bright yellow sepals, their large almost heart shaped leaves and their harmonious relationships with an assortment of insects, animals and other plants.  Indeed, water lily leaf beetles, painted lady beetles, bees and mayflies visit regularly to enjoy the pollen and fiber provided by the sunny benefactors.  Frogs enjoy laying eggs where they can be protected beneath the leaves, and beavers and muskrats often feast off the huge roots, known as rhizomes.  In late spring and early summer, the rare spatterdock darner, a blue dragonfly with even bluer eyes, will enjoy flying about  the pond.  All of this is the way of nature with no harm done, and the Spatterdocks flourish in this environment.


     One day last summer the peaceful and contented coexistence of the pond inhabitants was disrupted when  a well-meaning  human being  with a  love of  all  things  horticultural  introduced  a  species  of plant never before seen in this particular locale.  It wasn’t invasive, and it didn’t cause any great ecological harm, but there was a certain ripple in the calm waters that could not be ignored.


    The newcomer was a tropical water lily - a star shaped flower with a profusion of pink and white petals surrounding a center of yellow stamens.  It was truly lovely and exotic, and therefore, quite showy.  It  immediately  became the  subject of  conversation throughout the colony, and all of the pond creatures, if they were not encumbered by a root system, swam or flew to see what the fuss was all about.  After a bit of initial trepidation, it was discovered that the leaves were tasty, as was the nectar, and the water lily soon became quite popular.


     This was all well and good for the water lily, as well as the Spatterdocks, who, being a congenial group, were happy to share. There was one exception however, and this involved a recently opened bud, who was aptly named Pond Lily.  Pond Lily, like all the Spatterdocks, was surrounded by pond inhabitants and had many good friends.  However, when so much attention was diverted to the showy water lily, she suffered an unfortunate crisis of self image. She decided that her own beauty, some of which was still hidden within her modest sepals, was inadequate.  She sulked, she whined and she wished that she could look like a water lily.  As embarrassed as she was by her appearance,  she kept her sepals closed so that she would not draw attention to herself. Soon she was completely alone.  


     After some time had passed,  Pond Lily grew restive and began to feel a very strange tingling within her sepals. They gently opened to reveal white points emerging around her pod shaped pistil and then growing into long petals with pink at their base.  As she stared  at  her reflection  in  the water,  she was astounded  to  discover  that she  looked  more  like a water lily than a spatterdock, and her spirits were greatly lifted.  She began to imagine that her friends would return, and that she would become the subject of much adoration and adulation. 


         Pond Lily sat in the water and waited for insects, frogs, turtles, beavers, muskrats, anyone! to come  to  her.  Alas,  her  attitude  was  haughty and no one was attracted to her.  Again she sulked, she whined and she wished and wished for her friends to return.  The sun set, the nighttime fell, and the next day the sun rose again. Still she was alone.


    The morning passed uneventfully, and as the day wore on, it grew warmer and warmer. Pond Lily grew so weary that her sepals relaxed and opened just a bit more in the sunlight.   The white and pink petals fell away almost simultaneously, with the result that the inner Pond Lily was now revealed for all to see. In the place  of  the  unnatural  petals  were  Pond Lily’s  own small  delicate ones which surrounded the base of her pistil.  These petals were all but covered by an array of lively stamens, each with a bit of pollen at its tip.  The circular top of the pistil had graceful edges which curved in and out to complement the ray-like arrangement  of  rice-shaped  stigma.  The sepals, which just recently had acted as an enclosure that had hidden the lovely interior, now served as its frame.  The entire effect was that of captured sunshine floating on the surface of the pond.  


   Needless to say, the pond inhabitants were immediately attracted to Pond Lily.  Her old friends as well as new ones came calling, and Pond Lily was now truly happy, having learned that it is best to be true to one’s self and rely on the beauty within. 


    And what happened to the water lily?  It had enjoyed its stay at the pond that summer, and did rather well for itself, growing stronger throughout the season and contributing to the overall community.  However, it did not care for the winter months and so it did not return the following year.

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