Monday, November 10, 2008


No, I'm not name calling, I only want to post the photo of a lotus pod taken this fall at the Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. But it makes for a good title, doesn't it?

Though, on second thought, why not? Why not write about the lotophagi, the original lotus-eaters of classical mythology - the island folk from whom Odysseus has to drag his men away, because his men have eaten of the lotus "fruit," so delicious a fruit that all who partake of it forget the past and wish to remain in the neverland of a drug-induced dreamworld.

And then there is Episode 5 in Ulysses, "Lotus Eaters." In James Joyce's riff on Homer's Odyssey, Leopold Bloom's latter-day Odysseus daydreams life as a lotus-eater in the distant exotic Orient:

...lobbing around in the sun, in dolce far niente. Not doing a hand's turn all day. Sleep six months out of twelve. Too hot to quarrel. Influence of the climate. Lethargy. Flowers of idleness. The air feeds most. Azotes. Hothouse in Botanic gardens. Sensitive plants. Waterlilies. Petals too tired to. Sleeping sickness in the air. Walk on roseleaves...

It has been speculated that Homer's lotus fruits may have been some kind of jujube, Ziziphus lotus. It is reputedly not Nelumbo sp., the plant which produces the pod of a water lotus shown in our photograph - a plant venerated throughout the ancient Far to Middle East. Every part of the water lotus is edible. In those cultures, the brown pupilled dilated-looking white eyes in our lotus pod are a common and versatile edible bean, and can be eaten fresh, dried or popped; alternately, they can be milled or ground into flour or paste. No reports of hallucinatory nor of unwarranted descents into oblivion have surfaced.

But I'd like to think that we can still aspire to being contemporary lotus-eaters if the spirit should ever seize us someday, anyday... (Jujubes seem to be harder to come by, but that may have to be a topic for another day.)

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