Culture Culture

16/11/2021 - 07:17

Another lotus season has passed…

Another season of fragrant lotuses in Hue is over.

Cycling on the familiar streets in the Citadel in the morning enjoying the sweet aroma of surrounding trees, though I could not tell what kind of fragrance it was, I was able to feel clearly the purity and sweetness of trees grown on the streets. 

Cycling on the familiar streets in the Citadel in the morning enjoying the sweet aroma of surrounding trees, though I could not tell what kind of fragrance it was, I was able to feel clearly the purity and sweetness of trees grown on the streets. Passing Tinh Tam Lake at the end of the lotus season, I saw old lotus leaves, not as green as they had been around a month before, densely pack together despite the color stains of time and the aging on each leaf.

In the lotus season, Tinh Tam Lake is a stopover for both locals and guests

I dropped by my friend’s house facing the lake. On the small table was the tea set he had prepared for drinking tea in the old style. He made tea in a slow and leisurely manner as if he wanted me to know how meticulous making tea from a white lotus in the lake was, and how much time it took to do so.

“Watching lotuses in full bloom from this place is like being immersed in the lake. It is so beautiful beyond description. But I don’t know why I still have a special love for lotuses at the end of the season. Looking at old lotus leaves, I even can hear “sounds of fading.” Strangely enough, I always see the beauty in them,” said he softly.

He spanned a small bamboo bridge, about fifteen meters long, to the middle of the lake, which served as the “studio” for people to take photographs. I stepped to the bridge end to have a close look at old lotus leaves and a few white lotuses dotted here and there with just some petals left. Behind an old leaf was a lonely sepal with many pistils around and scattered in the lake were some brown dead sepals. 

It had rained a lot the day before in Hue leaving clear drops of water on old lotus leaves reflecting the sky. I suddenly realized that heaven, earth, and nature were all packed in an old lotus leaf with brown spots which were spreading against its greenness.

Watching the lotus lake, I missed my mom so much. I remembered once my mom said she did not like the folk poem that “the lotus is near mud, but it does not smell of mud.” She thought mud was not smelly; it was as clean as soil. Mud smelled only when one released defilement into it.

My mom belonged to the old generation who thought women did not need to study a lot and that for women, knowing how to read and write sufficed. But she could say such fair and profound things about lotuses and mud. I remembered I was speechless many a time at my mother’s wisdom, not only about lotuses, but also about many of her other observations. 

My friend and I stewed lotus roots for lunch. Looking at the brown roots dug up from under the mud, I thought about the devotion that lotuses dedicated. The lotus offers its flower, seeds, leaves, roots to man just like mothers who always give the best to their children.

My eyes nearly watered when I watched his mother tend to the pot of lotus roots on the fire. Any mother in this world loves her children more than she loves herself. She generously gives everything to her children without thinking and calculating.

That day, his mother took care of us just as she had done when we were at primary school. She took food for us, asked us to eat more. I could not help preventing my tears. Our hair has turned grey, but her love for her children is still always green.

White lotuses at Tinh Tam Lake are the speciality of Hue

Lotus root stew is not only cool and wholesome, but also medicinal. His mother as well as my mother do not cut lotus roots into thin slices. Instead, after cleaning them, she beat them with a wooden pestle. In remember, my mom asked me to beat lotus roots so that they would be soft and chewy to eat. Cooking secrets are sometimes just small details. 

Just like his mother, when her daughter’s boyfriend came to visit, observing how he was eating, she allowed him to marry her daughter. “My mom has acute eyes,” he whispered to me happily. 

At the end of the season, veins on lotus leaves became more prominent and their green color had been fading with time, but their stems were still strong and straight. Breezes moved thousands of leaves. Hue was windy that day, but the lotus lake at the end of the season gave me a sense of peacefulness like the peacefulness I had when nestling on my mother’s lap when I felt sad, enjoying the smell of tobacco in her pocket. Just her embrace and her pocket with holes out of smoking could release all my sorrows.

Lotuses are as honest as all mothers in this world.

Story: Xuan An

Photos: Bao Minh – Trung Phan