You lift your head to ask if this is a dream. She presses her finger to your lips and smiles. As she gently places the shining blossom into your outstretched hands, she whispers, "This will be safe inside you. Together, you will understand." You want to ask her everything, but you know you mustn't. She kisses your lips and stands tall. Raising her arms, she fades slowly. The air is filled with the scent of the sacred lotus. You press the flower to your breast and it vanishes, sinking inside you. And you begin to understand.
You find her in the swamp itself. This time she is wearing faded denim shorts and a sleeveless top, muscled abdomen and arms well exposed, bronze skin glistening. She is knee deep in muddy water, examining each blossom with careful fingers. She looks up at you with bright green eyes and smiles widely. Her hair is blacker than the darkest muddy water, tied back with satin. She looks so young and so old.
"Are you here for another one?" she asks. "Never mind, of course you are. Hold on. I need to find yours." She moves slowly, dipping her hands in up to the wrists until her skin is masked in mud.
"They're sleepy today," she says. "Here, talk. Ask which one wants you and I'll take it."
"Do I have to come into the mud?" you ask, preparing to remove your shoes.
"No, no, just call out. They'll hear you even far away."
You take a deep breath, focus on the flowers floating all around the woman, and say, "Dear blossom, come to me." You aren't sure if that will work. But then the woman nods. She tilts her head one way and the other. She turns around and walks a foot, then slowly bends at the knees and carefully scoops up a richly pink lotus that looks exactly like all the others. She whispers something, and the flower begins to glow. Grinning, the woman walks out of the swamp and holds out the flower. "Perfect!" she says. "Instant connection. Good job."
You cup your hands and she slides your lotus into your hands. There is a small amount of mud; it feels cool and refreshing, with a slight tingling. The lotus shines so brightly that you need to squint, and it disappears into your hands, under your skin.
You blink at the woman. "So that's it?"
She smiles. "Nope. Never. But you're learning more as you go. I'll see you when you're ready to come back. You'll know where I'll be."
You want to ask something, something important. You have forgotten. You just feel blissful. You reach out, and she hugs you tightly, burying her face in your hair. You rest your chin on her shoulder. She smells like lotus and frankincense and pure joy.
"I'll come home soon," you murmur. She just nods. Nothing else needs to be said.
The lotus flowers are in full bloom, all of them. You stand naked and waist deep in the swamp, surrounded. The blossoms and glowing gently, swimming around you. Your guide is nowhere. You cannot call out, or speak, or even whisper. You draw in a breath. A small pink petal floats on the air toward you and presses itself on your tongue. No, you think. I must not speak. You are crowded by flowers. Instinct speaks, and you fall back until the lotus flowers catch you. You are floating on a shining bed of full lotus blossoms. You are covered in tingling mud. You open your mouth and light streams from it. A single whole flower lifts and slowly flies to you and settles gently in your mouth. You breathe in very slowly, and the lotus becomes pure energy that pours down your throat like a refreshing drink. You close your eyes. Everything makes sense. You are everywhere. You begin to laugh, but you do not know if it is in your mind or through your mouth.
"There you go!" says a familiar golden voice. "How do you feel now?" You open your eyes. You cannot stop laughing like a child. The Lotus Woman has eyes that cycle through every shade of green, and you find it fascinating. She reaches for you, and you reach for her. She scoops you up and carries you to a heated rock beyond the swamp. There are clothes waiting for you, folded on another rock. The Lotus Woman helps you sit up. She produces a wood brush and slowly combs your hair, letting the bright, bright sun dry the muddy water away. She carefully rubs you down with a towel that feels like silk and cotton. You look at her, finally, and notice that now she is wearing a red sundress that moves like water, with boots polished like mirrors.
She finishes smoothing you down and helps you into undergarments, blue slacks, a red tee shirt, and boots similar to hers.
"We're going to the healing room," she says, "if you'd like. There will be oil massage and saunas and showers of all kinds. Now that you have your next lotus, I think you'll appreciate the new magic."
You just feel so much bliss, so much joy, so much euphoria, that you only nod and smile widely. She taps her finger on your nose. "Now, don't get excited. That'll fade. We need to make sure it doesn't overwhelm you. It's supposed to become part of you, remember?"
Licking your lips and taking a deep breath, you say, "Yes. I'll remember." Your voice sounds like small bells inside your head.
You hold the Lotus Woman's hand and shield your eyes from the sun with your other hand. She is leading you far from the swamp, but it is all right. You will be back soon, of course.
It is the way she looks at you, with that quirky smile and those gleaming dark green eyes.
You hold out your cupped hands, trying not to tremble, trying not to disturb the velvety white lotus nestled against your fingers.
"Is this your gift to me?" she asks.
"Yes," you say. "You have helped me so much... and I know you always have these, but I found this one right where I live, and, I mean, I know they're so rare, but..."
She holds up a hand, smiling so widely. "It's okay, sweetheart. I understand." She very carefully takes the lotus from you, holds it to her lips, and kisses the petals. "Thank you. It's perfect."
"Maybe... maybe tomorrow," you say shakily, "we can go to the swamp and... you know... talk to the other flowers?"
She tilts her head and her eyes fill with compassion. "Oh, darling," she murmurs. "Don't be so nervous. There's no need to be shy. This is your world. We will do anything you wish."
You nod, your throat thick with tears. You have no idea what to say next. You realize you don't need to say a word. You watch as she holds your white lotus gift to her breast, and you watch as the lotus turns into golden light, and you watch as the lotus melts into her bronze skin, and you watch as she draws a deep deep breath, exhaling into the sky. Suddenly, you feel a massive weight lifted, spiraling away from the top of your head. Energy fills you starting at your feet and moving in a rush until it reaches the same top of your head. You feel absolute and complete ecstasy, euphoria, tranquility, and serenity. You draw a deep deep breath, exhaling into the sky. You want to laugh, so you laugh. And she laughs with you.
You feel how deeply the universe lives inside you. You laugh, and you embrace everything you can reach, until you feel yourself glowing. You dance and dance, and she takes your hands and joins you, and the universe dances with you.
This time, you are standing ankle-deep in a swamp at midnight. Everything is glowing blue - the sky, the water, the lotus flowers, your skin.
The Lotus Woman is sitting in front of you, cross-legged, surrounded by blue and white lotus blossoms all in full bloom. Her bronze skin, her black hair, her green eyes... everything about her is shining with pale blue light.
You feel comforted and serene in a way you have never known at such a deep level. You carefully sit down in the same position, letting the mud flow against you. You and she are both dressed in shorts and sleeveless tops, no shoes, your hair both unbound. The mud sinks effortlessly into your skin.
Neither of you speak. After a few minutes, one lotus blossom floats into your lap, white and blue and covered in dew drops. You very gently pick it up and it dissolves into your skin with an intense burst of blue and white light.
She grins and laughs, clapping her hands. "Oh, yay! I was hoping you would get that one. It's been waiting for you."
You smile and shrug. "I guess I've been waiting too."
The dozens of flowers float and spin around you both, several touching your skin and her skin, merging with you in tiny light bursts that feel like soft winds. She holds out her hands and you reach out and you grasp them tightly.
You don't know how long you sit and meditate, but it doesn't matter. Forever can fit inside a single moment, after all.
The white and blue lotus blossoms swirl around you, lifting your soul, until the entire world is filled with light, and you feel completely at peace, bursting with serenity.