My Pet Orchid
Author: Susan Rose
Way back on November 23rd of 2019, a millennium ago in the era of pandemic, I gave a house concert. My gracious friend Monika attended, and brought me a gift of an exquisite white orchid, with two strong shoots of glorious flowers, exploding with life. I looked at Miss Orchid with appreciation and trepidation in equal measure. Monika had no idea she was offering up this lovely creature to possible neglect and death. My track record with plants has been poor, and in saying that, I flatter myself. To my surprise, Miss Orchid didn’t ask much of me. We kept her on our kitchen counter, watered her once a week, and she soldiered on, ebullient, oblivious to her level of risk. Ah, the reckoning came when her flowers failed after three months of celebration.
I cut back the two stems, as I knew one should, and then briefly contemplated what to do next. I had heard, with skepticism, that all one needed to do was to continue the weekly watering and that someday in the distant future the plant might dare to create new flowers. Did this matter to me? Hmm. After some hemming and hawing silently, I took Miss Orchid and put her out in the cold to die. Argh. Five minutes later, I was consumed with guilt. Turns out we had a relationship. I ran outside, brought her back in, and decided that watching and waiting might not be beyond me, and that perhaps I needn’t be as toxic a plant parent as I was assuming. Miss Orchid was unaware of my brief betrayal, and settled back into her dormant period calmly.
When the pandemic hit, everything was different. We needed to stay home, put time and attention into whatever emerged, practically, spiritually, physically, relationally and emotionally. I hated it. I was sad, angry, lost. Staying home can be a pressure cooker that either makes a savory stew or an explosion. So much of my life has taken place outside the house. Miss Orchid was just fine, the same as always, gathering her energies to explode into extravagant beauty once more. After five or six or seven weeks, I began to follow her example. I became more inward focused, less restless, more appreciative of the positives that I live with on a daily basis. My flaws became clearer to me without the accompanying negative self-talk. They became issues that I could hold with some compassion and gently encourage change. And the same increased patience transferred into more acceptance of my husband’s quirks and faults. During Lent and Easter, we listened to Scripture daily and shared communion at home, serving each other real red wine and bread with gluten.
Now my pet orchid is growing a whole new stem, with infant flowers building in her imagination. I can see them too. My husband and I ordered a new pot and new orchid food for her, in honor of her bravery and persistence. We took the risk of moving her from the old environment to the new, having watched an instructive video on how to do it. I gently clipped her new shoot to the small pole that supported her other flower babies, and I am full of faith that the birth will be successful. Miss Orchid is my teacher in a number of ways. She shows me that God is with us in the house, manifesting life, hope, patience and showing that we can grow into more connection with the sacred when we pay attention. I am seriously considering getting a purple orchid friend for her, with whom she can share the kitchen counter.