An orchid sits on my desk next to a window that draws my gaze outside from time to time as I work. My Dad chose this plant when I took him to the florist to pick out some flowers to celebrate his 71st birthday. One stem at a time, we constructed a huge bouquet to give to the residence where he lived and, only after I begged him to choose something for himself, he picked out a purple orchid in a square green pot. It reminded me of the orchids his mother (my grandmother) used to keep on the windowsill in her kitchen. When I asked Dad why he had chosen that particular plant, he replied, “I just like that kind of flower. I always have. Do you like it?” I assured him that I did. I liked that it elicited memories and that it felt both delicate and exotic as well as strong and durable, comfortable and familiar. I wondered if it held memories and emotions for my Dad also.
I watered the orchid each week when I visited Dad and its delicate blooms lasted for months. As summer turned to fall, the flowers died and the stalk which held them fell off too. When Dad died that winter, I brought the orchid home to my house.
For the last 3 1/2 years, I have moved this sturdy green plant from surface to surface trying to find the right combination of heat and light to nudge it into blooming once again. I have repotted it twice, watered regularly and offered orchid food. Then, in February of this year, as the hours of daylight began to grow longer, a promising shoot emerged and began to grow taller. Eventually little purple buds appeared and began to grow. As it grew, I began to imagine it would bear flowers by Dad’s birthday in April. When that anniversary came and went, I set my sights on Father’s Day. By that time, there were more balls of flowers-to-be, but they were still closed tight.
Meanwhile, outside the orchid’s window, the lupine has popped up, blossomed and is now going to seed within a span of 2 months. I do not know about the botanical construction of either orchids or lupine but I trust that each plant is living out its cycle as it is intended. I am drawn to the contrast between the spare orchid and the lavish lupine field. I am struck by the dramatically different growth patterns, paces, and displays. And I am intrigued to notice that the plants elicit different emotional responses in me.
The wild, abundant, and frenetic lupine patch engages my senses and my sense of urgency. It seems to call me to action and ask what’s taking me so long. It urges me to take advantage of the energy of the season by giving my own energy to full participation in the explosion of potential. Considering all the world needs that are on my heart and at the forefront of our collective consciousness, the lupine’s call is alternately invigorating and exhausting.
Meanwhile, the molasses-slow orchid invites me to slow down and pay more attention. Its movement and growth are so slow they could be imperceptible. I am reminded that just because I can’t perceive the changes doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty happening. As I witness the protracted growth of the flower stem and buds, I recognize my own inner blossoming. Given the personal work that needs to be done to support our communal development, the orchid’s whisper is inviting and steadying.
Today, the lowest two flowers on the orchid have opened. I have been waiting, sometimes impatiently, for this for months. Now that it has finally happened, it all seems just right. The hummingbird is looking longingly through the window at the delicate new blooms as I admire the memories and teachings that they carry. Each flower has a delicate heart shaped center that must have been developing all these months, carefully protected by the outer petals.
May I always recognize that the teachings of the earth are teachings of the heart.
May the unhurried beauty and peace in these flowers support the beauty and peace within us.
May our own wholeness bloom in due time.