A Life Lesson from an Orchid

Someone gifted me an orchid some years ago. They’re gorgeous flowers, and I’m not usually one for flowers in my home (I prefer longer lasting greenery), but I loved them. Its arching branch produced many beautifully speckled and spotted flowers, pink and purple in hue. If you looked closely into the middle of the flower, its pollinating center was extremely intricate looking; thin stems covered in tiny bumps with a bulbous end. I was in awe of it, as I usually am with nature.

What I didn’t know about orchids though, was that their flowers do not last for long. They burst and bloom at their fullest for a few weeks, and then they slowly shrivel and drop off. When this started happening to mine, I assumed I had under or over watered it. I assumed my interference with it killed it. In a day or so, it was just an empty brown branch.

It sat on my dresser for months, just a pot holding a pitifully barren branch. I stopped watering it and giving it attention, assuming it died under my care, but for some strange reason, I didn’t get rid of it right away. I did a deep clean of my room some months after and parted ways with the plant, throwing it into a garbage bag without a second thought.

A couple days later, my mom asked where my orchid went.

“Oh, it died. All the flowers fell off!” I exclaimed to her.

“Were the leaves still alive?” she asked. I paused. I didn’t even look at the leaves before throwing it away, but upon second thought, I realized the leaves were bright and sturdy, very much alive.

“They were, but I assumed it was dead since the flowers all died and fell off,” I stammered, trying to defend my action. My mom smiled. She enlightened me and told me that the orchid doesn’t stay in bloom for very long, but as long as I still took care of it, it would have bloomed next year. I felt extremely silly, now well aware of my mistake. I threw out a perfectly fine plant!

Since I’m a writer, my brain works in metaphors. I find the meaning in everything, perhaps to a fault, but that’s for another discussion. I was gifted another orchid by a family member when I moved out of my mom’s house. It was in partial bloom. I remembered my old orchid and had a stark flashback.

I think the orchid, and specifically my mistake with it, was a lesson in how I currently view myself as a young adult. I was seeing the best part of the orchid’s life; the prettiest, flashiest, finished product of its cycle. And once it disappeared, I assumed I was seeing its death, its complete ending. And the in-between? I assumed it was dead too. I only appreciated its finished product.

And in a way, I see myself the way I saw the orchid. I don’t allow myself the time to grow and change, just like I didn’t allow the orchid to keep growing. I assume my own “in-between” phase is not a valuable part of my journey. I see other people’s “finished product” and think I’m not far long enough, not where I’m supposed to be. I’m the bare branch while everyone else is in bloom. I am impatient with my journey and make rash assumptions about myself, just as I did the orchid.

I realized though, that things may look lost and incomplete on the outside, but below, they are healthy and teeming with life. The universe knows exactly what it’s doing, and as humans, we are no exception to the universe’s ultimate forces. The universe doesn’t throw things away because they’re unfinished; there’s a trust in the process, an innate knowing of what’s to come next. And as nothing short but of a child of the universe, of a birthing from the Earth itself, I shouldn’t doubt her. I will have my time to bloom. I require constant care and attention from myself to flourish, just as the orchid does. I may feel unsure about myself and where I’m meant to be at this current moment, but the universe knows where I’m going, and in turn, so do I; I just have to tap into that universal knowledge.

My current orchid sits empty by my window. I water her once a week. She’s a constant reminder that we rise and fall as humans. Some of us are in our rises and some of us our in our falls; all of it though, is on divine timing.

One thought on “A Life Lesson from an Orchid

  1. Beautiful metaphor, especially since those lovely flowers are parasites! Loved the lesson you learned outta that.

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