I went to the Botanic Garden recently and in my possession was a flowerless, wrinkly leaved orchid plant I had received as a housewarming gift in July of 2013.  My quest, or so I thought, was to talk with experts at the garden to see if my plant was still viable.  Little did I know that this visit would turn into a life lesson on patience and perseverance that reached far beyond taking care of an orchid.

This orchid was the first in my possession that stayed alive for so long, as I had very little knowledge of how to care for it beyond the instructions included in the pot, which were kind of odd, given that an orchid naturally grows in hot, humid environment and doesn’t need to ‘cool off.”  It just needs water, as all living things do, to exist.  “Place three pieces of ice on it once a week” it said; there was no mention of fertilizer or repotting or tropical plants freezing from ice.  Following these directions, it had flowered constantly for two years. Success!  However, for the last six months had been barren of flowers, and in the last number of months some of its bright green leaves began to shrivel and wither.

Luckily the Orchid Show was in full bloom at the Garden (insert groan for pun here), and there were many people from which I could receive reassurance that all was well with my plant.  Just add a bit more water, remove it from its decorative pot, let it drain, and it will thrive.  ‘Lose the “Ice” idea,’ they said.  My instincts were right; give it space and keep it warm.

As the conversation with the experts continued, they placed a plant before me that had interesting cane like stems with variegated design and flowers that were pale pink and beginning to fade.  It is the plant in the picture at the beginning of this story.  I commented on how lovely it was and how its’ cane (found out the flowers are on canes not stems) reminded me of a beautiful snake.  In the animal spirit world, snakes are a sign of great transformation and positive change. This notion totally changed my feeling about snakes from creepy crawly things that I didn’t want to encounter, to creatures that shed their skin, recreate themselves and grow anew through the seasons.  An admirable thought for us humans to consider as our bodies age and change.  The Orchid Society professional and flora rescuer shared that she found this orchid in a dumpster, as someone had deemed it not ‘show worthy’ or good enough for display.  She brought it to their booth, knowing they would find the right person to nurture it and encourage it to thrive.  I commented that I admired her tenacity to keep it alive.  She then gifted it to me.  Wow.

What did this woman see in me that made her know that this plant had found its next home and caregiver?  I don’t know the exact answer, but I do know they supplied me with information about the two different orchids now in my possession, the one I brought with me being in the Phalaenopsis family and one saved from the dumpster of the Dendrobium variety.  I hope I can do the Orchid Society proud.  And I thought that was the end of this story.  Then I realized she something more.

This story goes way beyond taking care of flowering flora.  Orchids teach us perseverance and patience, as I learned that we need to nurture it when it’s not displaying its best outward appearance; we have to wait a considerable amount of time for its inner beauty to reveal itself.  So it is with people; I particularly think about this as we go through the teenage years with our children.  Gosh, they can be so annoying, as we to them, but eventually we appreciate each other as time and wisdom blossoms within each of us.

The snake-like design of the cane reminded me that we all have the ability to transform to something new with each new season.  We can shed what is no longer needed and create anew on a regular basis.

And that the Orchid Society person saw something beautiful in this plant that someone else had dismissed as worthless; she saw its inner beauty and potential.  So it is with people; we need to look beyond the surface to envision what is yet to come.