W101 – Orchid People
Day 6: A Character Building Experience
Today’s Prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?
Today’s twist: Turn your post into a character study.
Here I thought I had it down, that my dislike of such definite questions was based on some dysfunction of my own character. But now through these Writing 101 assignments I’m learning that I just plain don’t like them for their finalism, such as having to pick the three most important songs in your life for Day 3. Or maybe I’m just having a grown-up fit because I’m sometimes an indecisive fool! 😉
Well it’s been over a year now but not by much since I seriously began collecting orchids and so for this assignment I find that my characters will be ‘Orchid Enthusiasts’. Most of the orchid people I have met I’ve not officially met, I met them online on OrchidBoard. The people there are obsessed let me tell you, and I fit right in. I really can’t put any faces to them even as I’ve seen some pictures of people. Last month I happened across a vendor table selling Zygopetalum triste seedlings (triste is a species as opposed to a hybrid, my only species now). On this table there were also some Butterworts (a carnivorous plant) and some Phalaenopsis seedlings among other things. The triste drew me to the table but once there that was not what captivated me; there was a picture of a flower I had seen before. It was the first flower of a cross made by one of the Orchidboard members. When I inquired about the picture, or rather pointed to it, the young woman behind the table said it was her father’s! I had no idea how old this member was or even that he might possibly be an Aussie living in the states (still don’t know for sure). I had conversed with him on many different threads given my nerdish fascination in breeding orchids and his very obvious experience in having done so many times (I don’t even know how many different crosses he has of his own). Plus he seems quite interested in Zygo species and hybrids as well and many a time I have sought out advice from him.
Now I knew that he lived in the area from his posts and profile, etc. but to run into someone – or their family – unintentionally, that you’ve affiliated with online is a strange sensation. Ironically he wasn’t there that day, it seemed just his kids were (at least at the time) dutifully tending to their father’s love of orchids. When I asked her if she herself was following in his footsteps she laughed that she wasn’t exactly, especially not in his misting them with his spray bottle every day. I imagined this man walking about his house with a little spray bottle checking and rechecking plants spraying them like some fanatic, or like myself… I guessed that she was closer to my age than he would be (given he had an adult child) not that I’m so young but by process of elimination that’s what I deduced. It was almost uncomfortable because I knew that I had more in common with him than her. I walk from plant to plant picking them up, spinning the plastic pot around to see the plant from every angle. I touch the medium checking its moisture (am I behind on watering or is it still moist), I inspect it for little bumps poking out or thin, leaf-like structures that are clearly spikes coming up from between the leaves (it would be something more like a little bump on a Phalaenopsis). I shriek when I find something, good or bad. I step back and analyze the plant’s position relative to the light and its neighbor. Is it cool or warm over here? Do I think there’s a troublesome draft? If the plant has shown no signs of change/growth for months than I analyze its growing conditions, wondering where and if it would be happier in a new location. Should I move it closer to the south-facing window? Should I move it to the bird room where it is warmer? Does it need more air circulation? More light? More water? Are the pseudobulbs wrinkled (if it has them)? Then when I get to my computer I’m off to OrchidBoard reading through the threads and picking people’s brains about how they got their plant to flower and what I might be doing wrong. Or I share with them what I did with my plant that hurt or helped it. It’s undeniably a community and we are all mad-scientists.
There are people on there who own greenhouses full of hundreds, some maybe thousands of plants. People who write woefully about how their heater failed only for them to find out some hours after it happened and the temperature in the greenhouse dropped to near and below freezing temperatures. One woman wrote that she thinks she’s going to quit. Most of her collection appeared to have been affected by the cold that took over her sacred space, she couldn’t deal with the heartbreak again and most certainly not the financial responsibility necessary to rebuild a collection of over 100 (or was it 300?) plants, many prized possessions. I discovered the thread months after it happened. I was embarrassed as if I had neglected something so tragic and the pain that she endured. It wasn’t but a post later that the emotional impact of this tragedy was felt. Other members poured their hearts out, issued their condolences and the most touching of all, offered to send plants to her to help rebuild her collection. Even as I write this my heart wells with a hope and faith about the world that isn’t always so obvious. Post after post people asked what plants she’d lost and forewarned her of a coming private message (PM) to obtain her address so they could send her plants. The optimism and compassion prevailed, don’t give up; I’m so sorry for this tragedy; install an alarm so should this happen again you will know right away. No one had to spend much time or energy wondering what it would be like to lose all your plants like that. I could feel her gratitude, her tears wept through the screen as she too felt the hope that she might not have to give up her beloved hobby after all. She posted later that she had just received a box of 10 of the best, most well-packed plants she’d ever received from another member of the board. I was in her shoes, I felt the weight of the box in my hands, the newspaper’d contents within (I assume there was newspaper in there), the surprise of green leaves and little green bodies in my hands welcoming them home when I’d thought my home may now be empty and void of them. Through my empathy, born of a shared love of these exotic plants, I watched her carry and deliver them to their new home alongside the plants that had survived the catastrophe. Such are Orchid People.
Before last year I never understood people who ‘collected’ roses or any plant for that matter. I didn’t get rose clubs and societies, and this from a person – as you’ve probably read in other posts – who quite enjoys plants, and has my entire life. I just didn’t get it, until I acquired a plant I couldn’t let die, that Phalaenopsis from my little brother’s funeral who grew twin keikis and was suffering. Orchid people are those who are capable of adoring simple pleasures; who alight over variety and diversity; who obsess about naturally occurring species versus man-made imposters or those who worship the enormous complexity capable as a result of such hybrids and refuse to be confined to all that you’ve seen before. Orchid people immerse themselves in a world that is not human – at all – almost unrelatable or totally unrelatable depending how you see it because in it we are stewards, we are guardians, we are shepards, we are caretakers, we are challenged. Orchid people are challenged to discover, know, and achieve what makes any given plant the best it can be. Orchid people find therapy in watering, misting, repotting, watching, and admiring even as we stress over pests, the frustration and tedium of repotting, the sickening length of time from emergence of a spike to the appearance of blooms, the constant balancing act of more/less water, more/less light, more/less fertilizer, more/less heat, cool, air circulation, pot it bigger pot it smaller, rotted roots or disease. They’re our “chids”. Through orchids we see the incredible diversity of life and have the privilege to care for another life that is so foreign to our own.
One of the funniest threads I’ve read on OrchidBoard is “You might be an orchid enthusiast…”
“If you cancel lunch plans because you missed one watering day already!”
“… when you plan your vacations around Orchid Shows and Sales”
“If you move to Miami for the ideal growing weather”
“If you stop making plans of any kind on the weekends because it takes all damned weekend to water the chids!……you might be an orchid addict.
If you notice you’re starting to get buff from hauling trays full of orchids from the bedroom to the kitchen sink to be watered…..you might be an orchid kook.”
“… if you can’t bake cookies, cause all the cookie sheets are now humidity trays.”
“If you go to a store and see a shriveled and neglected noid, and you have the overwhelming urge to call the store staff together and give a lecture on proper watering techniques….you just migt be…” (Btw, I’m like this person…oh and a noid is an orchid that doesn’t come with a name tag thus No-ID)
“…when you have to go out to the grow room anytime you need cinnamon, alcohol or Listerine?” (Cinnamon is used in many ways with orchids including as a desiccant to seal or cauterize wounds – i.e. you cut a spike, leaf, or bad pbulb; Listerine and alcohol can be used as general disinfectants, Listerine is apparently good for killing some pests and more…)
“My son mentioned that he may come home for the summer and my husband said ‘well you may have to fight with your mum for your room.’ Bless him, he said he’d share………..”
“When you wake up and you find you were dreaming about how to improve the potting mix for the poor little Paph you have – this happened to me two nights ago after a long session on the ‘board’ ”
“When you build a room onto your house just for orchids!”
“If you show your postal delivery person where the emergency house key is “just in case” you’re not home.”
“When your amazing husband offers to take you to orchid shops ‘Because it’s fun to see you so excited.’ ” [I love this one, makes my heart smile.]
“You jump up and yell when you see an orchid in the background of a T.V. show. . . and can tell what it is after seeing it for half a second.”
“you pause tv shows or movies to look at the orchids in the background!”
“you might be an “old” orchid enthusiast when you worry more about dropping yer plants than yer pants”
“You might be when the neighbors see the lights from your basement and start asking if they should be calling the police…”
“When vacation plans include car rentals and orchid babysitters!”
“When you used to think it is crazy to pay for drinking water but now you find yourself buying bottled water for your orchids but you still drink tap water.”
“…when I am looking at new appartments the first thing I look at is the size of the windows and the light coming thru them..”
“…when you go on vacation and constantly think of bringing an orchid home.
…when you buy the orchid the day before you leave and are unable to obtain the proper documentation.
…when you ponder ways to sneak it past customs.
…when you almost pee your pants at the airport thinking that customs will find your orchid and will charge you a large fine.
…when you scold yourself after thinking about how much more orchids I could have bought with the money used to pay the fine.
…when you actually make it through customs and start to regret that you didn’t buy more orchids.
…when you go home and discover that the cardboard box you used to carry your orchid has been smashed.
…you feel relieved when you open the box and find that the orchid is fine
…when you start planning your next trip so you can bring back more orchids.”
“… when your 5 year old sister knows more about orchids than most average 50 year old people.”
“… oh and when your hubby jokes that he daren’t stand up because if he does his seat will get filled with orchids”
“Better yet…when you’ve sold the hubby’s seat in order to make room for more orchid shelving. ”
These are orchid people (btw there’s 31 pages to the above thread, last I checked).