“We can think of our linguistic and situational knowledge not as separate and floating, but as elaborations of our already intricate plant-bodies. In this way we can think how the living body knows (feels, lives, is …..) its situation from inside. But what is a situation? A situation is never just something external.” -Eugene Gendlin
I am guessing it was at least 10 years ago. While busy doing other, much more concrete things, a dear friend and I spontaneously decided to visit the Annual Orchid Show here in NYC. We walked through the extensive displays, stunned by the exquisite variety of shapes and colors. As is my way, I also observed the people around me; we bumped shoulders in the rows, and cleared space for one another to have whole moments with each ephemeral labellum.
An area of the showroom was devoted to an orchid shop and a myriad of items for growing them. After seeing so many fine and soft growing things, I was immediately intrigued by the hard wooden boxes stuffed with earthy bulbs asking to be planted in fresh soil. With barely any confidence at all, and a few basic instructions from the kind cashier, I chose to take one home.
Hopeful, I gently potted the bulb as soon as I returned to the apartment where I then resided in the West Village. I tried to offer it all the conditions it required, though this was nearly impossible with my creaky, leaky old alley-facing wooden window. None the less, I did my best to water and feed the little plant. It grew several lovely, healthy-looking green leaves that seemed to want to remain about four and five inches long for many years to come…but no flower. I still considered it “my orchid.”
An anonymous quote appeared in an article this morning: “Depression and anxiety are not signs of weakness. They are signs of having tried to remain strong for way too long.” This got me thinking again about orchids and people as, you may have noticed, there are a number of similarities. Like orchids, people come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors, can be quite delicate, and require just the right care, attention, light, water, shelter and food to grow. Each part comes together to create the whole effect. Orchids are sexy, and while some people are seemingly more than others, we are sexy too. Both strive to be strong, and yet are vulnerable.
Thankfully, my orchid was not experiencing depression or anxiety during those earlier years. I occasionally was, when I thought myself inadequate. However, while I was trying very hard to remain strong and find meaning in my very personal inner struggles, I learned to be more caring and less critical of my weaknesses, transparent about and value my vulnerabilities. In the process, I was becoming a happier, more loving and cooperative friend and family member, attentive, skillful psychotherapist, productive artist and basic, decent human being.
We moved to a new apartment in Chelsea a few years ago and have since placed “our” orchid in various windows. It gets watered and fed along with a odd ensemble of its cousins in varied pots and states. One day a few weeks ago, it suddenly flowered! Over 10 years, the soil had been good enough after all, and we are now enjoying two large, magnificent blooms! Meaning is in the soil; the flower is a bonus.
Photograph: “Our Orchid” by Robin Kappy. Image enhanced by Lorenz Fish.