Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Knowing What to Keep and What to Throw Away

Step Away from That Compost Pile!
Not So Fast.
That Orchid (or Life Experience)
Just Might Bloom

This beauty hid its face for two years.

“Throw them away. Big box stores shoot these orchids up with so many steroids, it’s their own version of biking the Tour de France to get them to bloom at the same time. They will never bloom again.”
Never is a really long time. I’m grateful that the case of my orchids, never translated to two years, which might be a long time in some instances, but not so much in the orchid world.
An orchid-growing newbie, I thought I knew far more than I did. When I saw the post-Valentine’s Day orchids sitting on the clearance shelf, I figured I was getting a bargain. And, of course, I would get them to bloom again, soon. Wrong. My two orchid plants languished in their pots, green, limping along, but not doing much. A year later, I consulted someone I considered an expert and received the throw-away advice. "But it’s green, the leaves are growing," I thought. But leaves are not what attract people to orchids, it’s the blooms. It didn’t look like blooms were going to happen. But I wasn’t ready to give up.

Turn Your Trash Into Treasure?
Make a Silk Purse from a Sow’s Ear?

I have a long, bleak history of trying to make the proverbial silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I have picked things from trash piles and thought, “Oh, I can fix that,” only to realize that I could not and soon placed the item in my own trash pile. A stained-beyond-being-wearable garment? Not a problem for my trusty stain-fighting arsenal  in most cases, but not all. Another item for the ragbag. A relationship that continues to go nowhere? If I only just ­­­­­­____________ (fill in the blank), I can fix it. I can make it better. I’ve been single for many years, so that fix didn't happen. I still have dreams about the beyond-dysfunctional house in which I lived during my teen years. In those dreams, I paint, I repair, I clean, I remodel. But when I wake up, nothing has changed about that time. And once again, I am reminded that some things cannot be fixed, that some plants will not grow, that some orchids might not bloom.

Some, but not all. I loved and wore a flowered outfit I got from the Junior League of Raleigh Thrift Shop for years—as soon as I removed its nasty stain. An old friend still has the priceless Swedish Christmas decorations I pulled from a trash pile. Although the relationships with which I struggled the most ended, some vestiges of cooperation, friendship, and even kinship remain. The house from my teen years? It still sits on its lot in Lake Park, Florida, but I don’t have to live there. I don’t have to visit there. In fact, the next time I’m in the area, I don’t have to drive by it—ever again.
A dead tree sits in my side yard. I couldn’t save it. It is destined for a proper grave near my compost pile.
The orchids are a different story. For Mother’s Day last year, my daughter’s gift to me was membership in the Vero Beach Orchid Society. At the first meeting I attended, I learned about the Florida Orchid Growers (FOG) group on FaceBook. At that first meeting, and from almost every post on FOG, I also learned that “You’re Doin’ It Wrong” applied to almost all my efforts in orchid growing.

Throwing It All Away Doesn’t Always Apply

Life was present because the leaves on my two thrifty orchids were green, and they continued to grow. I saw no evidence of blooms, but I followed the advice I received and a few months ago, I began to spy evidence of bloom spikes. Thrilled doesn’t come close to how I felt. Once about to become compost, these orchids were going to show me their faces. My anticipation was keen.

Two years is a long time to wait for a bloom. The first year was a waste because I was doin’ it wrong and had I continued, more compost might have been a reality. However, this silk purse became a reality and I am rewarded in the richness of beautiful blooms. Patience has been a virtue. The knowledge I gained is my friend.
Knowledge is key in this experience—and in others. If a trash pile item or a relationship is irretrievably broken, knowing that and acting on it is the wise path. If a plant is withered, bug-infested, and festering with mold, then compost—or even the burn pile—is the right path. Often, it takes time, and patience, and education to know the right path. Choosing that path, and walking it with patience and wisdom can often bring us to blooms, on orchids and in other aspects of life.

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