Following up the theme of quiet persistence from last week, it was lovely to see this little fellow sprouting. (Oh yes, Zen Master Sprout is doing well, thriving on generous amounts of tolerance and occasionally being put in his place by our Matriarch Cat, Desireé.) This is an orchid. I got one several years ago in full bloom but was never able to encourage more blossoms. Being the lazy sort, I would from time to time do a bit of hortigoogling but the suggestions all seemed to require too much effort. So I watered the dear thing haphazardly as I do with most of my plants and it lumbered along in much the manner of most pot-bound beings, that is to say it sat contented not to shrivel up and die. One might say that orchid showed some quiet persistence but I suspect plants are generally resilient and thankfully robust to our neglect and ignorance.
Last Fall, I came across a type of orchid called a “Just Add Ice” which is not a species but a technique. About the same time I read about a blogger pal who had received an orchid as a gift. He worried about caring for it and whether he was up to the ministrations such a rare and delicate plant would need. I felt a bit guilty at first glancing over at my orchid which was languishing in a pool of murky water; then I felt competitive. Could I get mine to bloom before his? I also recalled during one samu or work period at Upaya, the resident gardener came into the dokusan room where I was cleaning up. Using a damp cloth, she gently wiped down the each of the leaves of the lusciously blooming orchid. I asked her how to make these things bloom and she looked at me with that “oh you still don’t get it, do you?” look.
With a caretaker so attached to outcomes and desirous of sensual pleasures, no wonder my orchid remained resolutely barren.
So I formed a clear intention to put some effort into caring for my orchid in a more conscious and attentive manner. I even bought two more to keep it company on the shelf where they get indirect sunlight all day and cool temperatures at night. I logged onto the Just Add Ice website and read (quickly and somewhat impatiently – but hey… transformation takes time!) about the care and feeding of orchids. I even got a measuring cup to mix up the right amount of nourishing broth to feed them.
Over the winter, the two I bought struggled to recover from the severe neglect they had endured in a cavernous hardware/homeware center. When I tried to repot them, my heart dropped at the sight of rotted roots. But, remembering to hold that intention to care close, I repotted all three and set up a reminder to fertilize them once a month on the first Sunday and to water them with 3 ice cubes on the other Sundays.
The instructions had said a new bloom should show in a month. And this was the test: to read that but not become invested in it. To look at the three orchid plants and see them as unique systems that had their own time-table of recovery, nourishment, and expression. To step back each Sunday from the pots and not want to make it different from what it was. And to welcome the anticipation and the deflation when that shoot with a mitten offshoot heralding a blossoming spike didn’t manifest.
This is a practice of Right Looking Away, Wise Disregard.
And then one day… one day…
Well, I totally identify with this, having over/under-“mentored” several orchids to a slow death.
Happily, you have better results with your dharma students!
ice cubes, really? I have an orchid that my mother’s homecare worker gave me after my mom died. My mother had a very green thumb and my plant care is much like yours but miraculously it has rebloomed several time. I did buy orchid food and a friend told me not to overwater.
Yes we can learn a lot from the care and nurturing of any living thing, as you so aptly point out.
Yes, three ice cubes a week and then toss the water that drains through.