Many years ago a friend gave me an orchid as a present. I had never particularly been drawn to orchids. I had heard of orchid growers and orchid shows but just didn’t “get that”. I mean, who has time to grow orchids? Although I have always felt passionate about gardenias, jasmine, and basil my gardening was more about keeping things alive, they would grow but really didn’t flourish.
One year I happened to notice it while it was blooming. Oh my, what a beautiful stem of flowers. It smelled like vanilla. I fell in love with my neglected little orchid. After it finished blooming, I re-potted it in fresh soil and moved it to a safe, secure, shady spot in the garden where I could keep an eye on it – until it bloomed again.
For several years now, I’ve waited with great anticipation for what I eventually discovered was an annual bloom. So, I water and care for the few green leaves year around, trusting that it will bloom again in its own natural cycle and not because I want it to bloom! The plant grows quite slowly but, now that I’ve been watching over it, I can see that those same green leaves get slightly larger every year. When I see the first sign of the stem coming, it brings such joy. Then I watch every day as that stem gets longer. And then buds start to appear near the bottom of the stem. Like the leaves, the stem grows longer each year, capable of contributing even more blooms than the previous year.
Eventually the little buds start to flower, starting with the first to have appeared low on the stem. Initially there isn’t much fragrance but as the blooms come out the fragrance increases. I have it sitting by my sliding glass door on my patio so I can see it from inside the house or outside and experience the joy of the fragrance of vanilla wafting in on the autumn breeze. My orchid now not only grows, it flourishes.
This year while enJOYing my orchid in its most glorious flowering ever, it occurred to me that my life has paralleled that of the orchid.
Over these same fifteen years that I’ve nurtured and watched my orchid grow more glorious, I have also been observing myself age into a stronger, more radiant woman, quietly confident of my place in the scheme of God’s plan.
Like the orchid, my growth has been slow enough to be nearly undetectable to the naked eye. Yet when I gaze back over the journey of ageing, I can see how I have changed, letting go of the busyness that was initially undertaken to earn recognition and replacing it with a more gentle constant caring for myself. I have discovered that caring for myself has to come first. It is from this place of being well cared for that I can offer others the same loving care.
My orchid lived for many years, with very little tender loving care from me. So did I! The orchid survived, yes, but it didn’t flourish. When I look back I can say the same for myself.
It wasn’t until I started taking care of the quality of my inner life that I started to feel the love that I am. This has allowed me to appreciate the love that is all around me. This has been the gift that ageing has given me.
Caring for myself isn’t one big gesture, like the weekly watering of the orchid, or something that happens once a year on my birthday. It is more of a daily thing and I am showing the benefits of a steady, effortless moment-to-moment attention of “how I am”.
I make time to care for and nurture myself, my home, and the garden. The reward of doing so has been to start to blossom into the fullness of life where I am more understanding and compassionate of myself and others. And with my orchid as my model, I anticipate that every year life will just keep getting more expansive and more beautiful. The sweet and earthy smell of vanilla as the orchid blooms will weave itself into the exciting and tranquil years ahead of me. Like my orchid, I am still growing but now I’m also flourishing.
Gayle C., Australia
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