I have always been intimidated by orchids. Stunned by them, as well, but definitely intimidated.

Years ago I gave an orchid as a gift to a colleague as part of the Charge to the Minister in her ordination ceremony—I even waxed (mildly) eloquent about the symbolism of a thing that, most of the time, may not look like much but is exquisite when it’s in bloom.

Still, I have been convinced orchids are impossible to care for, not worth the fuss. Once, someone gifted one to Graham, and we enjoyed it until the flowers fell off; then it sat on the counter and dried up until one of us composted it. It looked so dead.

Then last year I received an orchid as a gift on an occasion when I especially needed some encouragement. It was cheerful and beautiful for a while, and then its flowers fell off, and—like before—I considered dumping it in the compost. But the label that had been attached made it seem so simple:

Easy Care Petite Orchid
Water with 2 ice cubes, equivalent to 3 tbsp of water, once a week.
Place in a bright, well-lit location, avoid direct sunlight.

What the heck, I thought. It probably should be repotted, but I don’t have the bandwidth for that right now. Still, I can put two ice cubes in it each week. What’s the worst that could happen? I’ve got nothing to lose.

So, I set the pot on my plant stand in the family room, and every Saturday morning my smartphone reminds me to put ice cubes in the orchid and to check Zoom for updates. So I do both those things, religiously.

But also—I can’t believe I’m admitting this to you—I was putting the ice cubes in the pot each week and otherwise paying zero attention to what else was happening, until a couple weeks ago—suddenly!—there was a bloom! Talk about stunned. While I wasn’t paying attention, the orchid had grown a whole new stem that already had one flower in bloom (now there are two) and several buds that promised to become flowers.

Oh, how apt is this orchidaceous experience as I reflect on life more generally. I’m thinking about how quickly I sometimes am to dismiss or discard things (and, much more shamefully, occasionally people) without allowing for their future potential; how easy it is to forget how much growth is happening in ways that are essentially invisible; how sometimes just a little tending offers vast nourishment; how caregiving doesn’t have to be burdensome—the “just right” amount of care is neither too much nor too little; and how, in the end, not everything needs to be a project … sometimes it’s enough just to let things be.

With hope for simple nourishment for us all,


  1. Betty Myers

    Astute insight, Paige. A lesson for us all. I, too have little luck with orchids, but will now look at them symbolically. What can I learn from them when they sit unadorned? And are they also a symbol of patience for me.
    Continuing to learn.

  2. Gail Thompson

    I felt as you did because of similar “it died” experience. Nancy Day, a founding member of UUCC grew beautiful orchids and one day gave me one. I told her they died for me and she said, “It’s simple, just ignore it. So I did. It died. Somehow her idea of ignore was not the same as mine.
    I finally concluded that I was just not made to grow orchids. Petunias are completely different. We love each other.
    I guess for me the lesson was that I should do those things which I do well, try new things once in a while, and accept if those new things don’t work out.

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