I’ve never thought much about orchids. I haven’t sought them out or grown them. Too difficult, too picky. Spoiled brats, people said.
But after attending a meeting at the Champlain Garden Club of Annapolis Royal, N.S., I will think of orchids more often. For unbeknownst to either of us, the guest speaker had a gift for me.
Gail Schwarz of the Nova Scotia Orchid Society spoke of how and where to grow orchids, and why they might fail to thrive. As picture followed beautiful picture, I was struck by the diversity in colour and pattern. Whether magenta or lime green, cream or brilliant crimson, each orchid was exquisite. Each bore its own exotic pattern, whether spots or splotches or lines or pansy-like faces.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the Cattleya Arizona appeared on the screen. I wanted to stand up and shout, “This is amazing!” I didn’t, of course. Well-mannered guests, in my experience, don’t.
C. Arizona was a bright, rich red. That wasn’t unique — many specimens were red. It had none of the spots of other samplings or a “throat” of a different colour. What it did have, there, painted beautifully on its lip, was a figure in a flowing robe. An angel? A monk? I waited to see if anyone would comment on this unusual treasure, but no one did. Perhaps no one saw it but me.
Stories abound of people who have “seen a sign” or “received a message.” A deer steps out of the woods at the precise moment when someone is praying for comfort. A cardinal appears over the memorial garden a woman is planting for her recently deceased sister. Once, I inwardly scoffed at such things. Oh please, I would think, a deer steps out of the woods a dozen times a day where we live. Cardinals appear all the time. A woman wiser than I suggested that perhaps the miracle lies not in the appearance at a precise moment, but rather in the ability of the seer to so interpret it.
Maybe no one else saw the robed figure on the lip of Cattleya Arizona. Maybe it was just for me. If so, I treasure the gift. See, it said, in the midst of trying times there is still beauty.
Imagine a Creator who is not satisfied with merely a thousand different orchids or with only a hundred different animals, all of them grey, but instead gives us hundreds of thousands of plants and millions of animals — each with endless combinations of shape, pattern and colour.
Imagine a Creator who gives every vegetable and fruit a different hue, shape and flavour. And builds into every plant and creature the knowledge of what it needs to do — and when. The wildflower seeds are sown; the Canada geese migrate; the salmon come home to their B.C. rivers to spawn; the monarch butterflies know exactly where Mexico is.
Imagine a Creator who tucks a robed figure into an orchid, to be discovered one ordinary day in an ordinary small town to the delight of an ordinary woman.
The Psalm of David (19:1) reminds us, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament God’s handiwork.” And, I might add, “in particular the Cattleya Arizona.”
Mary Bowen is retired and living in Granville Ferry, N.S.
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