Orchid Thieves and Energy Bandits


 I’ve begun reading ‘The Orchid Thief’ again. This book pisses me off  no end. It’s intriguing, informative, well-written and totally  maddening. The author, Susan Orlean, makes a habit of taking you to  an interesting point, an awkward, tense, or odd scenario, and then  continuing on with the main thrust of the story without telling you  what *happens* beyond that point.

 Reading this book feels a lot like sexual frustration. I  was fixated on  how *rude* that form of writing is, the first time I read through, and  sort of bypassed all the information jammed into this fairly slender  volume. The description is wonderful, too, and the people ring true.

 I  have first-hand experience being around a person with the orchid  fever. For some reason, orchids seem to have more power to possess  and obsess a certain personality than any other  flower known to  man. I really understood the author’s standpoint of  being outside that  fever, but being fascinated by the obsession, and almost wanting to feel that much for a flower on a personal level.

I had a boyfriend maybe… five or six years back who was an orchid person. He had a strange affinity with all plants, actually. I say strange, but I mean strange to me. As we spent time together I formed the foundations of a theory that people have a certain quality to their energy. There’s a song called ‘Amber’ by 311, where the chorus goes- ‘Oh-oh… Amber is the color of your energy…’ . Yeah… energy can seem to embody a color. I think a lot of people have what you’d call an animal energy. Mine is definitely more animal than plant.

Walking into his apartment the first time was like walking into a semi-domesticated jungle. There was way more vegetation then you’d figure would fit into a modest apartment. He had humidifiers in one room for his precious tropical plants. There were vine plants that hung from shelves over the bed, and big huge tree like things on the ends of the couch.

It was bizarre but pretty cool.

I’m not what you’d call a “new-age type”. Chakras are an interesting idea. I think we all have energy, but my ideas of how the body works are founded in the pragmatic. I don’t think our auras are a big bubble all around, but rather that our bodies house our energy, and whatever isn’t enclosed doesn’t make it more than a few inches from the skin.

In other words, I don’t sit around worrying about the state of my energy.

Well, he sort of turned all my ideas on their head. He taught me stuff. I learned how to care for orchids and bromeliads, how to make certain vegetables grow indoors, and thrive based on how you handled them. I listened to some of his ideas about energy, as they applied to the martial arts. He could make himself immovable, through energy orientation… which was trippy.

What neither of us expected is that I’d sap his energy so much. 

I did get the idea early on that while I kinda enjoyed the lush green world of his apartment, his lush green world didn’t enjoy me in the least little bit. I was a disturbance, too frenetic and emotional in that calm place. He and his plants seemed tired when I’d spent a chunk of time there.

But the other half of that is just eerie. As we became closer, it became more and more noticable. He’d open up emotionally, and almost sort of, by default, take on my pain. Shortly before we went out, I had gone through a physically and emotionally harmful event. It wasn’t life threatening, but my body had some fatigue and pain going on.

Within a couple months with this dude, I was fine. I wasn’t fine, I was better then fine. I was rejuvenated and bursting to do, to go, to talk. I had more health and vitality then I’d ever experienced before.

But he was a mess.

We went on a bike ride one day, and I took a spill and hurt my foot. He kneeled down and we took off my shoe and sock. He took it in his hands, just to check it out, and the pain sort of numbed to almost a … fizzy feeling, I guess. Shortly after that I was able to ride home, but by the time we got to his apartment steps, he was limping from pain on the side of the same foot.

It could be hogwash. Power of suggestion. I’d agree. But we never really voiced it, you know? I just know I got better, and then best around him, and he got exhausted.

So we broke up. There wasn’t really a future with our divergent personalities. I felt more and more like an intruder in his little patch of vegetation. 

This experience was concerning, cus I was afraid it might repeat itself, but it didn’t. I’m not what’s known as an ‘energy vampire’ though I’ve been around people like that. I’m pretty self-contained, both in giving and receiving. It’s just… he was a different kind. He somehow had a channel to give that sort of healing thing, and my body took what it needed, which was a lot. It’s not really something I had control over.

But I am grateful to him. Grateful from a distance. The only safe sort of gratitude.

Back to the damn orchid book- somehow it ended up being redeemed by its conclusion. Turns out there is a method to Susan Orlean’s madness, something besides cruelty behind the wholly unsatisfying pattern of the story. Not many people could pull it off with an angry reader, but she did bring  grace with her conclusion in my first read-through.

Let’s see if she can do it again.

10 thoughts on “Orchid Thieves and Energy Bandits

  1. This is an amazing story of your energy exchange with the poor hapless guy. I hope he is doing well now. This could be a very marketable short story. You should get it out there. I was fascinated.

  2. You’re the second person this week to bring this book up.
    John Laroche happens to be a very close friend of mine. Chris Cooper deserved the Oscar for that role…

    Not sure of the appeal of Orchids though. John’s obsessions transcended Orchids, he’s like that about pretty much everything he gets into…

    R(etc… )

  3. anhinga- that was all Raolin’s doing (over at age of geek)… he figured out how to lengthen it and sent me the picture. Really, really nice of him. :)

    Thank you so much for your comment on the story. Sometimes I think I’m babbling too much in a self-centered fashion… but this was kinda fun to reminisce about. I think James (plant guy) is a-ok now. Hopefully he found a girl who would leave him some energy reserves and also get along with him mother. ;)

    Ron- Yeah, that does come across in the story. But a lot of people in the book are just orchid nutsos. (said in an affectionate way)

    You know John Laroche? I haven’t seen adaptation, didn’t even know Chris Cooper was in it. From the ads I’d seen, I figured Nicholas Cage played Laroche.

    So like, you could totally tender an introduction between us if you want.

  4. I’m now intrigued by this book. I’ll have to pick it up and give it a try.

    Orchids are currently on my mind. Last year, during a particularly rough patch of time, a blogging friend sent me an orchid plant. I’ve taken better car of that plant in the past year than I’ve ever taken care of anything. Now it appears to be almost ready to bestow me with about 6 flowers on one stem and 5 on another. Every morning I rush to look and see if any of the buds have opened and when I see that they haven’t, I have something to look forward to the next day. Right now it seems incredibly important to me that they bloom and that my plant survives.

    Anhinga is right about the story of the beau with the opposing, yet sustaining energy. It would make a really great short story! Write it!

  5. May your chakras be as shiney as sunbeams.

    The only thing I remember about The Orchid Thief was that after I finished reading it I wanted to go out and find a blue orchid.

  6. mad- please tell me you didn’t read all of that on an iPod. You read both of my endless posts! Even I wouldn’t read that much of me.

    Corina- I think it’s worth the cover price. Post a picture when it blooms! I have one, but I don’t think it will bloom this year.

  7. I put this on my list of things to read, and then forgot all about it. Thanks for the reminder.

    That’s a very interesting story about plant-guy. I agree that it has the makings of a splendid piece of short fiction.

  8. I have never read this book, but have long meant to. I’m going to put it on my wish list now before I forget it again.

    Your storytelling is, as always, wonderful.

    It’s a funny thing, though. I posted that orchid photo today before reading this.

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