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.