Before there was Miss Madi the Dog and Mister Vík the Cat, there was #DarlingBabyOrchid.
Darling Baby Orchid was a gift back in 2015 when I was attending graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. I didn't live in the city at the time, so there was a lot of commuting by bus back and forth. These were really long days, days that normally required me to continue working on course assignments long after what was also required of me at my part time job and (unpaid) internships was done.
These were also really lonely days.
Darling Baby Orchid quickly became so important because he was the only one along for the whole ride.
At first it seemed silly to give him a name and a hashtag all his own, but - just like any living thing you care for - he soon developed a personality: He liked routine, stability, and rising with the sun. He'd get angry if you touched his leaves too often. He liked to sit on windowsills and kitchen tables but never on coffee tables. His blossoms were smiles.
We drank our morning tea together, read book after book, hung out outside, and enjoyed glasses of red wine in the evening. He provided quiet support as I completed my library science degree.
He was something to take care of, something that needed me - even if it was just an ice cube once a week on Thursday.
I'd had Darling Baby Orchid for about two months before I found myself coming home to a restless, silent apartment every night. My best friends didn't live in the area anymore, my then-boyfriend had abruptly left me, and my roommate had announced she was moving out. Yikes. I was sad, alone, and as close to college broke as you can get. So I did what most millennials did: I moved back home, with Darling Baby Orchid under my arm.
It's been six years since I first got Darling Baby Orchid. During this time, I've found my footing professionally, made and lost friends, and discovered what's really important to me. And again, Darling Baby Orchid was the only one to have seen it all. He's lived in five different houses, been repotted three times, and traveled across state lines. Like clockwork, he bloomed twice a year - once in July and again in December. Twice a year, that is, until December 2020. (Oh, the irony?)
My partner and I moved to a new house winter 2019, and it was just really hard on him. On top of it all, we adopted Mister Vík, and I constantly repositioned Darling Baby Orchid in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in my office, attempting to save him from wandering kitty teeth and in search of sunlight that the new house just didn't have.
His roots rotted, and I couldn't save him.
Instead of mourning this inevitable loss, it became apparent the moment I noticed him struggling that I needed to preserve his memory. Sure, I'd been taking photos for years and documenting his growth and change (and by extension, my own) on Instagram, but I wanted something a little more hands on.
So I turned to watercolor and digital drawing, mediums I'd never really experimented with before.
I started with watercolor and painted Darling Baby Orchid at his grandest in full bloom, using this photograph as reference.
It took an entire evening of deep couch sitting and snacking to get it right, but I was ultimately pleased with the final outcome despite smudges, bleeds, and harsh brushstrokes. I wasn't aiming for perfection, I was seeking perpetuity.
Then I painted him in a more vulnerable state: blossom-less with a huge chunk out of one leaf, courtesy of Mister Vík.
Next, I used the Procreate Pocket app ($4.99 in the app store) on my iPhone 11 to draw a blossom in more detail using an inexpensive stylus found online. There was a lot of trial and error and struggling to understand the drawing tools, but eventually it all came together. Drawing a completely born digital image also gave me the opportunity to use the print - then - cut feature on my Cricut Explore Air 2 for the first time! This opened up so many possibilities for creating my own stickers to use in my journals and memory planning notebooks.
When we can let go and immortalize something tangible intangibly, we learn the lesson of impermanence. I'm still exploring this idea, but discovering how something as small as an orchid can leave such a large impact on me is just my most recent lesson.
Darling Baby Orchid will remain a reminder of the amazing things that can come from reflecting on what it means to be alone but not lonely, to jump obstacles others put in your way, to persevere when you're feeling down, and to care about something (or someone) more than you care about yourself.
Things come and go, seasons change. And we celebrate the small things.
I'll miss him, even if he was just an orchid. Plants are pets too.