It was freedom projects for our family this week.
Jeb and the Bohemian built our little chick, Merlin, a more spacious, outdoor dwelling (I know I keep writing about that tiny guy, and yes, he is still missing). And while they worked with wood and a drill, I was under the kukui tree with an orchid plant and some clippers.
What I thought was a simple re-potting project, became an intricate exercise in disentanglement.
Orchids don’t need much soil. But they do like to attach their roots to rocks and other earthen materials. Pulling this one’s complex root system – a coiled, compact replica of the pot it had been living in – I discovered that there were two more mesh containers embedded at its core. Roots bulged in the confines of double layers – a pot within a pot – in a maze of winding tendrils encircling their encasement.
There was only one way to free the plant, and that was to clip the mesh, piece by piece, and delicately remove it from the roots that held them there.
For about an hour I sat like a surgeon in the dirt, trying to clip plastic rather than root.
Maybe in the early days, that black mesh had served this young orchid starting out. But over time, the plant had outgrown the vessel, leaving it to simply merge with its trappings. So much so, that the plastic was imbedded in the root.
My work was patient, but inevitably, there were times my clippers could not access particular cuts with precision. Some roots got slashed. But slowly, in half-inch shards of clip, clip, clip, black bits fell away and the orchid was freed of synthetic material.
I was careful as I handled my botanical friend. Leaves, roots, and its one, flowering stalk of white, were all fragile and often brittle to the touch. Too rough a swipe and any of these appendages could be lost.
Merlin the chick was toggling back and forth between the housing project with Jeb and the Bohemian and the bug buffet in the soil by my kneecaps. I lifted some decaying banana leaves (like any mother hen would do) to show him a cornucopia of choices.
Occasionally a rich, fragrant scent would rise to my nose, coming in periodic waves of sweet flowering. In the moment, my clippers meticulously trimming, it seemed quite clear that this was orchid communication.
Merlin the chick, tweeted away, pecking at small ants. And the orchid in my hand let off wafts of ambrosia in sighs of…gratitude, perhaps? The relief of freedom with every root unleashed.
Hopefully, I didn’t gnash too many stems in my process of freeing the orchid. It’s in a roomy pot now, stretching out with loose kukui nuts and coconut husks.
As for Merlin, maybe we tried to give him his upgrade too soon. He disappeared from that new home the very next day, never to be seen since.
It’s a delicate balance, knowing when we’ve outgrown old ways and the process of freeing ourselves for greater expansion. Sometimes the heft of a chainsaw is required, other times, the fine-tune of tweezers.
We each have our proverbial hen house on the horizon. And we probably all have some entanglements with outmoded containers. Somewhere in the middle, is right now.
Clip, clip. Tweet, tweet. The smell of an orchid bloom and the happy song of a baby bird.
Maybe we are all just freedom projects in process.