I am finally back – for real!

Hello everyone! It has been a very long time since you heard from me last, and I am so happy to see that you are still here, faithfully visiting and also writing me. Thank you for your patience and support!

It became a much, much longer hiatus than I had first anticipated due to a series of events in my life. You know how it usually goes, one thing triggering the next, like dominoes. I am not going to dwell on it too much, and safe to say that it could have been worse, yet it leveled me to the floor for a while and I am only just now starting to get back on my feet again. Summan av kardemumman, as we say in Sweden, or the the sum of it all, is that I am no longer married, I am on long term sick leave from job burnout, and above all pondering all the big questions, such as: what is the meaning of life and how do I fit in it? Yeah I know, the ten million dollar question. Still, there you have it, that is where I find myself right now.

So where do I go from here? When looking for a lifeline, the orchids kept calling my name. The blog did too at times and I almost made it back last summer, but alas here we are. This time I am really back though, and I am looking forward to sharing my orchid life with you all once again. I admit, the passion and the fervor of which I usually feel isn’t quite there… yet… but hell, I’m not feeling much of anything for anything right now in general, feeling numb is par for the course. But this will change, I am told, as I recover from the burnout.

I feel an orchid ember glowing, and it is growing stronger every day and I really want to nurture it back. I know I can! When I have managed to muster enough energy to actually spend time with the orchids over the past two years while I have been silent, I have felt that it made me feel better! But the threshold of actually getting there has been so very high for so very long. Hell just getting out of bed in the morning, or a simple task like brushing teeth have felt near insurmountable at times. I am much better now, although I still have bad days. But I have somehow managed to keep the orchids alive through it all. On life support mind you, minimum effort, but still. And they give back. When I work with the orchids I can feel something stirring. Something good. Orchids are a living things, and it is very rewarding to watch living things grow. Nature heals, they say. I think it is true, at least for me.

Leading up to the big crash, newly becoming single again after some odd 20 years, I moved to a much smaller apartment which meant new growing conditions, especially for the pleurothallids since the huge vivarium would not fit and had to be left behind. While getting the new apartment ready to move in, the orchids had to stay out in the greenhouse (more on that build later) unseasonably long last fall. The winter was mild and it was working out ok at first. But then, a couple of early frost nights wiped out about half of the collection in one fell swoop. Electricity failed in the greenhouse overnight knocking out the space heaters and leaving the temperatures in there a few degrees below freezing. A devastating blow.

Interestingly enough, the plants fairing the worst in the extreme cold was the cool growing pleurothallids. I experienced heavy Masdevallia casualties and 100 % Dracula loss while amongst other genera it was a little more hit or miss. In the intermediate/warm section of the greenhouse, all Phalaenopis, Angraecoids and Vanda were dead as doornails or faded away over the next few days, at no great surprise. But on a positive note, incredibly nearly all Neofinetia and about 75 % of the Paphiopedilum survived. I was puzzled about this for a long time but have settled on the theory that the reason I lost so many cool growers was because they were being kept so very, very wet making them more susceptible to freeze in the icy cold. The rest of the surviving orchids were due to be watered soon so they were much drier at the time of the freeze.

After that, things mostly went on autopilot. I really grieved for the loss of many cherished plants and it took a while before I felt ready to move on. But I finally did! Much thanks to the help of a very good friend who divided many of his plants to help rebuild my pleurothallid collection. A healthy order from Ecuagenera, my birthday present to myself this year, helped too. Needing to downsize a bit anyway I now focus mainly on miniatures for the vivarium. I have also replaced many of the Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium lost, and I have even expanded with a few Cypripedium plants this year, as you can see in the photos. I grow them outdoors in pots but plan to overwinter them indoors someplace cool. More on them in the spring if they survive the winter. Many of the frostbitten survivors have slowly begun to recover from the shock now producing lots of healthy new roots and leaves which is wonderful to see. Some are even blooming again, that being mainly Neofinetia and Lepanthes, resilient little buggers I tell you! A song for the soul!

As the result of this event my collection is now a little more, shall we say defined. There is less impulse purchases and stray infatuations taking up valuable space. I have a more clear focus on what I really like to grow, that being pleuros, neos and assorted slippers. I am working on looking at the bright side of things.

Now you also know why I kind of dropped off the map for a while… to all my friends out there, I am sorry about that!

So to the matter of the ten million dollar question… All this turmoil over the past few years has made me do a lot of soul searching. Having your entire body pull on the breaks and declare that it is time to stop and smell the roses also makes you reevaluate your priorities in life. And as my energy slowly returns, I definitely feel ready for some big changes!

One step on this journey of finding myself again is an orchid pilgrimage to Costa Rica! Yes you heard me, and I can hardly believe it myself, but at the end of this year, over the course of a few amazing weeks I will hike the rainforests of the central highlands looking for orchids. Living in the moment, soaking in the mountain air and finally experiencing many of these amazing orchids in situ! A good friend of mine will be leading a small group and other friends I have only known online until now will be our local guides. I am really looking forward to meeting them and I am literally counting the days, it is going to be an amazing adventure for sure! I will of course share my preparations and travel diary here with you all, so stay tuned!

That is all for now. But I will start sharing the day to day with the orchids again as promised. I will work on updating all the pages and I will also have to tell you all about my amazing greenhouse and the new growing arrangements in the city. More on this at a later time.

About the Author:

Karma is a digital nomad graphic artist and writer, orchid nerd and long-distance hiker from Gothenburg, Sweden. Former editor-in-chief for the Swedish Orchid Society magazine, published internationally and held lectures on orchid culture.

22 Comments

  1. Wiel Driessen July 18, 2015 at 21:03 - Reply

    I might have some plants to get you back on your feet again, I am sick from a burnout too for half a year now, and growing all kind of Pleuroos helps me very much…

    • karma July 18, 2015 at 21:15 - Reply

      Oh, thank you very much Wiel! That is very nice of you, you have an incredible collection!! 🙂 Pontus has helped me fill in nicely with Porroglossum, but if you have any small Lepanthes species to share I would be absolutely thrilled!

      So sorry to hear that you also suffer from burnout… more common than one thinks these days. Difficult when you are not feeling like yourself. Happy to hear that you also find healing among your orchids, we all enjoy the beautiful photos. Take good care of yourself!

  2. John Varigos July 18, 2015 at 23:17 - Reply

    Great to see you back. You seem well on the way to sorting your life out. Have a great trip to CR. Say hi to Daniel for me.

    • karma July 18, 2015 at 23:50 - Reply

      Thanks a lot John! 🙂 I will!

  3. Chris Mende July 18, 2015 at 23:31 - Reply

    Hello, Karma!
    I’m sorry to hear of the difficulties of your last couple years. I went through a burnout period once that deeply affected my life, so I can identify with at least part of your events. The loss of your plants, however, is something that you truly didn’t need on top of the other losses. Good that you are focussing on the positives and reassembling a collection. If I were closer, I’d be delighted to share some of mine!
    I’m happy to be Facebook friends and to be present now to your blog renaissance!

    • karma July 19, 2015 at 00:01 - Reply

      Thank you very much Chris! No, the big freeze was definitely not what I needed at the time… but you are right, focusing on the positives is a good thing, and I am doing much better now. 🙂

  4. Salvo July 18, 2015 at 23:56 - Reply

    molto bene karma!! well done karma! ciao Salvo

    • karma July 19, 2015 at 00:08 - Reply

      Grazie mille Salvo!

  5. Beth July 19, 2015 at 03:42 - Reply

    So sorry to hear about the loss of the vivarium! I really enjoyed your series of articles in the AOS Orchids journal.

    Hope everything else starts improving along with the rebuilding of your collection.

    • karma July 19, 2015 at 08:04 - Reply

      Thank you Beth! Yes, that vivarium served me very well for many years. I have constructed a smaller one now, it works well too, even though admittedly it does not look quite as impressive as the huge one did… I will do a blog series on the new setup in the fall when the orchids move back into the city again. I have gotten many very generous offers to help rebuild, so it is going well, really warms the heart too! 🙂

  6. brierrabbit3030 July 21, 2015 at 02:55 - Reply

    Good to see you back from your bad times. Life is hard. Good to see you coming back with determination. I enjoy your orchid blog very much, and kinda wondered where you went. Takes guts to go into hell, and come back out with a lovely orchid. Saw your plant of Cypridium Reginae in the pot. Thats a native orchid that grows in hidden hollows, valleys here in the Ozarks of Missouri, where I live. So good to see you back again. Hope your future is bright and joyful.

    • Karma July 21, 2015 at 08:25 - Reply

      Thank you for your nice words! I am glad to hear you enjoy my blog. I am happy to be back too! Must be amazing to see a whole field full with Cypripedium reginae in the wild! We do have C calceolus growing wild here in Sweden, although I have never seen it for myself. Think I will have to make a point to do that next spring. 🙂 Take care!

  7. ted July 24, 2015 at 16:30 - Reply

    Welcome back, Karma! I’m sad for your losses, yet happy that you are here to share with us again. You’ve always been an inspiration. Wishing you all the best.

    • Karma July 24, 2015 at 17:14 - Reply

      Thank you Ted! Nice to hear! 🙂

  8. Diane in Quebec July 26, 2015 at 20:14 - Reply

    All the best to you Karma in the future. Your long silence made it clear that you were having a hard time. Have been visiting your blog from time to time over the months just in case and am delighted to see that you now feel up to sharing once again your experience with all of us so generously ! The greenhouse is wonderful and your new orchids will certainly bring you joy and satisfaction !

    • Karma July 26, 2015 at 23:08 - Reply

      Thank you very much Diane in Quebec! Very nice to hear! And thank you, glad you like the greenhouse. 🙂

  9. Giles August 11, 2015 at 09:12 - Reply

    So pleased to see you back. I have been there and no how difficult it can be to come back from the depths. As always your blog is beauty to behold.

    • Karma August 11, 2015 at 10:11 - Reply

      Thank you very much Giles! 🙂

  10. nolehace August 30, 2015 at 04:58 - Reply

    …welcome back…hope the 2 calamities turn into two good “in the right place at the right time” situations for your future…

    • Karma August 30, 2015 at 09:00 - Reply

      Thank you! Yes, I am sure there is a silver lining to everything. 🙂

  11. Xmpraedicta November 4, 2015 at 03:26 - Reply

    I’m late to the party, but I just found this post and I just want to say I’m happy you’re getting back on your feet, and I’m doubly pleased that orchids are part of this journey to recovery for you. You clearly have a lot of insight and introspection into wellness, and things that you need to have in your life. It’s an inspiration. I look forward to following your travel adventures as well as the development of your new collection.

    • Karma November 4, 2015 at 09:35 - Reply

      Thank you very much, and welcome to the party! 🙂 Insight and introspection as well as paus and reflection is necessary I think to stay connected and in touch with oneself. Things tend to get out of hand when you stop listening and loose touch with what’s really important in life.

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