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Playing cards were scattered across the floor, appearing in odd locations, seeming to buck the expectation to follow a trail. Whose expectation? The one that said certain random cards, if claimed with haste, and if said cards matched the house’s …...

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Beautiful orchid flower background with copy space

Filed Under , , on January 21st, 2017

Orchids and Oracles

By Seth Kabala

Playing cards were scattered across the floor, appearing in odd locations, seeming to buck the expectation to follow a trail. Whose expectation? The one that said certain random cards, if claimed with haste, and if said cards matched the house’s hand, could lead their bearer to a reward. The players faced their screens in their work-spaces, dutifully typing and reviewing documents and engaging in phone-calls in which, if the enthusiasm on the faces of the remote speakers approximated those in the office, neither group desired to partake.

Then the imperative email arrived. “Claim your card now!” it commanded. With fewer cards available than players, some were destined for exclusion, but not all were disappointed with this. Some preferred to focus on the business at hand, on finding the missing pieces of language that would make or break a case, on crafting words and solutions and value propositions that would create a tonal shift in a remote voice into a level of auditory satisfaction that meant a smile on the other end of the line. Some focused on what mattered, or at least what they thought mattered.

* * *

Last April, I won a contest at work. The prize? A small orchid. It bloomed with purplish wonder for a few months, then went dormant. Though I faithfully watered it, still the same result–nothing. But I kept at it. I watered and watered, checked progress, read heavy texts in cavernous libraries and dungeon archives, my research aided only by the light of candles. Not really, but I did look up an article or two on the Internet to try to improve my knowledge and change the shade of my thumb from black to green, maybe pale green.

It paid off.

After nearly a year of toil, my orchid had awakened. Within days, the shoot rising from the center of the plant had reached several inches in height. I found the thin, metal wire the florist had used to secure the original shoot to the stake and fastened it once again around this new shoot. It continued its growth, up and up until reaching nearly two feet in length, its end arcing gently away from the stake, and here were the buds.

Four pairs, offset on either side in a staggered pattern, sprouted at 45-degree angles from the end of the shoot. I was super happy. I thought the regular watering had been an exercise in futility, and yet here was evidence of my antecedent activity, plain as day, catching the (we’re in the Northwest, so) occasional sunlight, pulling it in, and radiating it outward in a power sunburst, just about forcing anyone who walks by my workstation to stop and admire.

“Wow,” they say. “Your orchid is beautiful. You’ve got a great place here by the window.” Then they walk on. Maybe they’re referring to my view of Mount Hood, maybe to the orchid, maybe to a combination of those two plus one of those rare sunny days. However the comment is intended, I take it seriously, and I recognize that I got to this beautiful, tranquil, awe-inspiring view, if I’m honest, partly by chance. I say partly intentionally. I had a plan, however sparse, and I followed it, but the unknowns still existed, and the possibility of black-stemmed failure lurked in the shadows, anxious to fill its ranks with formerly living members of the dreaming, blooming public.

But it’s no match for patience and persistence. For orchids and oracles.

Workplace politics and economic principles dance a delicate routine on the razor edge of possibility. Ignore the dangled carrot, progress toward your preexisting goal; chomp with all your reserved jaw strength, might hurt yourself; saunter to the inner side of the engagement ring or find yourself there by accident, momentum shifts to one side of the blade or the other. You won’t know which side that is until it’s too late.

Let’s redefine “too late.” It has such a negative connotation. I’m working to think of it as representing my presence in a place and time that would not have been possible without taking a risk. I acquired a plant and started watering it. Soon, it was too late to turn back without consequences. Time refused to turn its pages in reverse.

That’s okay. I want the story to move forward. Things are just getting good.

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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, musician, family man, and juggler of balls--big ones. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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