Constructive Rest and the Sad History of Orchids

Since starting my 9–5 desk job a few years ago, my already poor posture has deteriorated quite a bit, due to hunching in front of two monitors all day.  The 8 hours at the desk is not the only problem…when I get home, my first instinct is to switch to my personal laptop (for blogging, etc) or curl up in a chair to read.  Neither of these activities helps my posture, of course.

POSITION OF SKELETON IN GOOD AND POOR POSTURE - NARA - 515194

I’ve had this problem for years but only recently became seriously concerned with the longterm effects.  While I’ve tried exercises/stretches in the past, I’m convinced that stretching in itself is not enough.  Breaking it down, the first problem, I feel, is simply how to give my back a rest.

The last couple of days, I’ve been experimenting with “constructive rest,” part of the Alexander Technique (which I have not done, but probably could benefit from).  It’s as simple as can be – you just lie down on a flat surface with your knees bent and your head slightly propped up.

Me, I can’t just lie down and do nothing.  I have to be reading, or watching a video, or something.  So during my “constructive rest” time – about 30 minutes a day – I have been listening to a LibriVox audiobook called About Orchids, a Chat by Victorian writer Frederick Boyle, read by Peter Yearsley.

One of these days, I will talk about my love of orchids, which actually has a literary origin.  For now, suffice it to say I have recently purchased a new Phalaenopsis (moth orchid) and was happy to find a Victorian “chat” about one of my favorite flowers.  Boyle was a lawyer and journalist who had a penchant for orchids, and listening to him talk about them in an educated, yet chatty fashion is really enjoyable.

Vanda Sanderiana

A sad thing I learned was the troublesome, sometimes disturbing history of how orchids came to Europe in the 19th century.  Boyle talks of orchid importers chopping down whole, perfectly good trees for the sake of literally a few orchids clinging to the branches.  He lists a slew of orchid collectors who died on the job, while trekking through difficult terrain to find specimens.

The honest youth, not very strong perhaps in an English climate, went bravely forth into the unhealthiest parts of unhealthy lands, where food is very scarce, and very, very rough; where he was wet through day after day, for weeks at a time; where “the fever,” of varied sort, comes as regularly as Sunday; where from month to month he found no one with whom to exchange a word.

Boyle explains how small the payoff was due to trouble with shipments.  The orchids had to be carefully packed and sent down from the mountains to the port on pack mules.  This was not the worst of it.  An orchid importer could lose up to 1000£ if a batch of orchids did not survive the sea voyage.  (Orchids are rather sensitive to temperature and water). 

All in all, I am left with mixed feelings about my beloved orchids.  I do not feel such risks and waste are worth transporting a tiny, inanimate creature from one part of the globe to the other.  On the other hand, now we have orchids in grocery stores, so I benefit from that history.  I’m glad I did not have to choose one way or the other, because I can understand the collectors’ obsession, even if I can’t condone it.

Martin Johnson Heade - Orchids and Hummingbirds (14994490788)
Martin Johnson Heade – Orchids and Hummingbirds, [CC BY 2.0 ],
via Wikimedia Commons, Irina, 2014-09-08 22:03

6 thoughts on “Constructive Rest and the Sad History of Orchids

  1. Hmmm. I now gaze at my unflowered orchid with both curiosity and guilt. Thanks for the fascinating tidbit. Best wishes for achieving comfort and relief for your back. My wife has had three surgeries, and a fourth is scheduled for September. I recommend you avoid that torture.

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  2. I had a professor who taught that economics was the root of all wars. I think it's probably true, for the majority of them anyway. Incidentally, many amazing and admirable inventions have come out of wartime. It's depressing all around, but I guess at least some good uses have come out of these things, after the fact.

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