My mom is the type who is all “Don’t get me anything.  I don’t need a thing. Save your money.” Well, granted she has reached an age when she technically doesn’t need anything, but there is something we all need that’s easily given and accepted. Beauty in our lives.

Last year I started giving her blooming orchid plants as gifts on major occasions, when I can find them. She loves flowers and caring for plants, but can no longer do the outdoor flower growing that was a mainstay of her life for decades.

I make her close her eyes, then present her open hands with what seems to be a living jewel, vibrant petals trembling delicately with each movement. She is thrilled every time to receive a new member of her orchid “farm”. And I am doubly thrilled to have found something that gives her so much pleasure.

I like to play around with my camera phone, and just went into her kitchen where she keeps them bathed in perfect southern light to experiment with light, texture, and angles. Nothing fancy. Just the shutter “button”, my squinting eyes, and phone-maneuvering hands.

Here are some of my favorites of the results:

–A sort of bronzy purple that in certain light looks as if the petals sat in a tropical mist just long enough to become rimed with rust instead of a winter’s frost.

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–Very different kind of purple, with intriguing patches that look like some exotic purple and white patterned animal skin…nature designed, botanically worn.

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The way the light shines a bit through the barely translucent petals makes me think of looking up through a gaily hued paper parasol on a sunny day.

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–This one seems a little more tame, being a less flashy pale green cousin to its showy companions, but then you really notice those striking purple freckles. It reminds me of a cupcake, all sprinkly decorated and too pretty to eat.

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Again with the diffused light, petals acting as a natural filter.

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I read somewhere that once an orchid in captivity loses all its blooms it will never bloom again, and kept insisting to my mom that she should throw them out when they reached the pot of sticks stage. She kept insisting she saw buds, kept feeding them ice cubes, and having faith. She was right. The animal print and freckled ones are second generation blooms. When it comes to flowers, my mother does know best.

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