Stop! Thief!

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King Orchid

Stop!

Stop thinking you can to steal something simply because you covet it. What makes you think you’re entitled?! How dare you!!

These thoughts have been a broken record in my head this last week as I struggle to come to terms with the theft of my very old, and very precious native King Orchid. A plant I’ve had for many years. Some heartless person reached over my garden wall and took the orchid for their own – as if they deserved it, as if they were entitled.

What is the mindset of a thief?

It hasn’t helped that I’ve been away for a couple of weeks. But as I attempt to make sense of the theft, I can see two things:

It was probably not an opportunistic act. The orchid was suspended inside the wall and not visible from the outside. So perhaps it was planned? Even worse, by someone who had been inside my courtyard? Whatever the case, it made me heartsick.

That person stole something that was precious to me: my faith in human nature. Oh, it’s not gone forever but it will take some restorative work to get it back. That thief violated my space, my haven. I’ve had to rearrange other items for their security. I hate the fact that this was necessary.

But, as I’ve found in the past, the universe has ways of putting things into perspective for me, albeit in brutal ways.

Just minutes after my distressing discovery, I encountered a person in the lane which abuts my garden wall.  We spoke about the orchid theft and a growing despair for societal woes. She told me of death threats from her partner, of being thrown down stairs, of having been escorted by police to a safe house with her children. I was reminded of our disgraceful statistics: one woman is killed by her partner every week in Australia (ref.) 

Suddenly, my concerns over a plant theft seemed infinitesimal. Later, when I mused on the two issues, I lamented the rogue nature of some members of our society. From small misdemeanours, to despicable crimes against fellow human beings.

How to make sense of it?

J.K. Rowling’s poem is cautionary, for I think the act of stealing from others has a mirror image. For in turn, something precious is taken from the thief – a sense of decency, replaced by a diminished humanity. And it affects all of us. This applies whether the stolen items are objects like plants, but especially to despicable acts of domestic violence, where the theft involves another’s dignity, security and self worth and sometimes, even a life.

 

“Enter, stranger, but take heed
Of what awaits the sin of greed,
For those who take, but do not earn,
Must pay most dearly in their turn.
So if you seek beneath our floors
A treasure that was never yours,
Thief, you have been warned, beware
Of finding more than treasure there.” 
― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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59 responses to “Stop! Thief!

    • Thanks for your thoughts Valerie. ‘Tis but a plant I guess and the ideas we construct around sentimentality. More importantly, are the societal glitches that allow or even foster this sort of behaviour. Especially in the case of domestic violence.

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  1. Another thought provoking read Robyn!
    I admire the way you link a personal experience or observation to an important societal or environmental issue in your blogs.
    Maybe your orchid will stop flowering in its new abode!! I understand perspective but revenge can be sweet!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am so sorry to hear of your loss of something so precious to you. And that you have to rearrange your garden for security before the plants’ requirements. You have the right to feel your deep loss even while others are suffering the inhumanity of humans towards other humans.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nearly unbelievable story Robyn had me wondering why on Earth someone would steal your precious orchid. Then of course, it’s exceptionally hard to believe that men would harm their wives.
    These are challenging times for everyone in one way or another.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. First, let me say, you can keep orchids alive?!? You are certainly a wizard yourself, then, Robyn, because I kill — no matter how I stick to the instructions — all orchids who enter. Yet, I’ve managed to keep other plants alive for 40+ years so it’s not the green thumb aspect, but just the orchid.

    About the theft, it’s so unsettling to think that your private space has been entered. When I lived in Philadelphia many years ago, my roommate and I experienced three break-ins and each time we put more bars on the windows, but despite the added security, each time it felt less like home. That won’t happen to your lovely garden, I’m sure, but maybe you should look into “feng shui” (the Chinese art of placement) and see if that will help the flow and perhaps keep out intruders in the process.

    About domestic violence, while I didn’t experience it firsthand, growing up, we had a family friend who was being abused by her husband and she would always come to my father for help, and he would try to counsel her to move out, etc., but despite the abuse, she never left her husband. I’ve since moved away, so I no longer see the flareups, but I know maybe ten years ago I asked why she still stayed — she was successful and could afford her own life, her kids were grown, etc. — but she said he would continue to make her life miserable or maybe even kill her so she kept on doing what she’d always done. The sense of disempowerment is overwhelming, even in an otherwise strong woman. I wrote about domestic violence in one of my novellas — “List of 55” — but I feel as though I have more to say about it so I will probably do so again someday.

    So here’s a wish that the person who took your orchid will read your post, realize how much it means to you, and bring it back. It was truly a winning plant (as is your blog!). :0)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Don’t be too hard on yourself Pam. I have success with the easy ones but others, for some reason, turn their toes up as soon as they see me coming.

      I like your idea of examining my feng shui aspect. I’m prepared to try anything to regain the feeling of peace and plenty I had. I thought of putting up a sign warning of surveillance but that doesn’t sit well somehow.
      The story of your family friend is so familiar. Sadly, death is often the price a woman pays when she tries to leave. There appears to be no economic or personal distinctions when it comes to domestic violence. It pervades all social groups. I have seen it develop in previously happy unions. I guess the seeds of violence and control must still lurk somewhere but just aren’t apparent in the golden early stages of a relationship when we forgive almost anything. Thanks for your thoughts on both matters. I always appreciate hearing them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Robyn- As always, you make me think! Thank you for that. I’m so sorry for your loss and sad to hear of another woman subjected to violence. Though it doesn’t help you or her, you are so right that people are diminished by their acts of violence and crimes against their fellow man. I hope you get your orchid back.

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    • Thanks Catherine. It’s unlikely I’ll ever see that orchid again. I guess it’s the other things I’ve been robbed of in the process that bother me more. And the fear the thief will be back.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What sad stories. You have every right to feel aggrieved by what was surely a premeditated theft, and it’s odd that an orchid fancier never stopped to think of the loss you would feel to see yours gone.

    As for domestic violence – well, at least it’s out in the open now, acknowledged and regarded as criminal, even though the statistics are grim. I’d never thought about it alongside theft, but both behaviours do seem to stem from a distorted sense of ownership and possession.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Denise the orchid was old heavy and huge with a potential to be divided and sold off. But it would not be recognised as valuable except by a gardener so you’re right. It’s unfathomable that another gardener could do this.
      Domestic violence is something I’ve been spared personally but others close to me have suffered and it’s heartbreaking to see the destruction it causes not just to the immediate victim but to their families and wider community.

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  7. Theft of an orchid
    Theft of a person’s self-worth and spirit.

    In both cases someone has a sense of control and ownership that they are not entitled to. You can replace the orchid, though the replacement will never be the same. You will slowly feel that your courtyard is yours again, though for the moment you feel it has been violated.
    That woman will always carry the scars of domestic abuse with her as long as she lives. A casual remark. An argument. A TV script. Anything can and will cause a flash of fear in her heart.
    As much as the loss pains you (and I can understand why) be grateful that you are the person within the courtyard and not the person without. (And I am also very certain that you are)
    xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jude you have captured exactly what I was trying to convey. After I spoke to her I was instantly contrite about my outrage over a plant and the violation I felt. I also felt guilty for being grateful that it wasn’t me in her shoes. Thanks for your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. While compassion and empathy are nurturing qualities, we also need to nurture ourselves. There will always be those who are worse off than ourselves; or better off. But we must not always compare all facets of ours with others’ lives. We are allowed to feel for our own loss, and to live through the whole cycle of mourning. It makes us stronger.
    While I was in Japan last year I marvelled at the level of courtesy, respect and trust that was on display from the locals and their meticulously ordered environment. In the middle of the city an old old house held up it’s own walls all by itself. The tiny garden visible from the street, a spot of beauty for all to admire. It didn’t end there. On the footpath a meter from the house an upright little fish pond stood, like those old cement laundry basins we used to have here. Maybe ten golden fish lazily waved their bodies through the lilly stems and occasionally peeped out from under their tiny giant round leaves to get some sun. Another spot of beauty for admiration. These spots were everywhere. No pond was used as a rubbish bin and it is safe to assume that the fish were not stolen as it would not be economically viable to replace them every week. It wasn’t just the fish ponds. There were pot plants everywhere. Even shops had them outside, some lattice creepers, some herb gardens, some flower pots. I thought that maybe it’s the collective society that I had been learning about at uni recently. Everybody respected other people’s property, right? But then I remembered all those Japanese samurai and ninja movies and even Monkey Magic where thieves and vandals were common characters. No, it wasn’t that.
    It was because of the bomb. The whole country knew what it felt like to have their property destroyed (and lives, families, livelihood). Everyone was affected even those not directly in the line of fire. Were people to steal fish from the ponds, kick over pot plants, tear down the vines, the loss is also theirs because they make it ugly for everyone, and a void or a vacuum of no admiration for anyone.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Simon this is a beautiful account of your experience in Japan and it’s so thoughtfully expressed. I often think of space when I think of Japanese culture. Personal space observed in Japan is much less than here. Social courtesies are necessary to maintain social order when space is limited. Think behavioural sink. Then there is the aspect of religion as a social glue. Belief systems help to maintain social order. I’m thinking now of the Balinese culture where theft used to be less common because of perceived afterlife/next life consequences. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur, but simply how it’s viewed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. having your faith in humanity diminished by violation of your space is a horrible deed. I understand this completely. Your wisdom in knowing that greater violations take place and holding yours in perspective is a grace as well. Heal and be healer…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Ouch, that was a nasty experience and one that you are processing with your usual grace. It’s so odd,too, when gardeners so freely share if asked! I am sorry for the one who grabbed as well as you. Maybe if they had asked nicely you might have divided it in a year or two and thought of the culprit — or not. It doesn’t always work that way but the gift anticipated is sweeter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly Rachel! Gardeners are generous souls in my experience. Only too willing to discuss and share cuttings and bits with each other. Most of my garden had its genesis in plant gifts from others. You would not have thought me so gracious had you seen the stormy maelstrom of revenge gathered above my head when I first discovered the theft. But like you, I’ve had time to think about it and worry for the state of the person behind it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. A thought – provoking post, Robyn. And I am sorry to hear that your privacy has been violated by one who seeks to gain profit or pleasure from possessions that are not theirs to claim. I think the universal law will sort them out, for in my experience, a theft incites a loss far greater than the value of the item that was taken. This slightly comforting thought, however, probably does not comfort you as I suspect you would feel a little unsafe in your yard, now. Can you install an inexpensive surveillance camera, for if this person sells the orchid at a local market, they may decide to take something else? I totally agree with the previous comment about respect and trust, that is so wonderfully displayed in Japanese customs and is lacking here in Australia and the West. Then I think of your unfortunate neighbour, and of the poor convicts of our penal days who stole in order to eat. We no longer admonish the convicts, and of course there are folk who are battling more difficult life experiences. As a survivor and escapee of domestic violence, I can say that all situations are relative to the victim’s sense of disempowerment and lack of respect for others, plays a major role. I would gladly share my orchids with you! My survive only by their own resilience!!! .

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    • Thanks for your thoughts. I agree there is a cost to the thief. It pains me to think the plant was taken by another gardener. I don’t think the average person would know its worth. It wasn’t in flower. Therefore I think the theft was driven by sheer avarice rather than need.
      I feel very sorry you were victim of domestic violence and I agree, power is a big one. Dis-empowerment for the victim, empowerment for the perpetrator.

      Thank you for your offer to share. The sign of a true gardener. I would gladly have shared had I been given the opportunity.

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  12. I have many questions, Robyn, but answers? None. It is so hard to imagine the theft of a flower. And much harder to understand how love can turn violent. Your post stirs up feelings of both anger and confusion.

    For example, I don’t know anything about orchids, but I’m curious: is that particular one worth a lot of money, and could it be sold?

    Or do you think the person just wants it for its beauty, thinking perhaps that you don’t appreciate it enough? Or weren’t caring for it. (A friend told me a story about how he stole a dog out of someone’s backyard once. It sounds crazy, but he thought he what he was doing was justified. )

    Or are some people so self-centered that they believe they have a right to anything they can get their hands on no matter what the means? I know at least one successful politician here who behaves that way (I dont like even to think about domestic violence and abuse, it’s so incomprehensible, but this last option–total self-absorption–surely must apply to those situations, unless alcohol and drugs are involved.)

    I have never had anything stolen from me, so I won’t say that I know how you must feel. I hope that it helps to write about it. And even more, I hope that the person comes back with the orchid and apologizes. Not much chance, right? OK then, I’ll apologize, remembering Dostoevsky’s character in The Brothers Karamazov (the monk Zosima) who said that we are all responsible for each other, including for evil things done. Its a puzzling thought, but I haven’t figured out any other way to live peacefullywith the darkness.

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    • Like you Albert, I struggle to understand. Firstly, the orchid stolen is a native variety, so a bit nondescript to look at until it’s flowering. Then it’s spectacular as you can see by the photos. The plant is an epiphyte and is mounted on a tree-fern backing which was suspended inside my wall from a butcher’s hook, and not visible from outside. It was far too big and heavy for me to put there by myself, so I had help. These plants are slow growing so one this large would be old which is what makes it valuable. The thief could presumably divide it and sell it at markets.

      Not much care is required for these plants so I can’t imagine someone would think I didn’t care for it, or anything in my garden for that matter.
      Why people feel entitled to take things that don’t belong to them is a mystery to me too.
      As for domestic violence, that also remains a mystery although I have read quite a bit in the process of trying to understand.

      Writing about both subjects, using one seemingly unrelated subject to examine another, is helpful. Sometimes this gives the best insight.
      I feel ashamed to say I haven’t read Dostoevsky but think I can see what is meant by all being responsible for the other. On two levels. Spiritually: as sparks off the same flame, the wrongs of one individual diminish us all. And anthropologically: perhaps as members and contributors to the cultural mores which determine how one should be, and behave, as members of a society, we are all responsible when these fail.

      Albert, I do enjoy your input. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these knotty subjects.

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  13. I’m sorry to read about the loss of your orchid, Robyn, all the more so because your space was violated by a person who seems to have had a plan of action. The awful statistics about domestic violence in the country are so worrying, and it goes on and on. It was good that the person in the lane could articulate it to you, though: so often women suffer in silence.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts Jane. I felt very helpless in the face of her anguish. DV is so pervasive – everyone seems to know someone who has experienced it – or even have experienced it themselves. It’s such a complex issue. I don’t know what the answer is.

      I still feel disappointed about my orchid.

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  14. Hi Robyn, hopefully you will have another flower grow. I had my Kindle stolen while on a campsite when we were away. I love how you used the Harry Potter quote. I am currently listening to Stephen Fry read them all on audio=book while driving and loving it. Tells so much more than a film and things I had forgotten , or not pick up on when reading them.

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    • How disappointing that another camper would do such a thing. It’s like a member of the tribe violating its own.
      I will try to get the audios you describe. I like Stephen Fry’s voice. It’s a whole other experience to hear the story rather than watch or read it, don’t you think? Reminds me of being a child listening to my parents tell stories.

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  15. Maybe the thief didn’t know it was an orchid and had a sweetheart to give it to…. Well, that’s my romanticized take on an unpleasant situation. Most likely, as you say, it was premeditated, in which case the thief has even less conscience. But yeah – the comparison puts things into perspective. Having been on the receiving end of robbery, I know the feelings it leaves behind. And sadly, have known women who’ve been beaten…

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  16. There is something that feels particularly impotent to me about stealing a flower or plant. I honestly didn’t know this was a thing; much less from someone’s garden. Great writing, as always.

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    • Thanks for your kind words Luke. It seems some people feel entitled to take anything they covet. But it equally has consequences for them as well as the one who has been stolen from. the good thing is the lessons offered by this experience. 🙂

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