Tuesday, May 30, 2006


A reflection on Transplant Shock

Transplant Shock

I am an orchid. My husband is a dandelion.
My name is Aleta Braun. His name is Robert Ebendorf. If you are a regular with this blogspot, then you met him last week. We are both artists.

Several summers ago, we spent most of the season on the road, visiting friends, living out of the car. While I took a painting class at Art New England in Bennington, VT, Bob taught a class in Shrines, Altars and Icons. Before leaving Greenville, we each packed a box or two that we labeled “Aleta studio” and “Bob studio”. The plan was that when we arrived at each point along the way, we would unpack what we needed and set up our little portable studios. The engine on the car hadn’t even cooled and Bob was unpacked, installed and I could hear the ping ping of his little hammer on metal or the snip snip of scissors on paper for collage material.

Meanwhile, my “Aleta studio” box sat on the table as I was scoping out the situation, going for a walk through my new neighborhood – generally assessing the lay of the land, “getting the feel of the place in my senses”. This is a time when I need to sink my roots into the new soil before expecting to see a blossom. Bob, as a dandelion, was doing something similar but it’s easier to have the right conditions for growth.

It takes a while to begin to see a pattern emerge. A few years passed before I named our behavior in terms of flowers. Over time, I watched as Bob would quickly acclimate like a weed to any environment. I, on the other hand, require the right conditions to survive and thrive. If the conditions are too harsh, it invokes “Transplant Shock”.

During the month before our departure for India, Bob and I were soaking and planting last year’s seeds from the Moonflower plants the Butterfly Moths so enjoyed in our backyard at dusk. It was an enjoyable springtime project that allowed us to watch the growth of the seedlings by the minute. After they were large and sturdy enough, Bob planted several in the ground. The next day he was concerned, “the ones I planted yesterday look sort of droopy compared to the ones that are still in pots on the deck.” “They’re suffering transplant shock,” I answered and explained that the quick change in environment gives the plants a jolt and it takes a while for them to adapt as they sink their roots into the new soil. “They’ll be back to normal in a few days.”

We arrived in Delhi 12 and a half hours after taking off from Ohare Airport. I was actually feeling pretty energized after taking a homeopathic remedy called “No Jet Lag”, but nothing can prepare a person from eastern Carolina for the overload of the senses that awaits you on the streets of the Pahar Ganj district in Delhi.

Nothing hindered our arrival at the Star Paradise Hotel, across wider streets into a narrower one, across cow dung and mangy dogs, along a dimly lit passageway with public pissoires, merchants with carts or shops, chaotic travel that later reveals itself as a language of horns, headlights, shouts and gestures designed for the safe and rapid transit of everyone involved, under a crisscrossing tangle of dusty black utility wire, into our people-only alleyway and through the doorway of our new Delhi home.

It didn’t take long to realize that “we were not in Kansas anymore, Toto”. The water, the pillows, the bedsheets, electricity, generators. It was kind of like camping in a room. Within minutes of lying down to sleep, Bob’s breathing shifted into that familiar soft sound of sleep while I lay awake for hours in spite of exhaustion. This sleep trend continued for days, rather nights. The very act of falling asleep, that millisecond of changed breathing, seemed to push me right back into consciousness. Within a few day , I was sick with fever. The sleepless nights were full of anguish and deep peacefulness, a crazy mixture of obsessive thinking and joyful half-awake reverie and prayerful meditation. “What was I thinking when I decided to spend a whole month in India?”; “I wanna go home!” I hadn’t yet arrived in India. My mind was struggling with the differences; the assault on the senses; my sense of cleanliness, personal space and order. Chaos seemed to hold the upper hand. Where is the equal measure of order? The patterns hadn’t yet revealed themselves to me. My usual avenues to happiness via beauty, nature and connection hadn’t yet thrown me a bridge to this new culture. Nor were my eyes open. I had pulled my resources inside for self-preservation. I was experiencing transplant shock.

Because I work professionally with people’s health through their feet and hands, (Reflexology), I always consider it an insightful gift as well as growth potential for compassionate understanding when I myself am challenged with a sickness. The delicate balance of vulnerability one feels isn’t readily seen as a doorway to new possibilities. What worked for me during those long hours of sleepless nights was a continuous return to the breath, which relaxed my body and mind. The amazing thing is that I never felt tired during the days.

The next day by mid-morning Bob and I followed a hotel worker through the curving maze to Dr. Pancholi’s clinic, a very simple whitewashed place that gave me a good feeling once inside. He gave me the reassurance, medication and advice to let me know that all would be well. I knew this myself, but when vulnerability sets in, it’s good to put together a team of allies.

Later that day, I was writing in my journal when my body mind and spirit arrived in India.
…one of the many men on our hotel lobby who appear to be workers was our guide. Bob gave him 40 ruppees. The streets leading there were full of sights, sounds and smells. Children sitting on crates peeling and cutting onions. Flies everywhere. Men making and heating chapatis. Cows lying down. Cows walking. A man tenderly stroking the ears of a reclining cow. I saw the sensuous bud of a horn emerging from the crown. ( I just realized I am now here. I have arrived!) Ah, the body mind connection. My senses are awakening.

This moment of awakening triggered the signal to send out my first transplant roots into the new soil. I am here. I am happy, healthy and enjoying myself, the special time with my husband, the group, the people of India. The orchid part of me is thriving, gathering information through well laid roots that will translate into vibrant green and beautiful blossoms. Bob, my dandelion, hasn’t missed a beat.

I wonder how the moonflowers back home are doing?

For your information, Miss Aleta, the moonflowers are doing beautifully and have begun to range widely across my porch.

And that's a swell entry you posted. Travel makes you wax all eloquent and tender-like.
What an awesome entry. I'm sure there were others that had "transplant shock". Hopefully, everyone is healthy & enjoying India:)
Such a beautiful entry Aleta, and I’m so glad you are acclimating to Inda and now enjoying the differences. I'll stop by and check out the moon flowers.

We all miss you back home. Take care of each other, and send Erica my love. Tim
Orchid roots are tender and grow slowly, but Oh, the flowers. Dandelions on the other hand.....well, on the other hand. We were delighted to read your account. All the blogs have been wonderful. Looking forward to more. On the home front the moon flowers are a foot or two up the fence, the night blooming Cerius has put some mighty new growth and the blackberry shrub is loaded with fruit. Stay well.
Barbara and Mike
Dear Aleta,
my moonflowers just recently discovered the fence behind them and have started their climb toward the sky, sharing the dirt with little orange cosmos.

Your entry was exquisite, thank you for the gift.

You are missed here, by the tree and many of us. Please send love to Bob and Erica. I look forward to your return, xo Lisa Beth
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