Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Roots

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Last spring, we planted a tree in our front yard.  In time it will add a smidgen of privacy to the porch we spend long hours upon, and who doesn't love cruising down a tree-lined avenue. (I'm secretly conspiring with a neighbor to do "midnight plantings" all along the lane...do you think anyone would mind?)  While it was indeed the wrong time of year to move a tree, we forged ahead. If you plant in the fall, the tree is settled and then can rest and acclimate to new ground; in the spring, it's plunked down and immediately the world demands, "Blossoms, leaves and fruit!"

I was so proud the evening we dug out the circle in our lawn, knelt to insert the burlap wrapped ball into the ground, tenderly cut the string holding it all together....I remember the way the dirt felt under my nails as we pushed it in to surround the roots with dark loamy love.  We began the summer of watering...and hoping.

I called my mum to ask about a stake.  Everywhere I looked were little trees guarded by tall rigid planks of wood thrust deep into the ground.  Each twiggy trunk was tied to their guards; braided cord promising safety in the storm while still seeming a bit strangulating at the same time.  My mother is a horticulturist with a green arm.  She can make stones grow.  I was slightly taken aback when she vehemently told me no - the stakes make the trees weak. 

What?  I thought they were to protect the baby trees, keep them from falling in a wind.  But as I listened, her words rang true...in so many ways.  You see, the most important part of a tree's job upon transplant, is to grow roots.  Deeply.  That neat and tidy ball that you carry home from the nursery is like the fat end of a weeble wobble and it must plunge its fibrous fingers down into the earth, entwining themselves in the world beneath lest it simply be blown over when the storms arrive.

But do you know what makes the roots grow?  Being shaken.  Every breeze, every thunderstorm, as the tree is rattled, it reaches deeper.  The only way our sapling would make it through the snowy winter ahead, was for us to let it tremble through the gusts and gales of summer.  Yes, there is risk--for once in a while a tempest may snap a trunk...but rarely.

And so we watered and hoped.  The August heat arrived and we watered more.  The leaves dropped one by one as if plucked by October's frosty claws, and while the winter has been mild, snow draped the barren branches a time or two.  I'm rather amazed that the simplest things in life truly do provide intense, innocent joy.  The buds that swelled on twiggy tips were sheer delight.  This early March warmth burst them open the same day the robins returned to argue with the squirrels over the neighbor's feeder.  Spring has arrived.

I've spent many days on my porch, fingers wrapped around coffee or whiskey, contemplating that tree.  Good days....and hard ones.  While the leaves were filling out, one of my boys broke a leg.  As the branches stretched in glory to the sky, my husband had a seizure and lost the ability to drive.  The tempests of life do surprise us sometimes; shocking how they can arrive in a moment wrecking havoc....and then be gone.  At times the devastation is minor, others it redefines the color of the sky.  But every cloudburst and squall--they're making us strong enough to face the hurricane.  When jobs evaporate and cars crash and children wander in treacherous lands...when money is scarce and plans disintegrate and the future is suddenly unknown.  When your heart aches and tears trace the curve of your cheeks....can you feel it?

You're growing roots.


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22 comments:

Shea Goff said...

Lovely.

Character is what my Mom calls those roots in human form.

terlee said...

Loved this post, with all its threads...or should I say roots?

Last year I had a disagreement with the guy helping me plant some trees. He was a staker, I was not. I let it go, but after he left, I pulled out all the stakes. My wee trees all survived the winter gales and are just starting to blossom.

I think Spring is my favorite season. All that promise, and hope, and the rich, sweet smell of life.

Mandy_Fish said...

Love this.

Robbie Grey said...

The last line was fantastic.

Mel Heth said...

Your posts never disappoint. A life lesson/reminder AND solid gardening advice. I love it. And I think I need to go unstake the avocado tree in our backyard now...

Shelly said...

Such multi-layered richness. Great piece for pondering.

Lydia @ On The Verge said...

What a truly great post! It was so lovely. I am following you. Thanks for stopping by today.

Lydia
www.stillontheverge.com

BamaTrav said...

Also, having been through countless hurricanes and tropical storms, I learned that they become stronger as the fibers of their bodies are stressed and rocked by the high winds and they heal.

Chantel said...

Shea--thank you, we could all use a little more character. :)

Terlee--so glad your little trees are good, a "staker," eh? lol

Mandy & Robbie--thank you both so much.

Mel--I dream of avocado trees... *sigh*

Lydia--thank you!

BamaTrav--I didn't know they heal...that's somehow amazing and comforting.

Lyndsay Wells said...

Wiping the tears from my eyes. Chantal this was exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Brava! Wonderful tale with a wonderful lesson. And I didn't see it coming.

ND Mitchell said...

This was a fantastic post Chantel.
"But do you know what makes the roots grow? Being shaken. Every breeze, every thunderstorm, as the tree is rattled, it reaches deeper." This is very meaningful-here's to "reaching deeper" as we face the storms!
David

Camille Griffiths said...

Love it, hope you don't mind if I share this post. :)

Mary said...

I loved this post.

Chantel said...

Lyndsay--I've missed you! Deep roots, strong hearts...warm kitchens. :)

Bliss--thank you so much.

Mitchell--and the storms do come, don't they? Thank you!

Camille--I am totally honored!

Mary--thanks love.

Anthony said...

Powerful post...

Shrinky said...

Such true words of wisdom here, dearest Chantel, and a beautiful parable of life, so skillfully written with your usual grace and eloquence - how I enjoy your posts!

I love this line, "She can make stones grow." and suspect I will remember it.

EmptyNester said...

My FIL was just like your mum! And he never used those stakes either. I absolutely love the way you used that as a symbol for our own growing of roots! You are so clever and I love reading here!

FrankandMary said...

Standing on the precipice of massive change...& root growing.
2 minor(I'm so kidding) things to think about today.
This is beautiful, & convincing in all the right ways as well.
~Mary

Brian Miller said...

so much truth in this about life...many would say they would rather not have to go through the pain...but it is during those times i have grown the most....great piece...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this :)

Sarah Kate said...

I love how your posts always make me think and reflect. I've always loved trees. I love how they can be both strong and fragile at the same time. Kind of like us. :o)