Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Roots and Wings

The vast majority of my yard is concrete and rocks. (Attractive rocks, but still rocks.) Other than the rocks and concrete, I have two planters. Both were empty when I moved in. The one in the backyard has been completely overtaken by an impressively healthy weed.

When it started growing, I didn't think it would amount to much, and I had a newborn and bird mites and a husband going on work trips, so it just wasn't a priority. Also, the planter is very deep, and the ledge is wide, and it just seemed like a lot of trouble to go after it.

A few months passed, and now I have this. It's kind of pretty in a wild way, and it has totally taken over. Apparently it needs almost no water, because I've never watered it, and it certainly doesn't rain very often here, and it is very, very hot.

The planter in the front was much easier to work with. While my parents visited after Gordon was born, my dad and mom bought me some dirt, peat moss, and magnolia plants. My dad and Daniel planted them. I've been watering them faithfully, and I have so far been rewarded with one flower. In hindsight, I wonder if I should have chosen a more desert-like plant.

The children were required to each bring a plant to school to keep there throughout the school year. While the kids were picking out plants, I decided to buy two more plants to put in the planter with the magnolias to see if they were hardier and happier in the heat.

I had four magnolias, but one of them was just barely hanging on, clearly dying, so I decided to finish the death process and chuck it.

I dug it up quite easily and threw it away. It appeared to have an even smaller root system than the potted plant I replaced it with.

Next I wanted to move one of the other magnolias so that the plants would be somewhat evenly spaced. After having removed a magnolia so easily, I didn't think this would be a difficult task.

I soon discovered that this magnolia had an extensive root system. It was much wider and deeper than that of the magnolia plant resting at the bottom of my trash can.

I did finally dig all the way around the roots and move it over.

That was over a week ago, and I am happy to say that the magnolia I moved did not shrivel up and die. It did lose some leaves and no more flowers have bloomed, but the majority of the plant is healthy, and I see some promising leaf clusters that could give me flowers in the future.

Later that day, I thought about the plants. They were the same kind of plant, purchased from the same nursery, planted in the same planter box, receiving the same amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients. Yet one died, and the other thrived and even survived a second move.

The difference?

Their roots.

I have moved a lot in my life, and now it appears that I will continue moving a lot. There are many difficult aspects of moving: finding new schools, figuring out where the grocery store is, making new friends, (and with our current life situation) learning new languages, and trying to navigate new cultures.

Some might think it is impossible to grow roots in just two or three short years.

Some might say that you can either have roots or wings, but not both.

But I am going to follow the example of my magnolia plants. Both were removed from their original location and placed in a new one. The first was in stasis. It did not grow. It did not change, did not adapt. It did not attempt to put forth any new roots.

And it died. It was tossed in the trash can like it was trash.

The second altered its life. It changed; it grew. It put forth roots and spread them down and out and deep. It thrived enough to grow me a flower.

And then when I moved it again, because of those strong roots and its ability to grow roots, it is now surviving in its new location, and it is showing promise to thrive and flower again.

And that is what I must do.

Grow roots everywhere I go.

Because the alternative is not pleasant to think about.

And because I want to thrive.

It hurts to think of all the friends I've loved and left (or who have left me), and it especially pains me to think of my family that is too far away, but even more unbearable would be to have never had those relationships at all. To move from place to place and never gain anything except new mailing addresses.

1985–1989: New York
1989–1993: Michigan
1993–1997: São Paulo, Brazil
1997–2004: Indiana
2004–2009: Utah
2009–2013: Ohio
2013–2014: Virginia
2015–2016: Ciudad Juárez, México
2017–2018: Who knows? But it will be great!

I know how to move, how to love a new place, how to make friends, how to find new hobbies, and how to put down roots. And I know how to do it again and again and again. I know how to flower. I may lose some leaves, but I will blossom.

And now I just need to figure out how to teach this skill to my kids.


  1. I love this post. You have such a great outlook on change. You are such an example to me of jumping in with both feet. I'm always impressed at how you make friends and connections wherever you go. You truly are "blooming where you are planted" I just feel lucky you were planted by me for a couple of years in there! Keep up the blogging! I've missed you!

  2. Nicely said!! —Chelle Belle

  3. Great post! We had some crazy weeds like that too! You're a great rooter! —Pete the ol' Cheat


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