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Untangling Roots

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When I was a child I had a favorite tree, a large oak that stood in the corner of our yard. I loved that tree - the boundary - the limit. At six years old, I wasn't allowed to stray further than that tree. I wasn't allowed to leave the yard. I loved that boundary, that proud oak, the tall graceful guardian, protecting me against the great unknown, guarding me against strangers who, according to my parents, were always waiting to take me places where no one would find me again.

I would lay for hours under that tree and gaze into the sky, daydreaming, my mind wandering where I was not allowed to go physically. Yes, I loved that tree, that tall, brave defending guardian of the unknown. I loved my boundaries, clinging to them at times as I had clung to the branches of that tree. But soon I felt the desire to know what I was being protected against. I wanted to be taken to places where no one would find me. I needed to feel the wind blowing through my hair, the sun warming my face, the rain cleansing me--to exist in a natural state, where true beauty lies.

As I now begin my venture into the great unknown I find myself still strangely connected to trees, amazed at their strength, their stability, often in the midst of adverse conditions. It gives me hope when I look at them, mid-October, standing like bony skeletons, almost bare, the very bottom of their trunks encircled by bright oranges, reds, and yellows, their beautiful adornments now lost. They still look so proud, a hard edge to them now, without their brightly colored jewels hanging from their branches. They seem to be preparing for what they know to be the most difficult season to come.

In the Spring, when I see the new leaves budding on each tree, I experience that hopeful feeling again, and a sure sense of survival. I realize that this cycle will occur again and again and again, but I take comfort in the fact that survival for most of these trees is probable, and with each passing season, the trees only seem more breathtakingly beautiful.

I gazed out my window one Spring morning and watched as the landscapers worked on the yard across the street. Our new neighbors weren't happy with the placement of some of the smaller trees and were having them moved to other parts of the property. I thought about how hard it must be for these trees to be transplanted, their roots firmly entangled in the earth, twisting, curling around other roots from other trees, bushes, plants. What a shock it must be to be pulled from the safety, the security of the thick blanket of moist rich soil! How the roots must cling desperately to that familiar environment, and how they occasionally must be cut from the surrounding roots of the plants and trees that over time have intertwined with the soon to be uprooted tree. Severing the ties, trying to find the point where one tree ends and the other begins, is almost impossible after years of weaving together. The signs of this entanglement will always be evident, however, if the roots are looked at closely a small piece of another trees root still wrapped around it , a scratch, or a scar on its surface.

Desultor by Julie Lance

Desultor
by Julie Lance


Once freed from the earth, there is a period of vulnerability, Homeless, transient, helpless, at the mercy of the hand of the gardener, silently waiting to be placed. It yearns to root again, to feel the refuge of the fertile sanctuary, to slowly entangle, intertwine, braid with other roots, careful to leave some firmly attached to the source, to the safety, the familiarity of that place that is always home. Then, finally feeling its roots touching the ground, wanting to dig deeper, but having to be patient, not wise to rush, to force a feeling of home right away, the tree breathes in the new environment, feels the same wind, perhaps from a different direction, perhaps a different temperature, gently stirring its leaves, feeling like a light caress on its branches welcoming the tree home.

This is the crucial time for the tree. Not all survive the transplanting process. Some can never reattach to the place which they were planted. Perhaps the soil is just not rich enough, or the environment not conducive to new growth, or perhaps strangulation rather than braiding takes place between neighboring plant life. There may be unexpected storms that the tree simply cannot weather during this difficult transition. Or maybe there are those trees that never make it through the transformation. Some that will never stop yearning for their original home.

But for some, blossom! New growth! Life!! Their roots spreading out further than before. They stand taller, appear more graceful!! They fearlessly let their roots explore the deep dark soil, reaching out to touch the roots of other trees, to mingle, to mix, to wrap themselves around them gently, never suffocating, but part of one tree becoming part of the other, each still exploring and reaching out through the earth in many other directions.

Happy in the new environment, these trees bravely weather storms, harsh winds, and blazing heat, taking these acts of God in stride, realizing that these are the same hardships suffered by the oldest, most majestic trees in the forest. It is the difference between the withering dying saplings, and the exuberant vivacious kings of the forest. I now stand at the window, and stare wistfully at the outside, a slight dusting of snow covering the brown crispy grass. I can almost picture my tree, my childhood friend and protector, standing beautifully in the corner of my front yard, calling to me. The wind blows through its leaves, and the long slender branches move with the breeze, swaying, pointing the way. I sit and close my eyes, and imagine my childhood tree, uprooted and placed the yard in front of my new home. She has weathered many a storm, with more undoubtedly to come. A few branches lost, leaves scattered about, but still intact, letting this natural pruning process take place, this tree remembers the most important part of herself --as she reminds me of mine-- her source, her roots, and digs them in deeper, firmly into her new home.

jj Donahue is a 41 year old, soon-to-be divorced mother of three, living in Central Massachusetts. She is an office manager by day, writer by night, weekends, lunches, coffee breaks and other stolen moments. Her current projects include 2 novels, one called The Blue Whale and the other (a collaborative effort) - as yet untitled - is an erotic tale of love, obsession, and the search for something more.

Also in Song and Story:
Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography by David Bogle
Family Treasures    Dynamic Range   
Mrs. Lambert    When They Take Your Breasts Away
From the Kitchen Window    Reflections

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