All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by frost.
These days, modern families relocate every couple of years. I am no exception. In my adult life, I have lived in four different apartments and owned four different homes. Not in the smooth transition from apartment to starter home to family manor. No, the places I have called home have been an up and down illustration of the jagged course my life has taken.
Two summers ago, after a long odyssey of depending on relatives for our shelter, my 4-year-old son and I finally purchased a tiny house on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, with a vast view of prairie grass from our back porch. It was a great step out towards our own independence but after all the places I’ve been in my life, it still felt like just a step, a transition, just another place to be until someday moving on again.
Almost immediately after we unpacked however, the friend I had just started hanging out with had other ideas. He came to visit the bare patch that was my back yard and enthusiastically, that very day, began building and establishing two small raised garden plots. At first two seemed like a small safe investment, a good learning activity for my son. Yes, I approved of two small beds.
As our friendship subsequently grew to serious dating, engagment, and a wedding, stuff kept appearing in my yard. Suddenly berry bushes, fruit trees, bunches of herbs and over time SEVEN raised beds appeared. Each one was a fantastic gift placed with care by one who loved me, and each made me nervous.
As a college kid, I had once told a friend of my lifelong dream of owning a full yard where I would plant a rose bush every year as a beautiful visible measure of my time in my cozy home. This friend had pointed out that my lot in life would more likely be to never live anywhere long enough to see blooms from anything I planted. Unfortunately, those words had seemed over the years to become a dark prophecy to me. Every time I had become attached enough to a home to risk planting, life had thrown me another curve and the packing boxes had been hauled away before the blooms opened.
So, all these roots my beloved was putting down in our new yard just made me nervous, as if the roots themselves might cause our lives to grow in an uncertain, possibly disastrous direction. When I finally found a voice to tell him of my worries, my new husband just calmly replied that the act of planting made him feel happy. He had never felt disappointed or regretful of anything he planted in the past, though life had moved him far away. He was planting these trees with no fixed expectation that he himself would ever eat their fruit, but merely believing that the act of bringing a green growing life to a certain piece of earth was a way of changing the world for the positive. Leaving plants in your wake is a good way to move through life, continuing to change the world long after you are gone.
I’m starting to think of this house differently. To think of putting more holes than usual in the walls. To think of unpacking the last few boxes that I always seem to leave packed as some weird sort of insurance policy. I’m thinking of going all in… putting down reckless amounts of roots, shaping this tiny portion of the earth and not just passing time on it.
I’m readjusting my thinking about those roses too. Maybe the ones scattered all over the country in my wake are my measurement too, even if I don’t see them every day. Maybe I should plant an heirloom bush every year, whether I move on or not. Maybe just knowing these rose-roots are out growing somewhere in the world will let them bloom in my heart no matter where I go.
Deep roots are not touched by frost. Perhaps the best defense against the frosts of life is not to be a rolling stone, but instead to put down reckless roots of hope into whatever soil I land. Come quickly spring, and bring on the roses.