I find myself on young soil these days, having recently moved to a part of the country where the land comprises rock, sand, marl and muck. The rock—limestone—is geologically about 130,000 years old, pretty much embryonic as limestones go, some of which is 350 million years old.
The soils here are pretty much devoid of nutrients (a gardening book author once wrote that the only thing the soil around here was good for was for holding the plants up, and said the “plant culture here is a kind of modified hydroponics.”). And yet, despite that, this place is a tropical paradise, lush and thick and juicy with rich earth energy.
The oaks, the banyans, the gumbo limbo trees (the wood of which was once used to make carousel horses), the royal poincianas (also known as flame trees!)–almost every tree I’m learning about seems to share to some degree this commonality: above-ground roots.
Their roots push and shove their way down through the limestone, yes, but root systems are exposed here, criss-crossing the ground like unspooled and tangled skeins of yarn. So recently uprooted myself, I find I am drawn to studying the “feet” of the trees. What can they teach me?
Do What You Must to Take Care of Yourself
Trees need oxygen to live. Exposed roots mean more oxygen to support the system. Roots are also on the hunt for water and will stretch quite a long way to get it. The tree does its utmost to manage its self-care, which may mean in some cases that it has to take a somewhat unconventional route to get the support it needs.
Cement sidewalks may find themselves literally uprooted, asphalt parking lots may discover they’ve been ruptured in places. It may take some time, but the slow and steady pressure of the roots seeking what they need eventually perseveres.
I, too, must persevere despite the seemingly immovable objects in my path. I know what I need in order for me to breathe emotionally, spiritually and psychically, what I need to stay mentally hydrated. It’s my responsibility to adapt to my metaphysical soil and reach for those things until I find them.
Some of you may remember I set an intention this year to get out from behind my keyboard and actually meet people (gasp!) by upping my Festival and Conference attendance and participating in activities hosted by local Pagan groups. I have to say that since setting this intention at Samhain, I’ve been slowly making connections and building relationships and a pretty steady rate. Folx here have been incredibly welcoming (shoutout to Miami Pagan Meetup and Moonpath CUUPS!).Some of you may be familiar with Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees. In it he writes:
But the most astonishing thing about trees is how social they are. The trees in a forest care for each other, sometimes even going so far as to nourish the stump of a felled tree for centuries after it was cut down by feeding it sugars and other nutrients, and so keeping it alive. … The reason trees share food and communicate is that they need each other.
The trees I’m sharing space with are by no means in an old-growth forest like the one Wohllenben manages, but the same relationships exist, I think. When I see these far-flung above-ground roots, I’m reminded of my intention to reach out to others in my witchy community, and not only from behind my keyboard. In a very real sense, those roots serve as a mnemonic for me to stay true to my intention to reach out, connect, and stay in relationship.
Some of the roots I’m around these days have suffered old and long-term damage, mostly from lawn mower blades. You can easily see where the outer layers of bark have been scuffed away, yet the damaged roots still function. Perhaps not as well as they once did, but they function.
There are all kinds of positivity aphorisms out there about scars being interesting or being a roadmap showing how much a person has gone through and how those experiences have built character. So recently scarred myself, I’m still working toward putting a positive spin on the still-bruisy wounds I now carry. Yet I have to admit I am still functioning.
I suppose if anything positive has come of the last year it would be a be a new attitude of “behold the field of f***s I give”. You’ve probably all seen the meme–the Knight of Pentacles from the RWS deck, holding one pentacle in his outstretched palm and surveying whatever’s in the distance. In the last six months or so I’ve developed more of a “what are you waiting for” kind of approach to just about everything. It’s terrifically liberating (unless you’re my husband, in which case it’s kind of terrifying—ha!).
Even so, I need to mind my feet as I navigate my own now-exposed roots and the roots of others around me. I can’t just wheel out in wild abandon. The roots around me remind me to be mindful about how I move and have my being in the world, in the community. They call me out of myself, and encourage me to actively engage with my own journey.
The Master Gardener said the only thing the soil around here was good for was for holding the plants up. I would say that the soil here has given me what I needed when I tumbled out upon it after a turbulent and pain-wracked year–it has held me up until I could find my balance again, and it offers me entirely new ways to understand and strengthen my connection with the land.
Hail, Guardians of the Earth, who have offered this gift and these lessons to me!