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Roots

October 7, 2006

Perhaps it is because it is fall, and fall is a time I associate with going down, and going within, but the imagery of roots came to me several times in the last few days.

Our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest, which co-mingle their roots in the darkness underground.

–William James

Islands rooted in the depths of the ocean attached to the earth’s crust and sharing a connection to the same magma source. (OK my graduate work was in igneous petrology)

Trees, sending tendrils of fine, hairlike roots, sensing, seeking, reaching out to touch and come in contact with each other. Communicating through touch and sometimes becoming intertwined, always sharing the same resources.

One of my favorite root images comes from a Rilke poem.

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing
each stone, blossom, child
is held in place.

Only we,
in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So, like children,
we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.

Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.

I first heard the imagery of rising up, rooted like trees from Bill Plotkin’s book Soulcraft. Each time I revisit that idea – the shading is a little different, changeable in light and shadow. In this moment – I am having my roots challenged. Some of my core beliefs about myself and my place in this world are feeling the tug of the middleworld. Yet there is a stubbornness in me that will not allow myself to be uprooted.

In Theatre of the Imagination – Clarissa reads part of her poem –

“Whenever you raise a child.”

Whenever you raise a child
leave the hairy roots on,
the dying leaves
under the new leaves,
the dirt clogs swaying behind,
so they have something
to sashay with
in life,
something to remind them
they are made from dust
of earth
and the dust
of the stars,
something to point them
toward home…

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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