Recently, driving from Salisbury to Raleigh, I got the chance to encounter a post-ice storm landscape in North Carolina. All along I-85 and up through I-40 toward Raleigh, the pine trees were down. Some trees were split right in half, but many were totally uprooted. It was a graveyard of pine trees as they flanked the highway. Tree after tree, roots up from the earth, were taken out by water and 28-degree weather.
I was curious how so many pine trees had fallen.
Turns out, the answer was simple. The ground had been saturated before the freeze, making it easier for the roots to loosen. But what’s more, the roots of pine trees aren’t as deep as other trees.
Roots matter. Knowing your roots, knowing their depth. Just looking at a tree on your property doesn’t tell you a whole lot about its roots. You have to know what kind of tree it is, how old it is, its health, and the earth in which it’s grounded.
Just as looking at the folks who sit beside us every Sunday, tells us virtually nothing about their joys, sorrows, and what grounds them in the midst of life. Do they have deep roots, or are they barely holding on against the wind—like a pine tree in saturated earth?
As an adult who was adopted as a child, I know the dangers of assuming our genealogical or genetic roots provide grounding. I’ve never known what it is to trace my lineage back generations or to see my face shape reflected in a great-aunt. This, for me, has not been a point of concern, as I know my roots hold to a spiritual lineage rather than a genetic one.
There are teachers, loved ones, and friends who literally touched my life with their presence. They gave me the great writers and sages from all ages, who form my roots.
This month, as we consider our roots, what grounds us, we invite you to reflect on “Whose are you?” In other words, “to whom do you belong in the universe and from what sources does your story spring?”
Our roots nourish us in times of great impasses, when the way is unclear or when we are struggling with living a life in right relationship with others and the earth. As we so often sing in Spirit of Life, written by Carolyn McDade, “roots hold me close, wings set me free.”
So may it be for us all as we walk this path together.