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Of Roots and Vines

By Jennifer Legra

10/19/2017

When a tree is planted, its roots grab for the soil below and it begins carving its new home. Each day it digs in further; slowly spreading its roots deeper. With each inch, it becomes more invested in that space, soaking up its surroundings, settling in. Here, it is nourished. It finds comfort and grows. And here it will grow for generations to come… if you let it.

I was a tree—before moving abroad, that is—before digging up my roots and moving them to foreign soil. I stood strong and confidently grounded in my homeland, loving the earth that swaddled me, that held and nourished me. So why, you might ask, would I have chosen to remove these roots and attempt to transplant them elsewhere?

I wasn’t unhappy, which is a good place to start. Some people think you have to be unhappy to make a change, but that wasn’t my case. I had what I needed to thrive and, more than that, I enjoyed my life as a tree. I had enough. And so the only thing I could come up with is that I wanted more.

It’s a funny word, “more.” A blanket word we use when we can’t exactly pinpoint what else we are in search of but know there’s something that is missing. For me it was this intangible idea of wanting to spread out and broaden, to see and feel and understand more than the land I was settled into so solidly. I guess I didn’t just want to be planted deep; I wanted to set out and expand.

When we moved, it was as hard, as you might imagine it would be, to rip up a tree that had been so firmly coddled in its home for decades. While the leaves and branches and trunk lifted up, many of the roots stayed behind. How do you undig so much history? I became worried. These roots were so invested in the familiar soil they had grown up in that I wasn’t sure they would take to being transplanted elsewhere. And surely a tree without roots wouldn’t survive.

But a funny thing happened when uprooting our family tree. Instead of burrowing new roots profoundly in the dirt, our life started to unfold another way. Life always finds a way I suppose.
Weaving ourselves into the new life we had chosen, we were creating a different kind of root—a vine—one that didn’t dig as deeply into the earth but that grows fast and expands its reach outward, broadening its scope with each inch of space it clutched.

Our family wasn’t growing in the typical direction but we were flourishing nonetheless. As newly planted vines, we had no choice but to wrap our entire stems around our new support and cling on for existence. We were aware that in order to survive we had to depend on others to make us stronger. Without these supports, we had no chance of existing. But with them… we were unstoppable. Unyielding. Tenacious. Difficult to break. And, perhaps the single most important factor of a vine’s survival, we were flexible. These plants surprise you. They appear fragile, but look a little closer and you realize a vine’s strength is found in its ability to acclimate and grow, and this just about anywhere.

Both Husband and I have now lived both kinds of lives. I can’t tell you which is better: the sturdy one of a tree that thrives with deep roots and is rich in history or the outward expanding one of vines that coil themselves around other vines, enabling them to project themselves further, beyond their origin and on to new adventures.

I think we are stronger for being both root and vine. They both have their place in nature, they both have figured out how to withstand and endure. And while one could argue that vines aren’t as solid as trees or that trees aren’t as well-traveled as vines, I can’t help but think; What does it matter how we grow, so long as we do?




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