When a tree is planted, its roots grab on to the soil beneath and it begins carving its new home. Each day it digs in further; slowly and securely spreading its roots deeper. With each inch it becomes further invested in that space. The tree soaks up its surroundings. It makes its home and settles in the ground below. Here, it is nourished. It finds comfort here and grows here, and will grow here 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 home-land, loving the earth that swaddled me, that held me and nourished me. So why, you might ask, would I have chosen to lift these roots up 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 could imagine it would be to rip up a tree that had been so firmly coddled in its home for decades and 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 with 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.
Like most vines that grow counterclockwise, 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, lean 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 – flexible. They surprise you. They look fragile but look a little deeper and you realize a vine’s strength is found in its ability to acclimate and grow – anywhere.
Both Husband and I have 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 it to project itself further beyond its origin 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 traveled as vines, I can’t help but think What does it matter how we grow, so long as we do.
I originally published this piece on Expat Village. It has been re-edited for DTWB.
(Photos: Image of tree via.)