One of my pandemic habits was the purchase and nurture of house plants. As if my body said, “we must make our home a jungle now!” and I followed that message moving in all sorts of new plants in addition to the many already holding dust in our house. I bought spray bottles that the kids turned into water guns, fertilizers, and root powders. With so little to control outside my home, caring for plants is one way to turn my brain and anxious energies toward something slow growing. It became a short journey in the dark winter to touch something green and good. Now that spring is here, it is time to make some adjustments. Some plants need to be repotted, disrupting the root ball, and encouraging new growth. My daughter helped me untangle and loosen some roots recently. “Won’t this kill the plants?” she wondered out loud. “They are doing fine right now, let’s leave them alone.” She was visibly concerned. We talked about the importance of roots, that however delicate, they also need help from time to time to be free from a container that keeps them running in circles. They need to stretch out, more deeply.
Hope Jahren, American geochemist and geobiologist talks more about the delicate and determined job of roots in her memoir, Lab Girl.
“No risk is more terrifying than that taken by the first root. A lucky root will eventually find water, but its first job is to anchor — to anchor an embryo and forever end its mobile phase, however passive that mobility was. Once the first root is extended, the plant will never again enjoy any hope (however feeble) of relocating to a place less cold, less dry, less dangerous. Indeed, it will face frost, drought, and greedy jaws without any possibility of flight. The tiny rootlet has only one chance to guess what the future years, decades — even centuries — will bring to the patch of soil where it sits. It assesses the light and humidity of the moment, refers to its programming, and quite literally takes the plunge.”
Do you ever wonder about the roots we drive over, walk over, or contain? There is something mysterious and tumultuous about what lies beneath the surface. All that work, silently happening in the dark that leads to death, or life as we hurry along being productive.
Perhaps you’ve been jumbled about by life, tipped over, disrupted, and loosened. Maybe you feel like your container has you cramped, and you are just circling. Or, you feel your growth is endless, and you’re opening up to all the new possibilities around you. Perhaps the pruning process has left you feeling exposed, and unsure. That’s where I find myself today.
As you venture out this weekend, take a moment to observe the roots. They are holding down and nurturing up all the beauty that is about to open up to us this spring. You are full of glorious roots too. Perhaps you will find gratitude for all the good dark stuff happening underneath. Let it do its good and perfect work.
With hope from your plant-loving pastor,