Recently, my father gifted me several healthy and happy air plants displayed on a large scallop shell. His instructions were “just get them wet every once in a while but don’t let them sit in water, they don’t like that.” He explained that while air plants do grow roots, they absorb water and nutrients through their leaves. The roots act simply as anchors. Being the plant lover that I am, I of course accepted this gift with gratitude. Little did I know this small gesture would take my mind on a reflective journey. One where I would find insight and comfort.
I recently moved back to New York after 15 years of living in California. There I opened a business, started a family, nurtured great friendships, and explored so much of the beautiful West Coast. I did this while also living a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, moving several times and to several parts of the state. And while I very much enjoyed the freedom, I often struggled with the idea that I wasn’t planting my roots as I should be. I watched my friends buying homes and “settling down,” all the while wondering if I was missing out on something necessary for my life to be complete. But I never felt like California was the place where I could settle. Every town we lived in, every home we rented, always felt nice for a while, but I’d soon feel something start to stir inside me and I knew it would be time to move on. I suppose that same stirring is what brought me back to where I’m living now, and what caused me to leave in the first place. And I’m confident in this decision to once again move somewhere new. But I’ve often been critical of myself for my inability to easily set down roots in any of the many places I’ve lived. Even now as we look for a new place to call home, I wonder if anything will ever feel just right. And if that’s the case, will I always be feeling vulnerable and ungrounded. After pondering these sweet little air plants, I realize my reluctance to dig deep with roots hasn’t weakened my ability to grow at all. In fact, it has strengthened it. I’ve learned to love exploring new things and welcome change. I’ve managed still to cultivate a beautiful life that isn’t bogged down by the weight of any one place. And while I haven’t yet planted my roots, they have still been growing. And through my experiences, I’ve learned that I can easily tether to wherever I am and feel confident in my surroundings and with whatever life has to offer.
Despite the ground beneath my feet always changing, I’ve still have been learning and growing my strong and abundant branches. I’ve come to realize that I don’t need a steady ground beneath my feet to flourish. I too can still obtain what I need from the world around me and move around without disrupting my growth. And I have grown and learned so much just from the life I’ve been living. And my children too have had more great experiences in their short lifetimes than many adults I know. We have so far gained all that we’ve needed from the life we’ve cultivated, paying less attention to the ground beneath us and more to the world around us. How beautiful an idea, that I can gain what I need from wherever I am and still grow healthy and strong without worrying that there isn’t a place to be planted just yet. It gives me more confidence to know that I can use my strength to connect with my current surroundings, continue to grow, and perhaps even still move on.
I’ve always imagined roots as these deep strong extensions of being and that without them I’d be unable to feel completely grounded. Now, instead of believing that there is something deep beneath the surface that I must cling to, I can visualize all which is already around me as enough to keep me strong. I have not wasted my time wandering. I still have everything I need to flourish. And if things become unsteady, I also have strong roots that I can use to hold on to whatever is around me. I can still bloom, even if I’m not planted.