Some people view their lives in terms of laying down roots. When something is rooted it's steadfast, unchanging, and deep. To move, to switch directions, to restart involves digging up, replanting, sometimes separating from what was originally planted. Or Sometimes the roots are so deep, generation after generation builds upon them and never changes or leaves- which holds its own kind of deep and unshakable beauty.
Throughout the last few years of my life, I've had the privilege of living and visiting many different places. From the foothill city of Chiang Mai, Thailand to the mountains of Vail, Colorado, home has gone from buying meat on a stick from old ladies on the side of the road, to racing after school to catch the last ski lift. One of my deepest joys is having scattered seeds of communities across the world, so the analogy of roots doesn't really work. For me, maybe I view life as planting gardens.
My grandma has the the most beautiful example of a garden. It's full of clippings she's taken out of other people's backyards. Her lemon tree smells so sweet strangers try to sneak them from her yard, her rosemary is overflowing in presence and overpowering in scent. Her kitchen countertop is decorated with ivy, rose bush clippings, and various plant experiments she's trying to transfer somewhere else. Her backyard oasis is full of little hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and every color of flower imaginable. When I visit her, we drink our coffee, read our paper, and rest in the garden. My grandma's garden is one of the more sacred places to me, there is so much wisdom to be found there.
For gardens to grow, they need care and attention. Whether going ridiculously out of the way for weddings, visiting long-distance friends even if only for a weekend or regularly checking in on people and their lives, it's my biggest delight to maintain and tend friendships. Gardens are diverse. In my hometown of Oklahoma, my garden is full of redbud trees, honeysuckles, and whatever beautiful plants my mom carefully filled our flower beds with each year. It looks like summer cookouts, catching butterflies and fireflies, hot and humid nights, and my family. In Denmark, my garden looks like lavender and blueberry bushes, and yummy pastries with my nephews for breakfast. It looks like tickle fights, bread and raspberry jam, and trampoline jumping. With my Jordanian family it's full of desert flowers, ivy, and arid heat. It looks like late night smoothies, singing and dancing to Arab music, and someone always playing the djembe. In Thailand, my garden is full of leelawadee trees, bright topical flowers, and bamboo forests. It's full of kind and joyful people like: the women who were my neighbors, who've since scattered other places, but also my Shan friends who are invested in their community and changing lives. In Colorado, my garden is full of Indian paintbrush, monkshood, and alpine daisies. It looks like my strong group of girlfriends who ski together, climb mountains together, pray together, and drink whiskey on the porch while watching sunsets together.
I love gardens because they grow, they change. Sometimes the wind catches their seeds and their flowers grow in a totally different place. Gardens are like people. We need to prune the pieces of ourselves which inhibit our blooming. Every season, we need something different. Some seasons we bloom, others we go into the depths to rebirth and evolve. Gardens are full of every color, every shape, every variety but never the less impeccably beautiful.
Planting roots which are deep and immovable simply isn't an option for me, it would mean letting go of so much I love. I can only hope that the friendships I've made and the communities who have welcomed me keep a place for me. For when I look at my life and this world, each garden, each place, is so vastly different from the other. Somehow I'm lucky enough they keep letting me walk through the gate to tend to the friendships sowed so many years ago- and for that I'm immensely grateful.
Plant your garden (or your roots)- wherever they may be- and let it grow.