I have to confess when I first saw the word “Rooted” I thought of the garden and of garden roots. Just a logical leap for someone who was about to go garden for the day. But as I thought about “rooted” in the sense of family and place, I realized that I still don’t stray very far from the garden. My family is rooted in the garden: by the roses that are from cuttings from my great-grandparents roses, the bean seeds and sweet pea seeds descended from my grandfather’s, the peonies from my grandmother’s garden, by primroses my mother found over 20 years ago and has continued to nurture and share and by the fact I follow in my other grandmother’s footsteps by growing blueberries. And then there is the fact that one of my great-great grandmothers was a homesteader in the redwood forest and lived inside one of the hollowed out redwood trees. I have redwood planters made by my uncle. This list could go on and on.
All this made me realize that it is in the continuity of the traditions of my family (gardening in this case) and the things I choose to surround myself with that I feel rooted, not by place. That I am part of a history that is still unfolding, and the history forms my roots. Perhaps this is important to my identity, my sense of being, because I am close to the immigrant experiences of some of my great grandparents and because of my parent’s choice to leave a community where their families had lived for generations. Also, from birth to the time I left for college, we lived in 6 different houses, as well as our boat.
And then, as I thought about this some more, I realized that if I feel rooted anywhere, it is in a location I haven’t lived in for more than 36 years. A place I probably will never move back to. I feel rooted there because most of my family history (that I know) has been created there. This means that everywhere else I’ve lived, I have just been nest building (oh I just couldn’t resist that).
I have more questions now. I wonder do we always feel rooted to the place we are born? Especially if it is the place our parents were born as well. Do we feel rooted to the place our families have lived the longest? And by families, I mean multiple generations. Would I feel more rooted if we had lived in one house for all of my childhood? And would I be a different person if I had that type of experience? Did my great grandparents ever feel “rooted” in their new homes? Does my slightly vagabond brother feel rooted anywhere? And is it important to him at all? Will I ever feel rooted to the place I live now? How important is a sense of place, of being rooted, to our identities? I don’t have answers to any of these yet. I do know that American culture is much less rooted than others. Lots of questions for the next family dinner, that’s for sure. For now, I'm off to the garden.