I am blessed to count amongst my friends a fine storyteller, who recently shared a tale with me. I want to share the beginning of the story with you and the musings that is has provoked for me this Autumn time. The tale concerns a young fellow who is in that between age, no longer a child but not yet a man and he is living with his grandmother. He is bored on the day the story begins and so his grandmother sends him off into the forest instructing him to go and dig for roots. So this young fellow does go and do this, discovering I’m sure all sorts of wonders about roots and their different kinds of nourishment. He gathers himself, over a a time, a pile of roots. Then, and here is the moment where the gift of the story first touched me, one day the pile of roots are gone. No explanation given to the how or what of this disappearance. Just that suddenly there are no roots.
It got me to thinking, that this has been rather like the Covid/lockdown experience. Suddenly the roots, the foundations that support the life above ground, have disappeared in different ways and to varying extents for each of us. Other life events can do this too. A serious accident or illness, the death of a loved one, loss of a job or a position of influence or the children leaving home are a few obvious examples. My pondering then brought the question of what it is that really sustains us. When the roots we thought we had disappear, what roots can we uncover and connect to? What kinds of roots are truly sustaining? And what does a life nourished and supported by such roots really look like?
I took my question out onto the land and to the More-than-Humans. I have a favourite spot in some local woods where I like to go and sit. There is a small clearing made by the shade of three sweet chestnut trees. There is an old upturned root in the middle amongst the tall and spindly birch saplings that strive upwards to catch the available sunlight. The trees are bare now, and the floor around them is thick with their leaves. I know that by the time those trees are awakening and leaf buds are beginning to unfurl next springtime, these leaves under my feet, will have become part of the rich soil. They will have been transformed into goodness that feeds the new Life yet to come. This spoke to me of the way that letting go of things that have had their time, releasing them freely and with gratitude and prayers, allows this nourishing of new life. And reminded me of the ceremony I made on a wilderness vigil back in Autumn 2015. Giving something to the earth with the prayers that She and all the creatures and life that moves in Her body, will take my offering and compost it into goodness that feeds Life for the coming children. This simple ceremony has become something I share with people on the Kinship courses.
When my mind had quietened and I had a deeper heart connection with those chestnut trees, they began to speak of the leaves at my feet and their fruits scattered amongst, hidden within spiny casings. And then they showed me the squirrels that come to eat those fruits. And the way the squirrels carry the tree fruits and bury them in different places, scattering them and making it possible for those trees to have offspring where there is more light and nutrition for them to grow strong and tall. I had this clearly felt sense in my body of how those trees love the squirrels, the creatures in the soil and how they give so freely to them. The darting and leaping squirrels in turn loving the chestnuts and the trees. Gifting mature trees to all the children yet unborn. Not just the tree and the squirrel children but also the children of the soil creatures. And so out into circles of reciprocity. Of belonging and of a shared love.
A few days later I was out with my pup and her two doggy friends next door in the river meadows. The dogs were romping about chasing each other and good naturedly tussling with sticks. I had taken the question about what really roots me. About what it means to have deep roots and what I should attend to in wanting to be deep rooted, not just for me and my own life but also for the children. The river spoke to me first in her full swirling journey seawards. She showed me that fullness and how it feels in my body. The fullness of our body cells when they are hydrated and right nourished. And not only by food and liquids, but also with good rest and the kind of nourishment that a creative, connected life brings us.
And then a stand of willow in the riverbank called, drawing my attention to the way the long branches swayed in unity with the breeze. They had taken root here in a new spot, opening completely into a new opportunity to be a living thing in this place. A between place where earth and water meet. A place that changes constantly with the mutable weather here in this part of West Wales. I felt the way they strive upwards, a together-community of willow stems. And the way that willow life is strengthened in their togetherness. And then about half a dozen blue tits arrived, hopping around the stems and feeding on them. They were calling to each other and to others in the brambles beside the willow. Here again was reciprocity, community, connectedness and generosity. And in those the promise of new life ahead and of nourishment for the children.
What those experiences have shown me is the felt sense of community and generosity and the way that I am a tiny part of a great flowing of life. One tiny place in a continuity. So here are just some of the answers about what roots that sustain life for me and the children look like.
Taking more time and moments in each day to sense the way I am connected to life. The way I share breath with all of life……..the water in my body carrying the songs of the bodies it has been part of before mine, like shiny black beetle, croaking raven, beech tree outside my window, the sea on the other side of the world, the whales singing in that ocean, the clouds on a tall mountain I have never seen, and the Ancestors of course. The Old Ones who surrendered into the community of reciprocity and belonging and gave me life – giving thanks for all this and more
Taking more time to be quiet, to wander on the land and to sit and behold beauty. To let that beauty take root in my flesh, to let myself be drenched in this beholding. The practice of being a beholder of beauty. To be utterly in love with beauty and to let that root me in speaking and acting for it’s being in our world. For everyone. Foe all the children, not only the human children.
My understanding is growing more with each day lived, with each new encounter, It’s a living question. One I feel we need never feel we have the entire answer to. And one that reveals more goodness with all the seasons.