Roots for the Soul

Roots for the Soul

The black plastic pots of lavender and rosemary on my front deck need a permanent home. So do I.


As I watered and tended them, still fussing over the collateral damage incurred last week during the great Monterey cypress cutting (read “Saving the Grandmother”), I lamented that they were not yet in the ground and nicely settled. That said, they likely would have suffered far more injury were they planted—witness the ornamental plum whose entire top was roughly shorn by a falling, amputated limb of the tree—because I was able to move them under the sheltering eaves of the roof.

Previously I wrote in a post that if you visited this little cottage where I currently reside, but for the single orchid at the kitchen sink and these potted lovelies on the deck, you wouldn’t likely guess that I’m a plant lover. The same could be said for books, or the relative scarcity of them in this house. This situation is largely because I have been a nomad for too long, and I grew tired of giving away my leafy green children each time the painted gypsy caravan rolled on to its new campsite (or sailed across an ocean, always very difficult for plants).

And so I have only these few select companions, along with two cherry tomato starts that were recently given to me. There is always lavender growing just outside my house, whether I’ve planted it there or not; it seems to be part and parcel of who I am, and I adore its narrow, silver green leaves and spikes of fragrant, purple beauty. It’s a profoundly healing plant, lavender, and I guess I would go so far as to consider it a “plant ally” of sorts. Some people have “totem animals,” others have plants. Some of us have both.

Rosemary, too, or romarin, as I like to call it, as if we were both thriving in sunny, arid Provence. Another powerfully medicinal plant, it’s a healer’s friend—to say nothing of being a constant companion in the kitchen, finding its way into this dish and that. Cookies, even. This one too, like lavender, I need close at hand where I can rub my hands over it each time I pass and then lift palms to my face, inhaling the resinous goodness.

Initially these plant friends of mine remained in their somewhat ugly containers on the front deck because it receives the only significant sunshine in the front garden, given the shade of the grandmother Monterey cypress. That’s what I reasoned, anyway. The other facet of truth is that I’m always moving on, and I had only selected this cottage as a temporary landing spot, one that I didn’t plan to be at more than a year—and I’m not leaving any more green companions behind.


Be ready for travel, is essentially what I’ve told them.

I have spent the entire month of April with my arse essentially parked in my desk chair, spending eight hours each day diligently editing the recently completed manuscript for a memoir about our years of living in England. Wading through that process, trusty fountain pen in hand, I am saliently clear of the profound longing for a place to call home weaving through this story of our ongoing travels. I feel it even now, a swirling blue spiral in my chest around the heart. Wistful.

More than once in this journal I have lamented how weary I am of the nomadic life, wishing only for the place that both my beloved and I feel called to put down roots, where we feel the nurturing of nature and culture, where we might park the painted gypsy wagon to let the wheels rot off beneath a grand old tree. A home where I can finally start a proper vegetable patch, because I don’t need the landlord’s permission and I’m not moving on, and these dear little green ones can find their place in the earth and remain as the seasons roll by.

Ours is a rootless and alienated culture overall. Lacking real ties to the land where we dwell and severed from a sense of relationship with place, like tumbleweeds we ceaselessly roll on to the next destination, job, or passing fad. It’s almost like an inability to maintain a long-term relationship, thinking there must be someone prettier and more alluring, less difficult to live with, or generally better suited to us. We think we have freedom in our mobility, but mostly I think we are suffering from ennui and meaninglessness.

As a drifter, I’m speaking from experience, for I have spent most of my life roaming around. Yet, what I most desire now is to settle amid some lovely trees, away from other houses and the tight grid of streets, beginning to foster a sense of place where I belong. I long to remain rather than move on. To build relationships by staying in a place because I have chosen it as home and there is no other. I am ready to grow like the great trees that I adore, offering well-rooted shade and a contribution of something essential, if at times intangible, to the web of life in which we are all entwined.

Repeatedly, in some fashion or other, this journal explores the importance of opening our senses and heart, paying attention, and appreciating the ordinary sacred that surrounds us. Tirelessly, I advocate a communion with life because everything is relationship. Yet more and more I feel that such awareness must become rooted. To know that we belong to a place, selected because it nourishes in a significantly soulful way and that we are cultivating a sense of natural community, both human and other, is at least partly the cure for our listlessness.


We each need our place in the world, where our deeper creativity arises from that relationship and emerges through us.

C.G. Jung often remarked that his work in the world would not have been possible without his patch of earth, the stone tower he built at Bollingen on Lake Zurich. It was only because he had that singular place to nourish his soul that the wellspring of his vision and understanding could rise up and flow.

I feel the same. Or rather, that the future work coming through me depends entirely upon having a sense of deep-rooted connection to my place in nature. And yet, for a dozen mysterious reasons, we simply couldn’t have dropped anchor earlier on the circuitous voyage, and I continue to have the very profound sense of being guided by mysterious currents, ones that I cannot even begin to fathom or understand.

“Not all who wander are lost,” wrote J.R.R. Tolkien, a consolation and encouragement that I long ago took to heart.

It is close now, nearer than it has ever been, that sanctuary in the trees . The home that is calling me and that I am looking equally to meet, anxious to know it in my bones and breath as a lover, friend, and steward. Its exact location, time schedule, and how it will arrive remains obscure; I am simply trying to be patient and focus on the tasks at hand.

All I know is that the potted lovelies on the front deck will be going with me, as surely as our two English Whippets. And it will be a place where my beloved and I can sit in rocking chairs on the front porch holding hands, watching the painted glow of sunset fade to periwinkle cast with diamond stars.

In the meantime, still here in a down-at-heel rented cottage near the sea, as I bless these dear, healing plants on the deck, perhaps I will purchase them some prettier pots to travel in.