growing roots

Today, like many days, I thought about my family and how much I miss them. I've encountered people who assume, because I live on the opposite side of the country, that I have a poor relationship with them. That I moved far away from them. That moving far away from them was the point. But it wasn't the point at all.

And today, I thought about how, when posed the question, "Do you see yourself staying in Portland?" my answer is often ambivalent: I love Portland, but it's so far away from my family, as though hinting that eventually, one day, I'll succumb to my wish to be near them. I wish, instead, that I could convince them to move out here.

I don't feel like the strange bird in the family, but I'm the only one who studied abroad (London) or lived with a former boyfriend in Italy for two months. I'm the only one who's lived in more than three states: Pennsylvania, California, New York, Arizona, and Oregon (in that order). Yet, it seems like it's just coincidence that it was me and not them. I view my family members as fiercely independent and bold, but perhaps, it just took me a little longer to grow roots. My sister Emily has traveled oceans that I'll never fully understand, more in terms of realizing that she deserves love and respect and demanding it from those around her. My sister Alicia's confidence and simultaneous humility and contagious sense of humor always astounds me. And my parents: well, I look at how amazing my sisters are and I have my moments, too, and my parents deserve most of the credit, really. They raised me to follow my wanderlust and they encouraged me to be myself and travel and learn and love. So it's their fault that I live so far away (haha! Just kidding, Mom!). And what a dream life! How lucky are we! Are we real? A happy family. If I have children, may I be as good of a parent as my own were.

Yet, I moved far away. And I didn't garden for many years. When I was young, gardens were places of magic. The setting for fairy tales. The homes of nymphs and dryads. The wonder of twilight. The world of the imagination opening on a rose petal.  And then, I got older and the dew drop on the rose petal grew, became a whole globe to dance across, to explore. And now, like so many others of my age, there's this settling down. This need to grow roots. Literally and figuratively. What does my garden say about me that I don't quite grasp? Perhaps a need to recreate that dream world. And quite likely, my garden is, in a sense, about homesickness and the need to recreate home.

So I create a home and I grow roots. My fingers dig deep into the earth, and like a benediction, the earth returns blessings upon me. And Portland, so far from home, becomes home, nestled amongst the fierce and beautiful Cascades and only a short drive from the Pacific. What more did I dream of, staring out my bedroom window as a youth, than a magical garden near snow-capped mountains and a stormy, gray sea? And a gray striped cat. And a kindred spirit to share it all with. If only Mom, Dad, and my lovely sisters would join me.


  1. a garden makes a house a home...one of my only memories from the first house where i lived in maryland is of my mom’s vegetable garden full of carrots. have you gotten through more of the kingsolver book yet? there’s a part where she writes about planting asparagus beds in the yard of every rental she stayed in as a young woman, “...always leaving behind a vegetable legacy waving in the wake of my Johnny-Asparagus-seed life. I suppose in those unsettled years i was aspiring to a stability i couldn’t yet purchase.” so good.

    i love the herb spiral! and “grow great grub”--one of my favorites, i own a copy with sticky notes on practically every page.

  2. Thank you! The herb spiral is an on-going labor of love. The soil in that area was originally rather dead, but now it's giving way to earth worms and calendula blossoms!

    I did get that far in Kingsolver (although not much further yet, since my neighbor left a novel on my shoes one morning as a definitive statement that it must be read), and I think subconsciously Kingsolver and (and more consciously) Gayla Trail's writing, and Michael Pollan's Second Nature (which I'm also reading) influenced these thoughts. He writes about gardens of his youth quite a bit.