roots

i don’t come from here.

i’ve lived on this mountain for more than twenty years. the land that i stand on is “my land”. and all of the trees, mountains, and roads on the opposite side of my property lines are “my trees”, “my mountains”, “my roads” because they’re so familiar that they’re ingrained in my dreams. i can walk it with my eyes closed. but this place isn’t really mine the way it should be.

i am extrinsic.

i didn’t grow up here. i didn’t spend my youth riding bikes and ponies up and down these dirt roads. my people are not buried under the stones in the churchyard. no roads here bear my surname. none of the landmarks here hold any formative firsts for me. i hope to spend the rest of my life here, pouring myself, literally and figuratively, into this soil, but i will always feel like it’s borrowed because my roots aren’t sunk deeply enough to feel like belonging. i stand with my toes just under the surface, trying to dig myself in, but we are made of different stuff, this dirt and i. i can only dig down so far before i hit rock.

this town is my home, but it’s not my hometown.

there is no place in my past that holds a definitive and existentially nostalgic place in my heart, no place about which i think: “that’s where i come from”. my life has been nomadic on a small scale. a couple years in one town, a couple more in the next town over. none of the places where i grew and discovered myself, where my ancestors are buried, are mine. i didn’t stay in them long enough to leave a lasting imprint on them. my roots never grew deep or took hold.

if i could gift any legacy, it would be the legacy of association, of belonging.

my kids never knew any other home but this one until they started their own independent lives. the water from under the stones here makes up their bones. the echoes of their small bare feet bounce eternally through the hills and groves. they bled young blood on this ground with every adventure. the air of the mountain was where they first flew. yet it holds no sway over their adult hearts. as a person without a place, this confounds me.

where we come from forms who we are, in both body and mind.

perhaps love and acceptance from a spot on a map is something like love and acceptance from another person, a parent or a true love: if you get enough of it, often enough, for long enough, your soul is so saturated with it that you don’t ever need to miss it. it’s always with you in everything that you do and everything that you are.

there is mud on my knees and on my lips from my earnest and perpetual supplication.

i strive desperately every day to be worthy of this place’s acceptance. i want it to rise up and embrace me with kinship instead of just friendship. for we are friends. the land lifts me, feeds me. it is in my heart, always. we dance together, every day, in all weather. if i love it more than it loves me, well… that’s too common to be remarkable. it just makes me try harder to be a person worthy of its affection: a good steward, a kind companion, someone who works every day to protect and adore it. maybe, someday, i will wake and feel that i am finally an intrinsic part of it, that i truly belong here.

no matter where my bones lie at the end, my spirit will always be here on this mountain, walking in the woods, exclaiming over mushrooms, wrestling weeds, and singing softly over the gentle heads of whatever flowers still grow here.

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