Why do I feel constriction in my chest when I think about staying? I think I feel it because it feels hard, hard to commit to a place, to actually plant down my roots, to be ok without a hundred options fluttering around, those freedom birds floating on the breeze of possibilities.
It is hard to plant myself, to be both the gardener and the tree, the shovel and the sapling, the hole and the roots.
Part of me wants to stay put. I know, rationally, it makes sense. Studies have shown that community is one of the most important parts of growing deeper into yourself. When I always fly off toward the horizon, I’m chasing beauty, that joy etched in my faraway imagination, but I’m also tugging on those roots that, as a human, I want to water. Part of me knows my roots need water. Ironically, I’m considering planting them in the desert, where water is scarce and the horizon all the more expansive. Maybe I need that struggle.
A desert tree — a palo verde with sage green skin in full yellow regalia right now — grows slowly. It stretches its scratchy limbs into the sky, and as those branches grow, it can better become home to a nest of a baby birds. It provides shade for others. It learns what it means to protect that budding seed in the spring, to open hundreds of those buds into a cape of golden blossoms. It learns to let go of life, and to wait in the winter for something new to come. There’s patience in a palo verde.
There’s strength in being still as the seasons change around me, and as the seasons change me.
When I become the bird, that red-breasted hummingbird who moves so fast you can barely see her rainbow plumage, I become the movement. I could fly anywhere. Perhaps to Colombia, to Southeast Asia, to Scotland, to the moon to better the shadows of her face. The moon perhaps truly is what I keep striving toward — she calls me because she know I’ll never be able to reach her. Alluring, stirring, she beams down temptation and her desire to be touched. I like to chase moondreams.
The palo verde or the hummingbird. The fear, the gift, of choice. If I let my root-feet grow down deep, I can’t move; at least, not nearly as quickly. It makes me vulnerable. We speak of courage, that urge to push yourself beyond your comfort zone, to reach, to open yourself to what comes. Courage comes in the raw. Each person’s courage changes as our own comfort zone shifts and shimmers.
What once was bold becomes comfortable; what once was comfortable becomes terrifying. When we feel that fear, that’s when we know we’re being asked to be brave.
I used to fear the movement, and so I flew. I followed a dream of moving to a new place, a new country, to start community. I moved in with a lover and learned relationship deeper. I taught other teachers and published a magazine and spoke in Spanish and conducted interviews that flowed with that Latin lisp of mine. I was voracious in my pursuit of working for National Geographic. I bought a bike and went to new places, changed tires on my own, felt limitless. I found courage to leave, to love again, to work with college students, to stumble and say the wrong thing so many times.
I became the movement, and began to fear the stillness. What would I be if I wasn’t always moving onto the next adventure?
I’m scared that if I stay here, I won’t leave. I won’t be able to leave. I’ll become routine, robotic, dreaming about the past in a way that idolizes what was magical, that erases what felt temporary, unsettling, questioned…but that might just be a story I tell myself. I don’t actually believe I can forget how to find magic in the daily. There are explorations that happen within, and around, every day.
Water the roots to stretch the branches, my inner gardener whispers to me. Strengthen the wings to better understand how the ground feels different from the sky. Grow in cycles and stretch in spurts. Root and soar; fly and fall.
Courage is falling, failing. It happens when one is living in the midst of it all.
Even if this is all a giant flop, I suppose it will still be courageous. A leaf may think it’s free, that moment it detaches and drifts on the breeze and tastes the sky. But it gave up its agency so that it could float.
There exists a balance, somewhere, where I can shape the current of the air as I move through it. I suppose I just have to have more weight to me. I have to tend to my flying machine, upgrade a bit, downgrade a bit. So that next time, however that next flight presents itself, I’ll have some heavier roots to carry with me.
My roots will grow into my wings.
I’ll have not just a place to go, but also a place to return to. People I can meet, and people I can come back to. An input and an output, my own rhythm of sharing rather than one of just consuming. I’ll better be able to fly through the wind, rather than simply float in the breeze, wafting with the delusion that I’ve found freedom. Freedom takes time, and cultivation; water and wind; community and humanity.
I root so I grow, I grow so I move, I move so I stay. And so the cycle continues.
Originally published on The Wandering Roots