Reinventing the self and putting down roots

“You don’t let any moss grow, do you.” My new friend stated this more than asked it. If I hadn’t been the only one sitting across from her at her dining room table, I would have looked around to see who else she was addressing. I am, after all, the most moss-growingest person I know.

“I’m really very shy,” I told another new friend over chai at a quaint little coffee shop. We were getting to know each other, having giggled at first meeting that it seemed a bit like a blind date.

“You hide it very well.” I guess I do. I am shy, perhaps not as much as my younger self was, but put me in a group of more than two or three others, and I am perfectly content to listen instead of speaking.

I proved my shyness at a writers’ workshop two Saturdays ago, refusing to volunteer any answers to the larger group. I spoke up when we broke into small groups but only because it would have been completely ridiculous of me not to say anything. It was the kind of discussion intended for colleagues and friends who know each other well, an exercise in identifying each others’ voices in our writing. None of these women knew my name much less my writing. Part of me wanted to slide down onto the floor and slink out of the room at that point, but others would have noticed. Besides, my groupmates were so lovely about trying to draw me out.

I have not been in my comfort zone these past few weeks, having to stretch and reach out and introduce myself and combat my hermit-like tendencies. I don’t have the luxury of being my usual shy, reticent self here, and I’m trying to create opportunities to meet new friends instead of waiting passively for opportunities to find me. Some days bring more success than others.

As I reinvent myself, I realize I’m starting to establish new roots of friendship.

I wrote to thank a neighbor for a Christmas plant she had hand-delivered the day after I arrived here. As I wrote, I realized her gift was the only plant we had in our house, and I knew I needed something rooted and growing. Because of California laws barring plants from out of state, I had to give away all of my house plants before leaving North Carolina. Sweet family and friends took in my orphaned plants, including several jade plants I had started as a single plant at least fifteen years ago. Through writing that note, I discovered I was missing not only my human friends but also my little green friends. A trip to Trader Joe’s provided a solution:

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A new baby jade plant

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Another succulent that I may or may not be able to keep alive. I’ve tucked a jade plant leaf in the pot, just in case.

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A third set of succulents for good measure

These new houseplants bring me a surprising amount of giddy joy every time I look at them.

I’ve realized, too, that I’m benefiting from the roots others have put down. While my husband and I haven’t done any outdoor planting, or much weeding for that matter, we are enjoying the plants and trees someone planted before us, especially the three citrus trees keeping us well supplied with fruit. No scurvy for us! My husband frequently picks an orange to take into work, and I’ve been using the clementines on salads and as snacks. What a delight that someone before us planted them for us to now enjoy.

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Beyond the garden, my new friends have strong roots of their own here. This is home for them, and most remember a time of leaving “home” to move here and make this a new home. What a blessing they are to me as they introduce me to places they love and carve out time for a new friend in their own packed lives.

I know I’ll make some missteps as I reinvent my life to fit with this place, but I also hope to learn how to nourish new roots and create something worthy and flourishing here.

Have you ever had to reinvent yourself? What was the catalyst? And how well did you succeed?

A love letter to my hometown, part 1

Dear Raleigh,

You aren’t a perfect city (there’s the mess you have made of Wade Avenue traffic, for instance), but there’s a lot to love about you. This past weekend reminded me of the particular culture in this place I cherish, one that I’ll carry with me out west when I go.

You understand the importance of celebrating the musical roots of our great state, and this past Friday, you closed down one of your busiest downtown streets for a good old-fashioned street party. IBMA’s World of Bluegrass was making a return visit to town and bringing with it a host of world-class musicians. You scattered stages across several blocks and asked these talented bands to pick and strum and sing for us … for free. You invited vendors who played up a love of music and a love of this fine state. You made it feel like the state fair had landed a little early in downtown, and you made me a little sadder to be leaving just as you’re hitting your stride as host city to this annual festival.

I couldn’t be too sad, though. After all, when Scythian plays on the stage, how can I not be filled with joy? They know how to get a crowd up dancing, singing, bouncing up and down, and making friends with complete strangers.

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Scythian delights the City of Oaks. (Sorry for poorer than usual photo quality. They’re from my cell phone.)

As my husband and I wandered through the vendor area, we saw lots of music-inspired art, plenty of North Carolina shapes on tees and more, and even a stylized banjo made out of license plates.

Then I heard sounds of “The Old Cookpot” drifting down the street. The Duhks were playing somewhere nearby! We couldn’t exactly see them because of the sardine-packed crowd, but what a treat to hear a few songs, including their iconic “95 South” that talks about driving all night to get to Cackalack (that’s Carolina): “95 South, 95 South. That is the way to my baby’s house.” Continue reading

Uprooting, or the big push, part 2

When you hear the word “uprooting,” what do you think of? Maybe pulling up weeds or transplanting flowers? If people are uprooted, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I guess that all depends on your perspective and your faith.

My uprooting news is that, after a lifetime of living in North Carolina, I’m moving to Northern California for my husband’s job. Yep, I’m leaving home, leaving the South, leaving sweet tea and biscuits (oh, the biscuits), leaving family, leaving friends. (I apologize to any friends who are reading this news for the first time here. I tried to reach you all in person, but I hope you’ll understand that this is a busy/hectic time right now.)

I’m filled with equal parts excitement and dread. While I’m looking forward to this new adventure, I’m not always happily or gracefully packing up a life I love here. So I’m looking for signs of hope and words of reassurance wherever I can find them.

As my husband and I work to declutter our home to get it ready to sell, we’re moving lots of little treasures out of the house. About a year ago (maybe longer given how quickly time flies), he brought home three little gifts for me: solar-powered plastic flowers that wave in the sunlight. He’s adorable that way.

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I set them in a sunny window and waited for them to start waving. The blue one started. The red one started. The purple one … well, it didn’t start. Even after I set it out in direct sunlight for a bit, it still didn’t wave. I don’t know why I didn’t throw it away, but it sat next to the other two, never budging all this time.

Two weeks ago, I took all three flowers for a road trip. We’re fortunate to have a place where we can bring boxes and our treasures to wait while our house sells. I set the three flowers up in another sunny window sill and checked them the next morning. I took this video to share what I discovered:

Wow! I’m not one to overuse exclamation points as a general rule, but wow!!!

I never thought plastic solar flowers could amaze and delight me so much. You see, all that little flower needed was a road trip—a bit of shaking up and uprooting—before it could thrive. And maybe if that’s true of a little plastic flower, it can be true of me, too. I can thrive in a new place, uprooted, shaken up, in an unfamiliar sunny spot.

Those little plastic flowers are a comfort to me now in the moments I get panicky about moving away.

Back in March, I wrote a post called The big push. I know Richard Rohr didn’t write the words I quoted in there just for me, but they comfort me even more than the little plastic flowers. God is giving me a big push. I’ll be honest: some days it feels like a bully’s shove. But I have hope and reassurance that God is going with me and dreaming a California dream for me that I never imagined for myself.

A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh, wrote, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” I’ll be leaving my little corner of the forest soon, and I’m looking forward to meeting those who needed me to come to them out in California. I’m trusting the uprooting will bring a wonderful change.

How about you? What ways has life surprised and pushed you? I’d love to hear your uprooting stories in the comments below.

Running roots

I’ve mentioned my love of running before, but these days, it takes up a lot of my thoughts. Just a few short weeks ago, I registered to run my first marathon and sat down with my husband (who also happens to make a great unofficial running coach) and mapped out my long runs from now until mid-June, when I’ll run the marathon.

I wish I could say I feel completely confident about reaching this new goal, but overly tight muscles and memories of old injuries keep threatening to drag me down. Anyone who has run a marathon will tell you that overcoming the mental hurdles is half (or more) of the battle. And so I know I need to win the mental race before I’ll be able to endure the physical one.

That’s where patience and discipline come in. Let me be the first to admit that neither of these two virtues is a strength of mine, but I know I’ll need to cultivate both to toe the line at that June marathon with a firm hope of finishing.

Running the marathon is a bit like enjoying a fully grown and thriving tree planted in your yard. Trees don’t just spring up fully grown overnight, just as humans don’t typically wake up one morning and find themselves magically able to run 26.2 miles.  Continue reading

Two lives imitating trees

In last week’s post Two trees imitating life?, I wrote about two tree sculptures imitating life, or death, or maybe even tennis balls, depending on how you view the art. I promised to follow up this week with more about the blessed life being like a tree planted by water, and here’s a picture of some pretty cool tree roots to get you thinking of what the tree planted by water may look like:

Trees and their roots growing by a creek

The passage I shared with you last week actually describes two lives that are like trees, just very different kinds. One life is blessed, but the other is cursed.  Continue reading