Roots and wings
For you, my child,
I wish two things,
To give you roots
And give you wings.
I've lost count of all the nursery pillows on which I've cross-stitched that little rhyme. Those are primary among the wishes of the parents I know, to give their children a sense of belonging and the ability to live successfully and independently. I hadn't thought of that little poem in a long time though until I read the last Sunday Scribblings prompt for roots, and it popped up to the surface of my brain and wouldn't subside.
I couldn't let go of roots, and what I really wanted to say just wouldn't come out straight. It was as twisted and gnarled as the roots of a plant in need of a larger pot. All the confinement and resentment was evident. None of the nourishment was, and until I could get closer to the truth, I couldn't let my little essay out for public view. So this week, when the writing prompt for the day turned out to be wings, the drum beat of the nursery rhyme increased its pounding in my head. I knew I had to try again. Roots and wings. Where I come from and where I'm going. These are essential questions, and neither one is easily answered.
Knowing your roots looks deceptively easy, especially when you have genealogists and history professors in your family. When your family has lived in the same state for over 200 years, it feels easy as well. I've hiked through the Cumberland Gap where ancestors travelled west from North Carolina on their way to settle in middle Tennessee. I've walked west Tennessee farm land that great-great grandparents walked. I've camped many times in Shiloh National Park, the now peaceful battleground where multiple relatives fought and died. In my home, I have furniture and furbelows that have been dusted by hands from six different generations of my family. I live in an area where I'm surrounded by kin, people I may or may not know but with whom some familial connection is shared. Many times I've been introduced to a cousin I've never seen before. Not to mention, this verdant, rolling land calls to my spirit. There is part of me that is never more at home than by the ocean, but these green fields and woods know me intimately and have claimed me as one of their own. At the same time, as an adoptee, there is always a part of my past that I just don't know. That part, and not knowing it, has a role in who I am as well.
Understanding those roots and being at peace with them is different from just knowing them. In this soil that feeds me, there are nutrients and toxins. I've been shaped, both strengthened and warped, by all that has gone before, and I've spent much of my adult life trying to figure it out. In the simplest terms, all I've learned is that those I've loved did the absolute best they knew to do. I feel my always tense shoulders drop as I write those words. My personal history simply is, and I can hold it with either resentment or grace as just part of who I am. The roots are there, but they are only part of who I am. My real growth depends on my remembering that.
Wings feels a little harder as a subject. I've thought about it a lot over the last few days, and it didn't really gel for me until this morning. In a conversation with a dear friend, I was likened to a caterpillar in a cocoon, and the truth of that struck me. My wings are still developing. I've craved flight my entire life. I've known the potential for flight has been in me the whole time, but I've never had any idea how to get off the ground. I see caterpillars inching along, and I wonder now, if in their own way, they've roared like I have with the desire to fly. I wonder if cocooning for them has felt like a form of failure as it has for me, a surrender to a fatigue too great to allow any more crawling in the dirt. Do I have faith that I will emerge with wings? It's shaky, but it's there. I can feel flight in the design of my very being, yet I know it's a skill I still must learn.
I've spent too many hours writing in front of the computer this weekend. A victim of bad posture, I'm rotating my shoulders back and forth. Feeling them move and search for the suppleness that eludes them, I'm reminded now of angel wings sprouting from that very spot between strong muscles and blades of bone. I'm too earthy to be angelic, but the tension that I'm carrying there could very well be just a growing pain, and this time of struggle and indecision could easily be my cocoon.
Sunday Scribblings, roots, wings