Sunday, April 29, 2007

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


Blogger Dave said...

An incomplete comment:

When I was, I don't remember, either a late teen or an early adult, we went to my Uncle's, on my mother's side, funeral.

We stayed at her "Aunt's" house on Lick Creek, pronounced "crick." She wasn't my Mom's Aunt. She was the lady down the holler that partially raised Mom after my Grandmother died when my Mother was twelve.

I went to my first "fire and brimstone" funeral. But before that, the day before, we got there in the late afternoon. The people at the house, and that came to the house, came with food. Food and food and food.

We were all introduced again and again.

Back to Lick Creek. Mom was born and raised just up the creek.

Back then you didn't stay at a motel, much less a hotel. You crowded into your relatives' places.

I slept on the screened in porch up front. About quarter before dawn, I heard my Aunt banging around in the kitchen. Shortly after, she yelled, "David, you get up now and do what you need to do. Then I need some help in here."

Not really knowing the person, and being polite, I got up and did what I had to do. But I didn't go into the kitchen.

Rather, I walked outside the porch and sat on the steps of the house, to this day, placed on one of the most beautiful places I've been on this earth.

Keep in mind, I was in a narrow valley, a holler, the sun was just over the top of the hill across the road and the pasture beyond it. A lot of mist and fog was moving in the, just getting going, day.

Obligatory birds were making sounds.

The air felt, I'm not sure. I've not felt it since.

There' more, especially the colors.

What I've kept with me is part of my roots. This narrow place is where Mom started.

April 29, 2007 3:22 PM  
Blogger more cows than people said...

thanks for giving me a different way to think of shoulder tension... and uncertain times...

sent an e-mail with a picture!

April 29, 2007 4:27 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Tension as a growing pain is so very true Cynthia. Wonderful post on roots and wings. :)

April 29, 2007 5:27 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

Just as long as you expect to emerge from that cocoon during this lifetime...

April 29, 2007 7:59 PM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

Beautifully written! I don't know if it's that I was abundantly blessed or that I am exceedingly optomistic, but I've never had any angst over my roots. Always proud, happy and warm about them. As for wings, never desired to go as high and fly as daring as an eagle. Simple sparrow wings will do.

May 01, 2007 7:49 AM  
Blogger Wenda said...

Just want to let you know I've come for a visit and to catch up. With less spare time these days, I don't get around the blog world very often, but am always nourished by what I find here. Thanks.

May 03, 2007 3:22 AM  
Blogger Jerri said...

This is a beautiful piece of writing.

" and furbelows that have been dusted by hands from six different generations...." Wow!

May 04, 2007 8:00 AM  

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