Yesterday my six year old son asked me if I knew about the “walking palm trees of the rain-forest.” He told me that these trees were able to “move their roots” if they saw a spot that looked better to them. I told him that was incredibly cool, and that I did not know about these trees. Of course, I had to go Google it, because palm trees walking around the rain-forest seems like something I’d have heard about somewhere along the way. So it turns out the Socratea exorrhiza, or, “Walking Palm” is native to tropical Central and South America, and it has stilt roots that allow it to grow in swampy areas of forest. Some people think their roots exist as an adaptation to flooding, and others believe the roots allow the palm to “walk away” if another tree falls on the seedling and knocks it over. If this happens, the palm produces new vertical stilt roots and rights itself, the original roots rotting away.
I think life asks us to do this very thing again and again; to start over, to respond to the ever-changing nature of things, to move our roots when we need to and right ourselves. But a lot of the time we resist. We cling to the dying roots that don’t sustain us or nurture us anymore, that cannot support our growth any longer. Sometimes we do this out of desperation. We love someone, or many “someones” and can’t bear the thought of hurting them. Or we’re afraid of all that is required to pick up and move toward the unknown. In relationships, it’s incredibly painful. The roots grow down directly from our hearts. But if you aren’t growing, you’re dying, and if you’re dying you can’t nurture anyone else because all your energy is going toward your withering and quiet destruction. Without living, healthy roots, you just won’t have the strength to rise up and reach the light and so life becomes very dark indeed.
I know so many people who keep feeding those dying roots, though. It’s all swampy and murky and nothing new can grow there, but still, they try to shore the thing up, to feed it whatever they can. Sometimes it’s old stories that have become rooted. They’re poisoning the tree, the branches are hanging low, the leaves have mostly fallen off, but the roots of blame, anguish, fear or sadness, of bitterness, shame or guilt keep the person rooted in the Forest of What Was. I spent a good decade in that forest, so I can tell you the main thing that grows there are weeds. The kind that climb up your trunk and strangle your branches and steal all the light and all the nutrients, until you are just this Tree of Blame with sour fruit. “I am this way because this happened, and then that happened, and then this other thing happened, and so now when you say you love me I don’t believe you because everybody leaves and everybody cheats and I’m just going to stay rooted here in the darkness.” Or something like that.
Fear will keep you paralyzed in that forest if you let it, but it’s such a shame because old stories are old. They don’t have to control your present or your future. They may have created some grooves in your trunk, but they don’t have to overtake your ability to produce the sweetest fruit you can imagine; the fruit of, “I Got the F&ck Out!!!” for example. That is some sweet fruit. You may feel stuck and powerless. You may even be rooted to those feelings; there may be some pay-off for you in staying stuck. Attachment to sympathy or attention, a reason not to do the brave and difficult thing so you can stick with what you know even if it doesn’t feel good, or an excuse to numb out are some possibilities. But I have to let you know, the pay-off of digging deep, to the very bottom of your soul, gathering up your courage and your stilt roots, and moving your a$$ to the Forest of Life is Freaking Amazing has a much greater pay-off. If a tree can do it, I have zero doubt you can do it, too.
Sending you a lot of love,