Sunday, April 3, 2011

wandering thoughts about being rooted

Today my roommate was telling me about how when she was little she would spend vacations and breaks at the countryside (I'm not sure how exactly to say this--they say it this way in English here, but it sounds a little stilted, not quite natural. We left the city? We spent the day outside the city, in the country? It may just be that I never use the word countryside except in this context, speaking in English to Romanians living in Bucuresti. The meaning is still clear, though, you know what I mean). And we were talking about how she's lived in the city, in our apartment her whole life.

It's something I can't fathom, not at all. To be that long in one place? Not just one area, but one house or apartment. On the one hand it's appealing. Imagine how full your house would be--of things, yes, but what I mean is memories and meaning. The way things are shaped by twenty or thirty years of life.

We have a window in our kitchen looking out over, well, over blocs, but I like to stand by it in the mornings sometimes and watch the sun come up over the buildings. I asked if she remembered when she first became tall enough to see out them. In some ways there is something about Wilmington that made me want to settle, put down roots in that sandy soil between the river and the ocean. I doubt now that I could ever live there for the rest of my life, but I love it, and it does hold five years of my life. But thirty? What would that be like?

I'm thinking now of a few verses from Jeremiah that were promises to me in all those months (even that seems like such a long time--difficult to imagine years of anything) of waiting. Part of one of them says, "My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them." The other: "'So there is hope for your future,' declares the LORD. 'Your children will return to their own land.'"

What will this look like? I wonder. It's a big question, too big to zoom in on details like where and when yet, or even anything more tangible than the metaphors of being rooted. Being planted, having your (my?) children return to their own land.

I'm realizing while writing this that the truth is, whether I live in one place most of the rest of my life or I continue to wander, there is a sort of rootedness I hope for. I'm thinking of my family--both the one I have now, my brother and mother, and the one I hope for one day, my husband and children. And I hope, if I do get married, it's a sort of family that I can be grafted into, rooted with, that no matter where we go we can come back to them.

It's bigger than this, too. We're grafted into the family of Christ, adopted sons and daughters, heirs. Rooted in him. Family wherever we go.


  1. i wonder about this all the time. lord knows i've been all over - 6 schools, lived in 7 towns, 4 states- and i thought going to Los Angeles, where I always wanted to go, i'd finally feel a sense of belonging and knowing it was where i was meant to stay, but now that i picked up and left again, i'm realizing i was even getting restless there. which could have been due to circumstances of course, but even so, it felt good to pick up and move on again, and as much as i complain about packing and unpacking, it's like after all this it feels more normal to be in several places over time than just one. i'm worried i won't ever be happy in one place, all the places and things i want to see, and that while i'll be seeing and doing so much more than most people in their lives, like there's things i'll be missing out on, too. guess it's the grass is greener thing or something... idk. just a thought, and a long way of saying i relate! :)

  2. i'd been wondering when i realized you were driving back to jersey instead of flying. do you know how long you'll be there? i've been thinking about your comment though. there's certainly something you experience through all this nomadic living that doesn't come from it, from which it isn't the source. that's not even it--how do i want to say...?--i think there's something we are turned toward/realize/feel whether it's in our nature to wander or if it's that our attention is called to it in the constant movement. does that make sense at all? and i think all the constant motion disguises the fact that the thing we're missing out on isn't in the nomadicism (i'm sure that's not a word), but is stirred by it. i don't know how to say what i'm thinking, i need to think about it more. there's something there that appears to be in the nomadic living but really is only stirred by it, brought to the surface by it (the nomadic nature). so the question is more of what and why. you know?

    whoooo. hope you can understand that mess of a response :) thanks for commenting, my dear.

  3. i actually think, after i read that over, i understand what you're saying! haha

    like there's something intrinsic in us that is the real cause of the nomadicism [i like it ;-) ], that's it not so much just circumstances of things, but a path we might unconcsciously (or consciously) choose because of a what and why like you mentioned.. and maybe something that we're almost sort of missing already, or bound to miss anyway in whatever life we choose because it's just not in us, isn't really due to being nomadic, after all.?

    or i'm COMPLETELY off.. haha hopefully i'll only be in jerz no more than a year, preferably a couple of months and i'll be able to be back by the end of the year. i need to save up so i can come see you in romania! :)

  4. that's exactly it :)

    you should listen to this song. i don't know if you like thrice, but it's the song i always think of when i think about this sort of thing

    to be perfectly honest this (subject) more than almost anything else kept me at least engaging questions about whether God is real and all that. i won't say it made me believe anything, just that it made me ask where that tendency came from and why, what that missing thing was. you know? always an interesting conversation to have, particularly when it's agreed that something is missing. well then, what? and how do you know? and what's that got to do with (one of about 800 things)? and does it matter to me whether i make it un-missing? those were my questions anyway, i don't want to put words in your mouth/say they're yours. anyway here i am going on and on and really i'd rather here what you think.

    and girlfriend. regarding romania, i say you write a script that can be filmed here. that's like ten birds with one stone. btw, did you know cold mountain was filmed here? hope you can get back to la soon though :)))

  5. yay! so glad i got it.

    and it might seem weird, but i don't think i want w/e might be missing to be un-missing. i mean, maybe if i figured it out and it seemed like something i needed, but otherwise, wouldn't that be like searching for something intangible your whole life and actually finding it? whatever would you do with yourself then, having finally reached that goal. i think i'd rather go on searching.

    it seems, to me at least, you learn more about yourself, others, and the world at large with all this nomadicism and constant motion than standing still in one little place forever. it actually makes me sad when i think about it, being stuck somewhere. and i get this horrible trapped feeling, which is probably my worst fear ever.

    but i think i get what you mean about the God question. as if that missing thing is meant to be missing because we aren't really whole right now and it's something we couldn't really ever fill until we reach Him? it's an interesting thought.

    i did not know cold mountain was filmed there! snazzy. i will definitely work on a romanian script. maybe i'll write a legit vampire movie instead of all this dumb teenie things, bring it back to its roots! :-p

  6. Hmm your discussion is really intriguing! it's making me think, definitely... in a lot of different directions. Let's see if I can get these thoughts into a coherent response. (I think it's gonna be long, so, sorry in advance!)

    Rootedness. I have a different perspective from the two of you. My parents still live in the house we moved into when I was 2. (and before that we lived a mile away). So in my lifespan there is some rootedness, although neighbors and other family have come and gone. I would not call it deep rootedness, however, because neither of my parents are from there. Regardless, there is a sense of meaning that a place imbibes when I can remember hiding in this closet with my teddy bear, angry at my family and talking to God as a confidant. Or remembering when I had to stand on a stool to brush my teeth at the sink. Or this tree that was shorter than me when my dad planted it, and is 30 feet tall now.

    As humans, we have a place-based memory. Like scents that bring us back to experiences we didn't know we remembered, seeing the evidence on the walls and floors of years of walking and touching connects us to our own past. And it is good to know who you are and where you came from. Not good to overly defined by it, but good, certainly to acknowledge it and own it.

    (Tangent: it reminds me of something they taught in design school, the Japanese principle of wabi-sabi. it's like beauty because of age, incompleteness, and imperfection. like a stone step with a worn place where generations have stepped)

    All this to say, there are good things about being rooted - literally staying in one place. But there are certainly the same lingering longings. There is always change. You can stand and watch it go by, or you can jump into the current, but time always brings change. And when you stay at a place long enough to see beloved places torn down and people leave or pass away, the sight and the memory will always be bittersweet. Also there is, like you say, the sense of being stuck in one place - trapped (like Juliette Binoche's character in Chocolat - a whole movie about this theme!) but anyway, I have many times been frustrated that I am not far enough away yet. Not far enough from the ruts and habits I too easily fall into that I want to leave behind. Not far enough from people who will forever see me as who I used to be. Not far enough from the things that frustrate me about this place: the humidity, the over-educated culture, the highways. And sometimes it sounds so tempting just to start over. New friends, new place, new job, new me, right?

    However, I have to admit there is beauty in staying. Beauty of knowing a few people, and being known, deeply, and over long periods of time. Of having memories tied in with these people and with places you can pass by every day. It is a deep sort of relational experiential beauty. And I don't think everyone who never leaves of their hometown finds it.

  7. Last thought - this will take a little explaining. There was something I realized when I studied abroad in Prague - maybe you can identify with it Sara. I realized that as Americans, living in a country a mere 7 or 8 generations old, with buildings hardly older than a few decades, we miss out on a sense of common human history.

    In Prague, we stayed in a hostel (in the middle of the city) that formerly had been someone's personal house - a wealthy person's house, on the hillside that had at one point been the king's vineyard. The neighborhood was called "vinohrady" after it. During WWII the Nazis had used this house as a sort of maternity ward for breeding Aryan children - basically Czech girls who had been impregnated by German soldiers and whose children would be sent off to be raised by German families. And now it was a hostel holding American college students and random groups of french schoolchildren. And our studio building in Old Town had walls several feet thick that still had bales of straw in the middle of them covered in plaster from the middle ages – looking out over cobblestone streets first laid in Romanesque times.

    And I couldn't imagine what it would have been like growing up in a building that old. Knowing how many generations had walked those steps, looked out those windows, repaired those tile roofs. That is a different sort of rootedness. A generational understanding that we were not the first to come. We are living on what has been left to us by the people who have come before. Our stories are tied together by this street, this room, this window. Living there I felt more a part of the human story as a whole. It was easier to admit that it's not all about me, after all. It was kind of a comforting and at the same time overwhelming feeling - like looking at the stars on a clear night and trying to comprehend the space between them and us.

    Well, Sara, sorry to hijack your blog comments there. (whoo boy that was really long – sorry!) But I hope my stream-of-consciousness reaction to your conversation made some sense and had some relevance. I really enjoy reading your reflections!

  8. nicole, i have a quote for you and i had it the other day but now i can't find it... don't let me forget to give it to you. it was from life of pi, or something. anyway, i think you'll like it. this is why we should skype, bah!

    and julie, we should be skyping too :) thanks for reading, as always. i read your comment while i was at a conference so i didn't really have time to take it in or think about it, just speed-read through it before i had to run back downstairs. i know what you mean about being known. and the same with prague. it's not quite the same, but i get that sort of feeling when i'm walking near any of the squares here where lots of things happened related to the revolution. and it's so big. how do you even begin to imagine what happened in the very place you're standing--even if it's not a big thing, even if it's just centuries of kids running back and forth. to me it's hard to imagine sharing that space. it seems so foreign: not just past, but separate. does that make sense? but at the same time there is a sense of that belonging-ness, big picture human story. i'm not even sure how to describe what i mean but that's okay because you already did much better than i think i could :)

    hmm.. this will be stewing for a while, i think.

  9. You would be so proud. I am catching up on your blogs... your transparent internet life. I miss you so bad. reading this post made me tear up a bit. This is something that has captured my thoughts lately. Cleaning up the house. Making it mine. Rearranging a little. Thinking of buying a house, getting married (not yet but one day). I am scared I will settle but am most certain God will shake me from it even if it might hurt. I wonder where I will end up, where God will take me. Will I be a nomad or will I be grafted into another culture. Will My family hate me for it. Will I be abandoning them. No matter how much my father says he wants me to see the world I think he is being used (maybe not super consciously) to rule over my free time. The hold they have on me is great and unrelenting. Going there in June for a week may be an ok thing but is that really what I need to be doing? ah it drives me crazy. If he dominates the little bit of time and money I have right now as a new 8 to 5 citizen then when and where will I be able to escape. To begin to take my baby steps into what God wants for my life. So frustrating. Basically, I want to know where my roots are supposed to go. I hope to be open to what God wants, make my heart and life available, not pinned up in my selfish desires. Be a tool for Jesus. I love you Sara.