The roots of plants host a bacteria, with which it has a symbiotic relationship. The bacteria fix nitrogen into a form that the plant can take up and use. Roots also take in water and other nutrients necessary for the plant to thrive. The roots of many species can store those nutrients for later use. Roots hold the plant fast, different types of plants have adapted different sorts of root systems to different soil types. They are capable of splitting stone and transforming a harsh landscape into usable soil, given enough time. And some roots can even grow an entirely new plant, should the parent plant be damaged or fall.
Roots are pretty amazing…consider this:
- The roots of the mangrove tree tolerate salt levels that would kill other plants and filter out much of the salt that would even kill the mangrove itself
- The roots of the quaking aspen give rise to new ashen, forming enormous colonial organisms–one of these, named Pando, have the honor of being the oldest (80,000 years old) and the largest (by mass).
- The roots of the bald cypress grow verticals projections called “knees” that are thought to act as a sort of buttress to anchor the tree, which has a shallow root system in stagnant, swampy waters (it was once thought that they played a role in providing oxygen, but experimental data isn’t supportive.
- The roots of the black walnut leach out a substance (actually, every part of the plant does, including the fallen and decaying leaves) that acts as an herbicide for most other plant species, reducing competition, so the plant can thrive.
- The roots of the banyan tree transform themselves from ariel roots into supportive trunks, able to survive the loss of the original trunk.
Our roots matter, just as if we were a tree.
The breadth and depth of our roots are our anchor and our support. They sustain us in times of plenty, and most especially, in times of hardship. They offer us a way to renew ourselves when we’ve been damaged by the storms of life and trials by fire. Roots can take unpalatable and uncomfortable surroundings iand make something better, something enriching. It is only with roots that we can grow.
Often, roots are allegorically understood to be “where we come from” in the sense of people or places, but I think that are roots are something else. Our roots are those values and ideals that filter what we get from our surroundings, and that pull the meaning from an otherwise meaningless existence. They are shaped in part by our experiences, but once we are conscious of them, we can manipulated how and where we are rooted. We can transform our existence by filtering out more of the muck, or butressing ourselves in unstable soil. Properly rooted, we can flourish.