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Here, in This Place

In the place that is my own place, whose earth
I am shaped in and must bear, there is an old tree growing,
a great sycamore that is a wondrous healer of itself.
Fences have been tied to it, nails driven into it,
hacks and whittles cut in it, the lightning has burned it.
There is no year it has flourished in
that has not harmed it. There is a hollow in it
that is its death, though its living brims whitely
at the lip of the darkness and flows outward.
Over all its scars has come the seamless white
of the bark. It bears the gnarls of its history
healed over. It has risen to a strange perfection
in the warp and bending of its long growth.
It has gathered all accidents into its purpose.
It has become the intention and radiance of its dark fate.
It is a fact, sublime, mystical and unassailable.
In all the country there is no other like it.
I recognize in it a principle, an indwelling
the same as itself, and greater, that I would be ruled by.
I see that it stands in its place, and feeds upon it,
and is fed upon, and is native, and maker.
– Wendell Berry, The Sycamore

I’ve both loved and resented the roots I’ve grown. A wandering spirit, I’ve chafed at being caught in place for too long. Yet I’ve been deeply nourished by the community I’ve planted myself in. I reach towards the sky, trying to fly. While rooting deeper and wider still. Such is the way.

Roots are built on routines and responsibilities, done with love and established over time. You don’t have to feed the birds where you live, but when you do they reward you with movement and song. They bring life in return for your investment in time, money and persistence. And so it is with a community. When you help nourish the community you’re rewarded in ways you might not have anticipated when you first set roots there.

Old growth trees come in many shapes and sizes. Some grow impossibly high. With others, thick trunks support wide canopies. And those in the highest mountains remain low to the ground, clustered tightly together and shrinking in on themselves, constantly buffeted by the harshest of winds.

The pandemic abruptly stepped into our lives about a year ago and still informs. I’ve learned to appreciate the firm ground I’m rooted to all the more when the storms blow. For here in this place I’ve grown more than I might have otherwise. Here in this place the worst of the winds blow over. Here in this place we’ve built lives for ourselves. Bonded to this place and each other, roots interwoven together.

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