Arriving at an altitude just shy of 8,000 feet in the splendid heart of Mt. Charleston Wilderness, aptly nicknamed “sky island” by the Bureau of Land Management, I took a deep inhalation, acknowledging the sensations of lower air pressure and the inevitable impact it would soon have on my lungs. The invigorating aroma of fresh pine enlivened my senses with each breath, while the cones of my eyes relaxed as a result of the color green flooding my vision.
The days’ selected hiking destination: Trail Canyon, a 4-mile roundtrip lung-busting grunt 1600 feet up and back down the steep slopes of a vast, deep valley. The winds swirled, creating a ocean wave-like hush inside the canyon area, causing the leaves of quaking aspen to shake gleefully like tambourines in Van Morrisons’ Brown Eyed Girl. Carrying this tune in my head and my habitually over-loaded rucksack on my back, I set my well-worn, tan Vasque boots to the ground, seeking solace from the relentless summer heat 45 minutes away and longing for the grounded connection time spent in nature provides.
The gifts found in nature are there for appreciation. A chance to exhale loudly and restoratively, temporarily escaping our cluttered minds filled with endless to-do lists and incessant thoughts. A time for reflection, rest, and refocusing. A time to stand in awe and wonder of its enormity if we open our minds and allow the experience to penetrate our consciousness.
Trudging along the stone-marked pathway to my planned destination, aware of my increased heart rate, working overtime to supply welcome oxygen to my gradually fatiguing muscles with each step, I was captivated by the ubiquitous presence and grounding nature of roots. Roots, these vital lifelines of the tree whose primary functions are to absorb water, anchor the plant body, and store vitally obtained food and nutrients for growth and survival, seemed to connect with me, calling me to contemplate their complexities.
Evidently, roots go much deeper than the eye can see.
I checked several dictionary entries of “root” and liked this one best:
“Root: the fundamental or essential part of the source or origin of a thing. Part of a plant that develops, typically from a radicle and grows downward into soil anchoring the plant and absorbing nutrients and moisture.”- dictionary.com
The more I researched, the more fascinated the topic of roots became.
“People are like trees”, I thought to myself, “and their roots are like deeply held beliefs obtained from an early age anchoring them to a particular way of thinking, watered by circumstance and experience. Their roots, shaping how and why they feel a particular way, subsist on a diet of both empowering and disempowering thoughts. What we see on the surface is only a fraction of what lies beneath.”
Digging deeper into the subject, I discovered an article published by Dr. Thomas O. Perry in Arnoldia, the quarterly magazine from Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, which I found interesting to share as it relates to the word opportunity.
“Root growth is essentially ‘opportunistic’ in its timing and orientation. It takes place whenever and wherever the environment provides the water, oxygen, minerals, support, and warmth necessary for growth.
What I love about this quote is the following distinction:
Thoughts, beliefs, and actions take root wherever there is an opportunity for them. If the right set of simple circumstances exist, roots will take hold. This can be both good and bad if we are not careful. We can be rooted in love, passion, and purpose, or we can be rooted in bitterness, anger, and fear. Take a moment to stop and think about your roots and ask yourself the following questions:
“In what am I rooted, and why? Was there a particular opportunity that happened in my life that caused me to grow certain roots? How deep are these roots? How am I contributing to the growth or destruction of these roots? Do these roots need watering, or uprooting? Am I getting the support and vital essentials to keep these roots healthy? Or do I need some watering spiritually? Are there areas in my life where I would like to grow new roots? If so, where would I plant the seeds?
If you have recently established new roots, your questions may sound more like this:
“Am I being kind to others as these new roots grow? Am I being kind to myself during this new growth and replanting period? What do I anticipate will happen from establishing these new roots? How will these new roots impact my family, my community, or even further, the world at large? “
While I didn’t make it all the way to my intended destination, opting to let the humbling mantra “listen to your body” take root, I was grateful for the valuable lessons along the way.
I would like to leave you with this well-timed devotional entry I savored after returning home from a day spent relishing a slice of the 56,000 acres of wilderness that comprise Mt. Charleston. May it encourage you to get out and enjoy the great outdoors for a little soul-soothing!
“Sunshine helps to make glad the heart of man. It is the laughter of Nature. Live much outside. My medicines are sun and air, trust and faith. Trust is the spirit sun, your being enwrapped by the Divine Spirit. Faith is the soul’s breathing in of the Divine Spirit. Mind, soul, and body need helping. Welcome My treatment for you both. Draw near to Me. Nature is often My nurse for tired souls and weary bodies. Let her have her way with you both.”
Stand in Love, Jen xo