We European Americans are not a people known for our roots. We're the ones who pulled up roots wherever we were and came here to get away from something or find something or ... something. My parents lived a thousand miles from their parents when I was growing up and I followed suit. My main criterion for a college: at least 800 miles from home. At 18 I flew away and never looked back.
Until last year, that is. When watching my vibrant 78 year old mom take care of my ailing 79 year old dad became too much to bear from far away. I needed to be close and so we uprooted our lives, our careers, our friendships and communities -- and our child's life as well. We came to help with care-giving when, suddenly, I found myself in need of care. And so Mom had not just Dad on her hands, but me as well. My life was pulling apart at the seams, my marriage wrecked, my calling uncertain.
I hiked in the mountains as much as I could manage last summer. These mountains heal me. They always have. And over the course of a few hard months it became clear to me that while I had pulled up my most recent, rather shallow roots, and moved to a city where I had never lived before, I actually had come seeking deeper roots. My parents retired back to my father's hometown and so now we are all living where my people came from. Generations ago, my ancestors farmed these mountains and three generations ago, the men became local politicians. My granddaddy's photo hangs in the county courthouse. The only independently owned pharmacy in town is run by my cousins. My son plays in the yard of the school where my father studied as a child. I have friends who worship at a church my grandparents helped found. Numerous streets hold houses with family memories. For the first time in my life, I am living in a place where I have roots.
These human roots feel strong and good and important to me. I am glad for them. And yet, they are only a shadow of the roots that really keep me grounded. When everything shifted beneath my feet, Mercy stood firm. She held me steady, whispered to me reminders of who I was, let me lie in her rich loam, the sweet smell of decay teaching me of resurrection -- life out of death. Mercy held me for dear life. She has not let go yet.
When I walk these streets I remember who I am. When I walk through these woods I remember Whose I am. Blessings both.