Not So Deep Roots

Posted on July 12, 2013

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About a year ago my mother moved into an old house in the country. How old you ask? Her landlord has a picture of her grand pappy when he was a baby in a diaper on the front porch of the home. The ‘baby’ in that picture, he died at the age of 96 last year. This is an old house OK?

There is a tree in front of this old house, a massive old oak tree with gnarled roots that run across the top of the ground.

I’ve never seen a tree quite like this.

Now granted, I’m no Paul Buynan, heck, I wasn’t even a Boy Scout, but I grew up in the country, right on the Ouachita/Morehouse parish line, so I’ve seen a few trees, even climbed one or two in my boyhood.

The tree isn’t that remarkable, just a sprawling old oak tree like a million others you’ll find across across the woods of northeast Louisiana.

The roots are what make this tree special to me. They twist and turn, going this way and that, across and under and through the dirt surrounding the oak.

They look like a nest of snakes frozen in time, eerie, strange and mesmerizing. The root system of this particular oak tree look almost like a mat, a rug that’s been placed around the trunk.

Sometime when I visit my mother I’ll go out and sit on the porch of her one hundred year old house, smoke a cheap cigar and stare that rugged old tree.

If trees could talk… what tales might this tree tell?

Was that tree a sapling when America was at war with itself 160 years ago? Did a Johnny Reb or a Billy Yank stop to rest in it’s shade?

The roots of this tree remind me of modern day Americans, the transience of our lives. We don’t let our roots sink too deep into the soil, we spread out, fanning across the landscape.

When this tree was a young, the average American lived and died a few miles from where they were born, sometimes even in the same house.

But not the Americans of today.

Today we’re spread out across the country. Our roots are there, just as substantial as our fore-bearers, but not too deep, because a job, a new love, or just a simple case of wanderlust, can cause us to uproot and shallow roots make for simple relocation.

“I talk to the trees. But they never listen”. – Tommy Smothers

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