Root Bound in Fertile Ground – McMinnville Tennessee
(Podcast read by Sharon)
We travel with a few container pots of herbs and veggies. I’ve heard that you can take the man out of the garden, but you can’t take the garden out of the man. Every few months we have to thin them down, transplant or just harvest it all or start over because their roots end up filling the pot, they get root bound and the poor fellas have nothing left to eat or drink.
Today I find myself sprouting like my herbs. A few fragile tendrils of root slowly meandering through the soil looking for substance. I know and recognize that I’m from the stock of scrawny cedars, tiny pawpaw, slender Virginia pine and other southern scrub trees, but on this breath I feel the makings of a mighty acorn. When we arrived in this fertile Tennessee plateau there was a friendship from years past that we wanted to re-kindle. We rolled up highway 111 and instantly noticed the leaves of spring waving at us and soon after felt the warm embrace of Warren county Tennessee welcome us. A few miles later we looked at each other with a knowing that something special was going to happen here.
Our friend meets us at our campfire and the two of us pull out our soul singers. He jingles the strings of his banjo with song upon magnificent song with music and stories just dripping from the wood. I pull out my 1966 Gibson and try to echo. The music amplifies, the woods receive, the hoot owls harmonize, the stars glow, my smile grows. Somewhere in the magic of the evening the root of his songs grab something sacred and tucked away. The night ends with our friend driving away and his banjo echoing in my dreams. I awake the next morning with a longing to understand. I wanted to find the path that led him into the woods, by the place that stirs his banjo, into the river that is in the corner of his smile, within the garden that grew his genuineness, and deep into the fertile ground that his roots have been burrowing for generations.
A day later we find ourselves floating down the Collins River with our friend. We all seem to quietly soak in the fact that this is a magnificent and special spring day. The rains had fallen a few days before and the river was bulging. The Sycamore trees along the rivers edge seemed to sway and dance a little as they felt the cool waters tickle their trunk. The three of us whisper as we paddle, we listen, we look, we soak in the day.
We pull the canoes out and we tug them through the woods to his old pickup, all the while he points at wild edible plants and slips into stories of his yesteryear. We meander down the road a bit and then we stop at a special place . “My parents were caretakers of this land and lived here for quite a few years.” We look and instantly feel something tickle the heart. He continues with stories of how they drank from the spring, of which I was sipping and splashing water on my face from. As the water fell back to the earth my longing grew. “Tell us more. ” He continues with stories of his Mom and Pop, the land, the place, the seasons.
We thought we were just driving back to where we began, but the side roads just kept filling in. We passed the homeplace where his Mom and Pop lived. We saw the land where his Grandma and Pappa carved out a spot. The tiny roads slowly filled in even more with three amazing generations of his family and their stories. We even floated across the ocean with tales of how his great, great grand parents from Scotland landed here in this fertile Tennessee valley.
Sadly, the sun found its way around the earth too soon and eventually we found ourselves back at his humble country home. I inhale Tennessee. My chest rises and proudly exhales. I look around and soak in the blossoms sprouting in his yard. I just can’t get over that we are all seeds. We are all just hoping for the wind to blow us to fertile ground.
As we pull away, I look in the rear view mirror and see our friend waving goodbye or perhaps hello, and there’s that longing again. I adore this feeling of being a little cedar that can pop up, breath and somehow survive in just about any place on earth, but how I would also love to be Gary, to be the acorn, to have a tap root that reaches deep, that finds the nectar, holds what is true, and is somehow contagious and can sprout the beginnings of something new.