Tripping Over Roots

tripping over roots

There’s so much to see, hear, and feel in the woods, it’s not surprising to find myself tripping over roots from time to time. Thankfully, I’ve never fallen on my face, merely stumbled before regaining my footing. I’d rather be looking around and feeling what’s going on than watching the ground in front of my feet. But, sometimes that’s where I need to focus.

Most days, my feet take me to a wooded sanctuary within easy walking distance of my home. A “secret” passageway off a residential street serves as a back entrance. It’s a mystical, narrow, and shaded path. As soon as you turn onto it you know you’ve entered a special place. I stop on the boardwalk bridge over the stream to offer my gift of tobacco. It’s a token of gratitude for being able to enter these sacred, welcoming woods and gratitude for my life.

The 40-acre ecosystem is large enough to have many communities of flora and fauna. My entrance brings me into a mixed hardwood area. The towering trees create a high canopy, offering spaciousness and coolness on hot days. The path here is broad, smooth, and well-travelled. Immersed in the natural energy, I greet the trees and ask what wisdom they have to share. Usually, they tell me to follow their example and just be a tree—don’t strive to be something you’re not. Be still and follow your intuition.

The next thing I know, the wooded neighborhood has transitioned to cedars and I’m tripping over roots. These twisting and tortuous veins have sought out water and nutrients long before there was a path. Evidently, I’m not the only one tripping because someone has painted them fluorescent orange to highlight the hazard. Wear from foot traffic, bicycles, and weather has chipped off the gaudy orange humiliation, leaving only a few flecks. Now the roots blend in with the path as they were meant to.

After many stumbles, it dawned on me that not only should I be more mindful, but there were lessons to hear.

It reminded me of my roots. The love, experiences, and stories of my ancestors have nourished me since before I was born. They’ve shaped me into who I am. Many nurtured me and helped me navigate through life. I’m grateful for the values and strength of character they imbued.

Stories can outlive their usefulness, though. Experiences can leave unresolved wounds. What did I need to see that was making me stumble?

Roots anchor the part of the tree that’s above ground so it can grow tall and withstand storms. They absorb and transport water and minerals from the soil to the rest of the tree. Roots also stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. Soil quality and the tree’s nature help determine where and how deep the roots reach in their quest for nutrients.

How am I nourishing myself? Which nutrients am I bringing into my body and soul to feed me and help me grow in a way that I can be of greatest service? What do I need to add to my soil to grow strong? Which dreams do I want to awaken? What do I want to bring into blossom? What is non-negotiable?

We thrive on stories but they can trip us up. It’s important to draw on the lessons of the past but not dwell there. Question the automatic assumptions we make as circumstances change and we receive new information. Be mindful of the present so we don’t keep tripping on our roots.

Photo credit above: jim.choate59 on / CC BY-NC-ND


Healer, author, and motorcycle aficionado Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery. No helmet or jacket required.

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