Some people grow up very conscious of their roots. I have had people tell me that they travel far and wide but are always aware that, when they came home to the place they were born and raised, it really feels like homecoming, a sense of belonging to the land.

Others, and I myself belong to this group, grew up without real roots. As a child, I lived in six different locations in the world during the first five years of my life. And even after that, I didn’t live more than five years in one place until I was well into my 20’s. Circumstances can push children into a similar rootless existence. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a difficult life. Expatriate author and publisher Jo Parfitt often describes happy moments in her books and blogs about moving to different parts of the world.

However, it can leave a subtle mark. For a long time I was puzzled by my own restlessness. Am I an American at heart? After spending any amount of time in the wild places Stateside, I’m often overtaken by a yearning to base my life there again. Do I belong to my adopted Netherlands? This cultivated, under sea-level country I’ve lived in for the past 44 years? And why does visiting New Zealand suddenly fill me with the urge to go live there?

Leaving a place that has made me feel welcomed and at home can be very difficult. I’m not good at lingering goodbyes. A little voice inside me taught me to shut down and leave quickly, so I wouldn’t be overcome by grief and loss as a little girl. That voice still takes control whenever I need to leave people or places behind.

And so I have recently begun to consciously teach myself to put down roots, no matter where I am or how long I will stay. To take my cue from the trees. During my recent stay in the Sonoran Desert, I found Mesquite trees, stubbornly putting down their gnarled roots in stony barren land, even in rock crevices, pulling up nourishment and growing against all odds.

If they can do it, I can. And I allow myself to take my time saying goodbye these days. I allow myself to feel any grief or pain that it might bring. Because, allowing myself to feel grief and pain also means allowing myself to feel love and joy. And so I can carry all the places I’ve been and the people who have meant something to me in my heart.

I’m curious as to what putting down roots has meant for you, please share!

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