Sunday, May 28, 2006

Deep Roots

I’m a wanderer. Of course, I’ve been living as an expatriate -- straddling Dutch culture and American culture -- for the last three-and-a-half years. But even before that, I never had the chance to develop deep roots in any particular geographic location. Three years in Amsterdam preceded by seven years in Bowling Green (Ohio), preceded by eight years in Shelby (Ohio), preceded by eight years in Lancaster (Wisconsin), preceded by shorter stints in Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Colorado... Relatively speaking, my whole life has been somewhat nomadic.

My parents, before me, were also wanderers -- which naturally explains my childhood wandering. And their parents, before them, were the sons and daughters of immigrants from northern Europe. For generations, my family has learned to survive and thrive with a shallow (easily transferable) root system.

And I don’t necessarily consider this to be a bad thing. In an increasingly global society, travelers have distinct advantages. Furthermore, as a disciple of Christ, there’s a role for people who are willing to wander, like the Son of Man, with “no place to lay his head.”

But there’s definitely something appealing about deep roots, as well. Marci’s family, for instance, has maintained a homestead in the fertile farmlands Richland County, Ohio, since the turn of the 19th Century. Marci’s distant relatives are listed in local history books that call back to the time “when the land was wild, and the men were even wilder” and the region “was infested by Indians, wolves, and deer in abundance” (the quotes are pulled from a family copy of “The History of Richland County, Ohio: 1807 – 1880” authored by A.A. Graham in the year 1880). The family is currently in the process of some pretty drastic renovation of the old farmhouse, to ensure its establishment well into the 21st Century. But the work is motivated by a sense of history and heritage -- a realization that our children represent the eighth generation to stake their claim on that soil.

Eight generations.

That’s amazing to me! It’s such a different sense of establishment from my life that counts eight years as its longest stretch of semi-permanence in any particular locale. Such familiarity and connection to a place are understandably powerful and special.

I used to feel cynical and arrogant towards “local yokels” who were emotionally tied down to one place -- such that they had never even ventured to travel beyond the borders of Ohio. However, I’m starting to understand a bit more completely, and as I understand I feel less critical. I see my mother-in-law laboring to restore her childhood home, and I hear my wife recall stories from her time on “Grandpa and Grandma’s farm,” and I see my son pumping water from the old pump to help water the garden... and it all makes sense to be in a new way. Deep roots can be stabilizing. Deep roots can be comforting. Deep roots can be empowering.


At 2:08 PM, Blogger Marco said...

By now, you must understand my love for Monnickendam! Haha! Anyway, I hope you're not developing a lot of sentiments that will make you homesick as soon as you're "back" in Amsterdam...

At 10:16 PM, Blogger Todd said...

cool post Eric.


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