My family and I moved last September from our slice of heaven on earth—Northern Arizona. It still feels like my roots are raw, blinking with terror in the sunlight and drying out in the unwelcome air. I diligently wrap them in damp towels, but they yearn to grip the soil, to soak up nourishment and to create new life, a new home. It’s confusing, and some days debilitating, while I wait for those roots to be planted again. However, I tell myself on repeat, “You’ve lived like this before. It will not kill you.”
Now, my family lives on two acres in Southern Oklahoma. Our house came with nine rose bushes. At first, I loved them and looked forward to tending them. It had been a dream of mine since girlhood to grow different varieties of tea rose bushes, and to surround my house with beauty. Well, these rose bushes certainly checked several boxes: wild, unkept, neglected. None of the boxes on my rose garden list. This resulted in dead branches with a thorny bite, a tangled underbrush, and sparse blooms. I spent the months before our first freeze pruning, shearing, and shaping these plants, hoping to restore their life and beauty. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to ease the damage done season after season of neglect.
When pruning fails to yield the desired effect, removing the plant is the only option. After an incredibly dreary and wet winter, this realization is clear to me—the bushes must go. I’m trying to find the beauty in Oklahoma like I did in Arizona, but something keeps getting in my way… these rose bushes.
So, I start to tackle them. One by one and with my four year old son by my side. We clip, chomp, dig, and repeat. As we work, there are thorns poking from every direction, and random landscape fabric buried around the base of the bushes. I grunt, mumble faint curses, and stand back wondering how to get these suckers out of the earth. All I see are the distractions in my way—weeds sprouting in the soil, the other unruly bushes neighboring the flowerbed, and the windows that need a severe deep cleaning. I try to focus on finding a solution to the problem of the plants. Eventually, I manhandle the root ball out of the ground, but I leave tendrils of roots in the dirt. I can’t get it all. By this time, the baby’s awake from her nap, and grumbly bellies tell me it’s close to dinner time.
My son and I haul the clipped thorny branches and root balls with dangling earth to the burn pile on the back of the property. These bushes will not be replanted to bloom again, unlike my family’s bloom after being replanted in Oklahoma. “It’s going to happen, and it will be beautiful,” I tell myself. We go inside the house and wash the dirt from our hands, arms, and faces. The cleaning reveals the cuts and pokes from the thrones, and then I notice the arm of my plaid shirt. There is a 5 inch slash in the fabric. Somehow, I never noticed it ripped. The thorn subtly sliced open the fabric of my favorite shirt, and I wasn’t paying attention enough to notice.
There are things out to get you and me, all of us. On my new land, it’s the thorns of the rose bushes. In my new life, it’s the attitude of “I could be doing x, y, and z in Arizona.” It’s hard to move away from friends close enough to be family, and a patch of land that feels like peace and adventure, shelter and hearth. Leaving your roots exposed will not bring comfort, healing, or a sense of place. But when you unwrap your roots from the damp paper towels to plant them in a spot with just enough sun, the beauty will come and all of a sudden, you’ll notice you’re thriving.