tree in the snow

Why Bother Thinking About Roots?

Why Bother Thinking About Roots?

Years ago, when I relocated to the Northwest from Nebraska, I had no idea of the number of trees that grew here. The evergreens are as plentiful as fields of corn in Nebraska. Although the Midwest has its own beauty, waves of grain, my eyes never tire from looking at the majestic trees that remain green all year round. Except for the western larch, whose needles turn gold and fall to the ground in the fall, all the other trees; the pine, cedar, spruce, and fir, fill the gray landscape of winter with their green foliage. 

The Beauty of Roots

Although we don’t marvel at the beauty or think much about the root system of any tree, they are the vital lifeline. In winter, the roots are the storehouse for food so that in the spring new foliage can be produced. Without roots, trees would die of thirst since the water is absorbed by them from the ground and transported to the rest of the tree. Finally, roots anchor the part of the tree that we see, the trunk, branches and crown. Without roots, there would be no magnificent trees standing. 

The same can be said of us. We can’t take credit for who we are without remembering our ancestral roots. Whether we know about our family history or not, our bloodline began with the union between a man and woman, from whom we inherited our DNA, our personalities and our propensities.  

At one time, my mother thought it would be a good project for me to become the historian for our family. So, she eagerly sent me old letters, and black and white photographs of people I’d never met before. I reluctantly kept them in a manila envelope, and did nothing with them until now.

Every once in a while, my sister, who has grown into the historian of our family because she loves research, will call and ask me a question about some long gone member of our family. Then, I spill out the contents of the envelope, peer into the faces of stern looking strangers and read their scrawled names written on the back. I look at the copy of the first page of Grandma’s Bible where she kept records of family births and deaths. And I scan faded letters to verify or nullify what my sister thinks she knows.

I’ve shared how our ancestors spelled their names; Koralewski, Krojewski, and Matzek. I related how some names changed. Jiri became George, Matzek became Macek. because they dropped the Bohemian pronunciation for an easier English one.  

I know our family line originated in Germany and Poland and that our ancestors were not wealthy, but they were hard workers and determined. They left their homeland for reasons unknown to me, boarded a ship and came to America. 

Many of my ancestors plowed the earth and put their roots down in the farmland of Western Nebraska. Others, like my great granddad, opened a tailor shop in the front room of his house and made uniforms for soldiers. 

I still do not know most of the people who stare back at me from the photographs my mother once sent me. They are serious looking people and not very pretty. I don’t know their full stories but these people are a lifeline. I know that my parents came from these hardy and steadfast people and that from them I inherited my earnestness, unflinching and obstinate ways.  Without them, I’d have nothing to anchor to.

So why bother thinking about roots? They are what keep us upright and blooming green in the midst of a gray landscape.

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