I felt quite moved by a post on A Pilgrim’s Journey today, in which the shadow of a tree looked very much like its roots. This was a new connection to my imagination, a new metaphor to consider, and really not an easy one. If you’ve read around my blog a bit, you will have noticed that I struggle with my roots, with the surroundings and the people I come from. They really seem to be my shadow. When my thoughts turn to them, I tend to lose quite a bit of light in me, and I try not to lose myself in these shadows.
But there might be another path to explore in this. I have been away from my geographical ‘shadowland’ for quite some time now. I haven’t even visited in more than two years. And I feel that the longer I stay away, the safer I feel where I am. I can risk more, in small ways. I can explore things I’m a little scared of. I can explore the shadows from afar as well, and their traces inside me. And one thing I can take a look at too is the fact that a tree has many roots, and not all of mine are dark and difficult. One of my roots is faith. Another one is creativity. Both of these are God-given, not family-given. And these I kept growing, these have become the tree trunk, and they reach into my branches by now, and many of the leaves and buds and blossoms and fruit come all the way from these good roots. And because some of the other roots were not helping me to grow, everything else had to become stronger and deeper and wider to make up for it. I had to balance the lack of health in some roots, and my life has become richer and fuller because of it. How many of the people who are blessings to my life would I not know if it hadn’t been for the fact that I have had to change direction, that I have had to leave the roots that weren’t giving me life? God has made sure that there were places for me to go. I was not left to my own devices, and I’ve done my best to make the most of what I was given. That doesn’t mean it’s never hard. It doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. I’m struggling at the moment. But it does mean that this tree is deeply planted despite all obstacles. It does mean that there is life in me when there was not much likelihood of there being any some years ago. There is water and light and space and nourishment, not always much, but usually enough – and if I have to dig deeper to find water somewhere, it will always add depth too to who I am as a whole.
The ‘shadow roots’ are sometimes draining the life out of me. Sometimes they send up a bit of poison of their own. Sometimes I try to gain ground in them, just an inch here or there that can be turned into something more life-giving, or at least be ‘neutralised’ so it can’t stop the rest of the tree from flourishing. Sometimes that’s a big risk to take, to focus on spots like these. Sometimes maybe it does work a little, with the help of acceptance, of forgiveness, or of allowing myself to feel some of the anger I carry around in me. I try to keep the communication up with the shadowlands, if only to keep them in check or to know what’s brewing now.
It’s possible even those roots add to the general balance of the tree. It’s possible they don’t. But they’re too deeply planted to remove, I’ll have to live with them. And I try to be kind to all the good parts of the tree, so they don’t get too scared of the potentially destructive influence of the ‘shadow roots’. It feels like it all costs a lot of energy.