Shades of roots

Is identity defined by our roots? Do roots reveal or mask our true identity? Do roots and identity provide us with a sense of belonging? a series of performative situations that attempt to explore what it means and how it feels to be rooted. This inevitably brings up its contrary of “un” and “up” rootedness, as well as alternative rooting “routes” and routing roots.

Roots are important, or so they say. To root oneself is a process of healing and ultimately of becoming. I understand this only theoretically. I have been ignoring, or maybe avoiding my roots for very long, why?

To me rootedness is an abstract concept. I know how roots look like for plants, flowers and trees. I know that I have to dig down into the earth to find them, but what about my own roots?

Words, the roots of words have been of much more interest than my own genealogical prefix. Incomprehensible glottology classes, etymology, linguistics, glossology, philology, let me ask you: do you know where your roots are to be found? Can you see them? Look them up? Perceive them? Feel them inside or outside you?

Metaphorical roots, yes, I get those. The word “root“ is often mentioned, especially when identity seeking. TV programmes captivate, fascinate and capitalise on the concept of personal roots finding, but can roots give happiness?

Without roots one cannot really be, nor find one own sense or one’s own meaning and purpose. Roots seem to be useful to grow, elevate, prosper, relate to the world — I am worried.

Root chakra, Root your feet into the ground, root lock, Mula Bandha, the root of your tongue, in yoga practice roots are central in the language of asanas. A long time yoga practitioner I know my lower chakras are weak, I should really anchor myself in a lifelong core strengthening boat pose!

But what’s behind, underneath that bellybutton? A hole? The thought of it makes me queasy. No butterflies sensations. Weird, itchy, uncomfortable, I avoid and barely touch myself there, it’s unpleasant. Untouchable, dark, moist, marshy, is that how roots feel? Scratching the flesh from the inside out from behind the navel? That could be one good spot where to look for roots.

Roots are a real issue for me. Not just location wise. Without roots, I cannot develop, evolve, bloom transform into my full being. Limbs, legs, feet, toes, are those my roots? Interestingly, since I’ve embarked on this root project my right leg started to “inarticulate” making walking very unpleasant. Holistically speaking these kind of pains, are the symptoms of a malfunctioning rooting system. Problems with patriarchal figures, with submissiveness and acceptance, with feeling forced in one direction, is the diagnosis.

Hunting for my true self, I dig and dig, where am I at 52? Rooting and unrooting, rooting and uprooting, from one community to the other, since childhood I moved through different cultures, communities, towns, shared different homes and households. At 18 I voluntarily chose to continue my journey towards uprootedness. Every time I am just about barely integrating it’s time to pack up, leave and start all over again, never stumbling over my roots. So I wonder: what are the most common obvious symptoms or places where to look for roots? In the dead? In origins? In the Mediterranean? In the land? In water? In culture? In ancestors? In nature? In community? In trauma? In archetypes and mythology? In an idea? In love? In father, mother, family? In escape?

But somehow roots are haunting me, the time has come, to identify, acknowledge, where and what, that some roots must be there.

I look in my body, inside my earth. Roots grow and thrive under earth. One has to be grounded then, the deeper the better. How do people ground themselves? I’m intrigued, how do you perceive your roots? Where do you feel your roots the most? What is your relationship to roots?

Roots and ground make me think of immobility, confinement, domesticity, placement, closure, entrapment. Or does grounding also allow for breaking free? Do roots not hold you back? More than roots what I have been seeking is liberation. Maybe one has to have a special talent, a rooting skill! Can rooting still happen with age? Can one learn the art of groundness? If only I could root in my body, would I find my true essence there? Would I regain my will, my trust and finally bloom, before dying?

Maybe the inability to express one rootedness, the lack of roots sensation, is a disease, some sort of numbing root Alexithymia. Maybe, if I dive in the sea, leave my hair long enough in the wet salt, I could graft myself on the Mediterranean stream. But if, a root inside me exist, would it not eventually manifest itself? Engrossed and suppressed, force, push out of me? Break through, crack the cement? How can I free my roots and recognise the strength that guides me?

Trying to get to the core, a force ties me in, fear, it’s the voice of my mother. A constant night and day invisible presence, this voiceover, plays louder than my own, it vibrates, rimbomba dentro di me. It’s the root of the umbilical cord, my psyche’s ground communication system, amplified, controlled by my mother’s sound waves.

Compost, nourishment, thinking of my mother’s plants I see no bearing fruits but struggle for survival. If part of my root is that invisible umbilical cord that ties me into patriarchy, pretending to nourish while in fact strangling me, how can I eradicate and replant, repot myself in a healthier less dysfunctional terrain?

Can roots kill you? They say you cannot go anywhere, you can’t grow without roots, without knowing, without having resolved your root. They say you can’t fly if you are not rooted, that I need to sort out my root chakra. In the spiritual realm roots are the basic foundation of a cosmic universal concept, like there is only one kind of roots situation! Is that even possible?

I am beginning to suspect that this rooting issue is not as straight forward as they say.

Cats are rooted in place, birds in space, plants in earth, fish in water, then there are also air and sky and water plants and plants that grow without roots and plants that grow without soil. Not only that, there are plants with deep and shallow roots and then there are bulbs, and strong and weak, sturdy and soft, resilient and fragile roots. Tight and loose, delicate and tender roots, purple, yellow, brown, red, black, white, all colours roots. Young and old, all ages roots, big, small, all sizes roots: biodiversity allows for the existence of the unthinkable, even queer roots!

If I were to imagine my roots, I envision long thin floating hairlike filaments reaching in all directions. At times hanging, attached on distant places. One filament would be — suspended — in solitude. One in each community I have lived in. One root in each person I have loved. One root on the sea, one in the air, one in the earth and one root burning.

May you be rooted in loving kindness.

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