When my wife and I moved into our house four years ago, there was a gigantic broom bush living in the front garden bed.
For a short time, it would bloom hundreds of deep magenta flowers – and then for the rest of the year, it was simply a giant bush.
At first, we enjoyed it and it lent a big energy to our home. But over the past couple of years, heavy winters with 18+ inch snowstorms led to a flattening out of the broom bush, which made it hard to maintain while it took up a lot of space. Parts of it withered and died, and try as we might to rein its sprawl in, it continued to flatten out.
So two weeks ago, we decided to remove it, to make way for new flowers and shrubs. It was a tough decision, but after some deliberation, and honor for the broom bush’s life, we felt that the time was right.
First we cut the bush down as close to the roots as we could. That was a pretty easy task. As we cut the bush down, we said a goodbye to each of the branches that had splayed themselves out over the garden bed.
I was excited to take on the next task: removing the roots. As I dug into the ground with a shovel, I put my weight on the edge of the blade while pushing down on the handle, thinking it would act as a lever and loosen some of the root ball.
But instead, the handle of the shovel snapped in two!
I now knew I was in for a much bigger task than I expected. So I got on my hands and knees, grabbed a variety of garden tools and a pair of sharp scissors, and started digging in to remove the roots piece by piece.
It was an adventure. As I dug, I realized some of the roots had stretched out to over six feet long, intertwining themselves between the rocks and roots of other plants. An abundance of earthworms and other grubs had also settled into the roots, and I took care to keep each one alive and deposit it back into the soil.
I was able to snip some of the root lengths with scissors, but others required more effort. The root system had grown over the years into a complex web of thick and thin roots, twisty, knotty, and very strong.
After some time (1 hour? 2 hours?) I was finally able to remove the main portion of the root. The roots I’m holding in the picture are unremarkable and don’t reflect the effort of the task – but the smile on my face reflects genuine pride.
As I often observe with plants, I am amazed at how much this broom bush – and in particular, its roots – was able to show me about my own human experience.
Roots have a lot to teach us about how to stay grounded in reality, and connected with the earth we live in. How do we keep grounded?
When reflecting on the process of digging up these roots, the major theme that comes to mind is “Network”.
Some of the roots were thick, dense, and woody, but most of them were skinny – and yet they were ultimately the roots that held the bush in place and caused my shovel to break.
These skinny roots stretched out far into the ground and along it. They wrapped themselves around rocks, and hung onto the roots of other nearby plants. The tension on these roots was similar to the strings on a guitar – taut enough to resist when pulled.
Even if we don’t consider ourselves the strongest people, we can still create grounding and stability by reaching outward, forming connections with other beings, and creating a “tautness” – where being anchored to our surroundings gives us focus, conviction, and power.
The intertwined network of roots became a welcome home to earthworms and insect larvae, a system of beings that synergistically exchanged nutrients and protection.
By cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with other living beings, we become more grounded – and our roots become a source of nourishment.
We have since replaced the broom bush with a few new plants, which we are lovingly tending to – while bittersweetly remembering the broom bush’s sacrifice.
Sometimes we will choose to uproot and remove situations and states of being that have grown in our lives for years – and in their place, new life can grow.