Returning to Our Roots briefly explores the beauty and simplicity of the natural world, while also exploring our ability to find peace and restfulness within it.
As raindrops, heavy and cold, race towards the Earth, I find myself yet again drawn inexplicably to the outdoors. A bolt of lightning cracks violently in the sky as a memory flashes suddenly before me. I lay on my back next to my father, a small child curled close to his side as we stare up through the basement windows. Beyond them, bursts of light illuminate heavy, grey clouds. “It’s called sheet lightning,” my father tells me, pointing a finger toward the night sky. Amazed, I watch the sky’s purple iridescence in awe, fingers buried in my ears in anticipation for the boom of thunder that never comes. It was, as I pull on my shoes and open my front door, a simpler time; one filled with that beautiful wonderment surrounding simple things that could only be seen through the eyes of child.
But as the black tick marks etched themselves higher on my pantry door, the problems and complexities of life seemed to grow as the years passed as well. At 9 years old, I had already come to understand one of the most fundamental facts of life: nothing is easy and every is complicated. It was a lesson I had witnessed time and time again. Simba didn’t just get to become king, goodness alone couldn’t save Harry Potter’s parents, and love wasn’t enough for Ross and Rachel to stay together (although, admittedly, they were on a break). So as I follow the phantom footprints of my former self through the forest, rain beating down on my big black umbrella, I can’t help but reflect on just what pulls me out the door each time a severe weather warning blares suddenly from the living room TV.
At first, I was convinced it was the beauty of it. I contemplated the way that raindrops clinging to leaves looked like diamonds set into emeralds. The smell of life, green and damp, hang heavy in the air, its earthy perfume seep into my clothing as it breaths life into my flaring nostrils. Trapped in tiny droplets, small glimmers of light shine like stars, falling slowly from their heavenly seat to splash heavily on the ground. I know tomorrow the leaves will be firmer, their colors more vibrant, as they sway cheerfully in the afternoon sun, their thirst satisfied. A rush of water snaking down leaves hums in my ear as birds call out cheerfully, soft feathers washed and dried by the sun.
But, as with all things of beauty, time begins to take their wonder away. So as glimmering diamonds melt back into water, I find myself wondering what it is about rain that can make me feel so at peace. The ancient cycle, so strong and unyielding, runs on and on as it has done for thousands of years. In a time before humans, the clouds still released their life-giving accolades to the growing Earth below. In a time filled with plastic bottles and AC and indoor plumbing, nature is and has always remained simple.
It was in the acknowledgment of this simplicity that I understood why, as rain beat steadily off the roofs of quiet, suburban homes, my mind had become suddenly clear. The problems of my day, of deadlines and expectations and personal anxieties, rushed from my head like water. I stood there, beneath a canopy of trees under a blanket of cozy wetness, and understood. The leaves, all of vary shades and sizes and species, cared for nothing more than the water that rained from above. This, along with light and air, are the only things necessary for a plant to live and grow. They are, for all living beings, the most essential aspects of life; without even one of them, life on our planet would cease to exist.
So as I sit here, mind wandering as I write this, a sense of peacefulness suddenly washes over me. It is easy to become bogged down in the daily stressors that complicated life has to offer: societal pressures to find a committed partner, a family’s wishes for you to lead a respectable career, and the anxieties involved with inheriting a dying world. But there is something in the simplicity of nature, in the necessity and consistency of rain, that soothes me in times of personal crisis. We are, in almost every sense but literal, like plants. Our most basic needs, for sustenance, light, and air, are shared by our white-rooted oxygen makers.
Like them, our ability to grow, both physically and within ourselves, depend on factors from our own environment. Should a child receive enough love and nourishment, they will grow into a functioning, well-adjusted adult. But those young seeds that experience mistreatment, or lack the most basic needs of love and nourishment from others, will grow to be withered or stunted, waiting for someone to come along to show them the care they have never received. Like plants, humans too can choose to make our homes anywhere; we spring up, like weeds, from desert to tundra, spreading our seed in inhospitable environments as we change the very fabric of the landscape we are on. It is only by returning to our roots, through coming to an understanding of our most basic human needs and desires, that we can understand our place within the natural world. And it is through this process and no other that we can help others to find theirs as well. Until then, I will continue to watch the rain. And I hope that, even if only once, you decide to watch it with me.