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February 13, 1996

What Are Roots Good For?

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Not all roots are created equal. Take, again, the blueberry bush. Its wiry roots don’t go deep, but rather spread out then down. They’re close to the surface and therefore cannot tap the water deposits in the deeper soil. They are dependent upon the constant care of watering or rains for their nourishment.
All roots, though, do perform the same basic tasks. They provide an entry point for the nourishment received from water and minerals. They provide the plant with stability, literally grounding the plant in a fixed position. The longer the plant lives and grows, the stronger the roots become entrenched in the soil.
Roots also provide the plant or tree with a certain degree of resiliency. Years back, we experienced an intense ice storm, which among other things, damaged many of my beautiful maples. After the tree guy did some heavy pruning he told me, “They’ll be ugly for a while, but they’ll come back. You’ll have to live with them being ugly for some time, but they’ll be fine.”
How will they come back? Why will they be fine? Simple – their roots. Even though their outer extremities were damaged, the core of their existence remained intact and even thrived.
We cannot neglect our roots. They possess the power to both sustain and save. Wise is the man who tends his roots.
Just like the roots of a plant, our roots, things like faith and integrity, love and respect, will grow and become strong only when we remain vigilant to cultivate them. We must also remember one of the main elements of root growth: time. The roots that provide our resiliency and help us stand in adversity are not grown overnight or in some high-tech root incubator. They are strengthened over time, fed by the nutrients of experience and cultivated by the wisdom of others.
As you consider your own root growth, ask yourself what your root system looks like. Is it like the blueberry bush that needs constant watering as they reach out across the surface of the soil? Or is it like the Pacific Willow tree with deep and unyielding roots?

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