|Isn't this amazing? This tree's branch is woven into the ground. Seen on St. Simon's Island, GA|
I've been a bit obsessed with roots lately. Not the kind that blossom flowers or secure trees. No, I'm talking about the roots that make us who we are. The roots that ground us - human beings - to the soil our ancestors walked, worked, and fought for.
For years I fought against my heritage. I was ashamed of being Southern. I hated the accent, the ignorance associated with the region, and the way Southerners are portrayed in film and music. Then, oh about five years ago, I started paying attention. I realized that, while there are a lot of things in the South that I'm not happy with, that I don't agree with, and that need to shift in terms of social justice and human rights - the South isn't such a terrible place to be from. I mean, have you had biscuits and gravy? I started looking past the red neck jokes and the backwoods religious references and started seeing a group of people who are proud and strong and hell-bent on making it no matter how hard the work. I paid more attention to my family, to those long gone, and started realizing that I've been given a great gift: the gift of strong roots.
My people come from the Middle of Nowhere, Georgia. My maternal grandfather's people came from the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. My ancestors came here from Ireland and, if you know your geography, the mountains in Ireland and the Appalachian Mountains are one in the same. Good, old continental drift. But it's more than that. I've been there. I grew up going to the Appalachian Mountains. I've walked through the hills of Ireland and they feel the same. They have the same spirit, the same soul. If I had been able to take off my shoes and walk through the fields there I know my toes would have recognized the soil.
The minute the plane burst through the clouds over Galway I had this intense feeling of coming home. When the plane burst through the clouds over North Carolina when I flew back from India, I saw the green, rolling hills and I KNEW I was home.
They connect us to the land, to the Earth, across continents and oceans. They connect us to people and places, to stories and food. Exploring these roots led me to my first novel and I've gathered more respect for them, put down stronger extensions, because of the research and the writing.
Where are your roots? Have you turned your back on them? How can they help you write your true story? Are you ashamed of your roots? How can you use even that to create a real, raw story that sings with your soul?