Deep Roots ©Averyell A. KesslerRalph Waldo Emmerson said, “Earth laughs in flowers.” What an interesting thought. Especially now when laughter is rare, but flowers are not. Spring brings them on, as she always does, chasing winter away and filling her arms with daffodils, roses, and four o’clocks with bright faces. She smiles and waves as azaleas open and a clematis vine winds its way around a fence post. When May arrives there’s no holding back. Three ancient magnolias in my front yard will bud and bloom, then show off their velvet petals and send out the sweetest perfume this side of the Mississippi. On my patio, a tiny begonia I considered a goner is returning to life, and insistent green shoots are emerging from a left-for-dead poinsettia. They survived because of deep roots.I grew up in a world overflowing with plants and flowers. That’s not unusual in the south. My father was a happy gardener, if not a skilled one. Every year he tended a small triangular plot of Dutch iris by the side of our Belhaven house, blessing them with Vigoro until lovely purple blossoms appeared. He also planted a row of red floribunda roses but removed them when I tripped over a jump rope, fell into a cluster of thorns, and howled like a hyena. His grape vine experiment went well for a while, until he realized that it was close kin to Godzilla and overtook Mama’s clothesline. Not a single grape appeared, so he stuck to big boy tomatoes for the next few years. Finally, he decided he’d limit his gardening activities to raking leaves and mowing the grass. A good decision.My grandfather WG was also a flower guy. As soon as he was able, he purchased thirty acres of raw land on County Line Road and trucked up a load of azaleas and camelias from the Gulf Coast. He fashioned a loosely organized garden, no landscapers allowed. Later he dug a well and laid down pipes to draw water from his ponds. Fertilizer came from a highly suspicious source and smelled worse than rotten eggs. One rule prevailed. Never, under any circumstances, cut down a tree. Especially his prized sycamore which made a mess every spring by dropping spikey brown balls. To him, each tree was sacrosanct as well as his best friend. The house he built in Avery Gardens was constructed without sacrificing a single tree. Mine, on the far side of the pond, caused the loss of only two. He viewed their sacrifice as a necessary tragedy.“What’s wrong with cutting down a tree,” I asked him.“There’s no life without trees,” he answered. “No oxygen. No rain either.” Tenth grade biology was still miles away and I was amazed by this news. “Trees are meant to last,” he continued. “It’s almost impossible to dig one up because they have deep roots.”I’ve been thinking about deep roots lately, especially since we’re living in a tumultuous world. During the last few years, the south has been overtaken by floods, unrelenting rain pocked with deadly tornadoes and straight-line winds strong enough to topple whatever stands in the way. Hurricane season is closing in, and no one knows what that will bring. Now economic turmoil, rampant crime, and the shadowy specter of disease have inched their way into everyday life, spreading their boney fingers and gobbling up any semblance of normality.Television commentators and various government officials have assured us that we’re going to get through this. That somehow, we’ll stumble along , adapt to this new normal and survive our fate. I disagree. We will do more than survive. In my small, conundrum of a state, we may be down, but we’re never out. We may be scared, but we’re strong. If we fall on our knees, it’s for prayer, not begging. We’ll win out in the end because of grit and determination. Grace, courage and fortitude have been hiding for a long time. I believe they’ll emerge with flags flying and a big brass band. Quite simply, we want life back, our life. That’s a demand, not a request. A cadre of scientists have beaten polio, smallpox and measles, as well as whooping cough, tetanus, mumps and rubella. They will beat the virus too. That’s a statement, not a guess. Like the ancient magnolias growing outside my windows, our roots are deep. They are wide, permanent and secure enough to anchor us to the earth and to each other. They are strong enough to bind up hurt and turn trouble back on its heels. We will succeed because of our roots are deep, as is our faith and family. We are meant to last. So, summer, bless us with an abundance of flowers. We need them right now.

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