September 29, 2020

Rooted: Grounded in a Precarious World

With a friend in the forest
With a friend in the forest

On a late summer evening, my friend Lisa and I walk in the old forest where she lives not far from my home. I admire the roots of trees clinging to the sides of a steep gully leading to Saw Mill Creek.

I feel sisterhood with these rooted beings as I grip the earth and hold on in precarious and unsure times. I lean into big oaks and beeches for comfort and stability. Even though my balance can be unsure because of inner ear damage from Meniere’s Disease, my hiking boots anchor me.

The creek is bone dry from lack of rain during a moderate drought, but we can see how high the water runs in washes and drainage channels in wet times. Despite sheer banks, the trees stand tall and straight, old and stately.

I’ve been rooted to my land since 1972 when Vic and I bought a place with a sagging foundation, a sinking walk, and a water supply that wouldn’t pass an e-coli test. Vic focused on the straight roof line, sunsets, and mature forest, not the years of work ahead.

This summer, I had a new stone walk built from the driveway to the front porch, flat enough for a walker, wide enough for a wheelchair or walking while holding someone’s arm, and a railing to grab when using the two gentle steps. The original walk was uneven, sinking, and slippery in winter, so we designed one for the future. My future.

Even though Vic isn’t here to take care of this place, I have helpers who know the house and land well. Parts of the house are square-nailed old from the 1800s, so she needs vigilant tending. This year it was the new walk and replacing some rotting window trim.

Winter can be harsh here, but the evergreens stay ever green, and near the stream, green moss covers granite stones pushed here from Canada by glaciers. Those heavy boulders are planted here like me.

Next summer, my helper will paint the fading siding which he put up and painted almost 20 years ago. I’ll stick with Benjamin Moore Forest Green with stark white trim. Green is the color of the Green Man and the cycles of life, the color of hope. Green reminds me how grateful I am to live in a world that’s green even during this unusually dry year.

I know the trees and paths in this forest. I know the streams and swamp. I eye the gypsy moth egg cases on tree trunks and know an infestation is already here and will get worse. I look over the ample wood pile in the barn and feel secure. I know how to keep the wood stove humming and change the filter on the water system, and when a task is beyond me, I know who to call. This is my place on earth.

Mushrooms like growing in roots

Another woman might move to town, live in an apartment, and walk on sidewalks, but I’ve grown deep roots here for nearly 50 years. Like this tree, I’m not letting go. Not yet.


Where are your roots planted? Are they in a place where you’ve been a long time, or did you put down new roots more recently? I’m grateful for my rural community which includes one of my sons. I’d like to convince my other son to return to NY, but he found land with ancient oak trees and mammoth stones. For now, he’s rooted there.

For an article about the healing power of trees, see Give Thanks for the Teaching of Trees.  For an article about the Greek Goddess of Home, see Home with Hestia: Goddess of the Hearth.


  1. October 10, 2020 at 6:51 pm



    Such a beautiful post, Elaine. It is lovely to know that you have been rooted to your land since 1972 and have grown such deep roots after almost 50 years! And it was fun to see your new stone walk–very pleasing to the eye as well as providing different options for safely navigating the path from the driveway to the porch now and in the years to come.
    It brought a smile to my face to read in your replies that Disco is following in the footsteps of your grandpa’s Poochie the Pup, and also that the auditory specialists can validate the exhausting challenges with your cochlear implant and let you know that you are doing extremely well!
    I, also, am rooted to the land on which I live in the North Cascades. My husband and I (mostly my husband) built a cabin here in 1987, and then we moved into it full-time almost 20 years ago. Both of our adult children have built homes on our land in the past few years, which has rooted us even more deeply. As I have become more housebound with chronic illness, I find myself counting my blessings every day that a walk in wild nature is just outside my front door.
    sending blessings for peace and ease your way, anne

    1. October 11, 2020 at 2:34 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Anne, when I lived with my parents and my mother after my dad died, we moved every year. I hated it. My mother always wanted a better house or different house, even if it was just a few streets away. She wasn’t interested in Nature much. I love the land and also found a spiritual and social community here. Vic, like my sons, loved making things more beautiful and more functional and then found a helper before he died who still works for me to take care of the trails and firewood and many other things. Both my sons were here this weekend and did lots of autumn chores. I couldn’t live here without spurts of helpful young male energy.

      I love knowing you live in a house you and your husband built. (I live in a house we rebuilt, because it was about to collapse.) And how terrific that your children also live on the land which explains your relationship with your granddaughter. I love having one son 3 miles away and always ready to help. The other son is planted in his place in North Carolina. When I drove 2 hours for a sound check a few weeks ago, I realized I have to take longer road trips so I don’t become uncomfortable driving. Since March, I’ve been home so much and only drive 30 minutes to pick up food in town a few times a month. This is possible because of my little garden and a local organic farm, but winter will be more of a challenge. We’ll figure out new ways to stay local. I’m already filling my cellar with winter squash, garlic, and onions.

  2. September 30, 2020 at 6:15 am

    susan scott


    A beautiful post Elaine thank you. It’s taking me down memory lane a bit – I’m thinking of the magnificent oak tree in our old home in Johannesburg. We sold our home with the proviso that the tree would NEVER be taken down. That was seven years ago when we moved to the townhouse in Johannesburg (we’re now in Plettenberg Bay as from just over a year ago). When we visit Johannesburg, one of the first things I do is to check that the tree is still standing. So far it is, in fact nothing has happened to that over an acre property since we sold it.

    I’ve heard it said that roots go down in size and spread to the tallness and width of the tree. So a very tall tree would have very deep roots, and the spread of the tree – its branches and leaves – are the same width of the spread of the roots. Please don’t quote me on that.

    Your photos are beautiful, the entrance to your home is wonderful. And that you’re attending to it so deeply while attending to its function in mind, is testament to me of your love for your home.

    I’m starting to feel more grounded here in Plett. It’s early days really – been officially here since mid July last year, a few visits up to Johannesburg in November and earlier on this year, and then it was lockdown. I was born in the Eastern Cape and though where I’m living is in the Western Cape, the eastern border is not that far away. And I spent many years in my childhood and young adulthood in the Western Cape, near Cape Town.

    I would love to have that sense of rootedness that you have Elaine. It will come I am sure. I’m planting and tending with a view to the long term.

    Thank you again for this lovely post. Please say hello to The Green Man for me, and a tug of the tail to your lovely dogs from me.

    1. September 30, 2020 at 12:40 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you, Susan. I’m glad this was meaningful to you and that you took care of your beloved oak and it’s still standing strong. Yes, the roots are often even more extensive than the top of the tree and scientists are learning how the roots communicate with each other and send nutrients back and forth. And that they share more nutrients with progeny that sprouted from their own seeds. It’s amazing they know this. There were great articles about this in National Geographic and some science articles other places a few years ago.

      My entrance is much improved and more attractive, and it will be safer in the winter for everyone. My sons tried to talk me into doing this a few years ago, but I wasn’t ready to tackle the big jobs. I’m doing them now, one each summer. I’m glad my love of this house shows. It’s unusual in this culture to live in one place as long as I have, but every time I see a sunset or walk the trails, I’m grateful to be here. It’s been a perfect place to live during covid time with such easy access to being outdoors and enjoying nature unmasked. It’s wonderful that one son is just 5 km away now. Yesterday I drove 2 hours to go to the auditory specialists who did my cochlear implant to make sure all is well. They think I’m doing extremely well and agree it’s always challenging and the hearing is always odd. My complicated hearing situation is exhausting and extra challenging on Zoom, but I can do it or talk to someone even if they’re wearing a mask. It was lovely to drop the dogs off with my son on my way. In this stay at home time, they’ve become used to being with me always, so it’s good for them to be with Anthony for a day.

  3. September 30, 2020 at 4:32 am

    Aladin Fazel


    Thank you again for your explanation and description of nature that caused me feeling so near to. Though, I must confess that I am a little lazy to get the matter on the mind. Of course, I have an adorable wife who is just like you and pushes me out into nature now and then! About my root, I can’t say so much; I was born in a country in which I love its culture and history but after over thirty years I’ve found I do not belong to. and yet, in another one in which I’d never get any root. Then let me say I’m belonging to the Earth, whereas nature has her root. Have a wonderful time dearest Elaine, and stay safe and tuned. Sincerely Aladin

    1. September 30, 2020 at 12:04 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you, Aladin. It’s a pleasure to hear from you. You’re a universal man and rooted many places. I have no idea what that’s like and I’m sure it’s difficult, but you seem rooted in deep ideas and the love of humanity. I’m glad your wife pushes you outside into Nature. Remember how Jung loved being in nature and building with stone. He knew it was essential to include sensation and creativity in our lives. That’s become more and more essential to me as I grow older. In earlier years, I wasn’t as appreciative of the small beauties as I am now.

      1. October 3, 2020 at 8:50 am

        Aladin Fazel


        Oh yes, a good reminder with Jung outside in nature. I might find a stone and try to work on it. anyway, it is true; we are getting older and therefore, we must get wiser, naturally. Thank you, dearest Elaine, for your wise words. Have a peaceful and leisurely weekend.

        1. October 3, 2020 at 10:38 am

          Elaine Mansfield


          Building something in stone, even if inside, or carving wood or whatever appeals. We awaken our creativity with play. I do that by tending butterflies and flowers and taking photographs.

  4. September 29, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    Marian Beaman


    For certain, nature nurtures you. You carry it into the Forest Green color of your lovely home and the Green Man’s benign oversight. You have such a pretty place, Elaine: The walkway and vibrant plantings by the porch, which echo the beauty of the woodlands surrounding.

    I too feel sisterhood with these rooted beings. In our previous house, we were surrounded by 18 live oaks, known for their longevity and “rootedness.” The oaks around this house are younger and fewer – less to rake! But we can walk in the preserve where I co-habit with bunny rabbits, squirrels, ducks on the lake.

    Having read my memoir, you know how the woods and fields have shaped my life and memories. I too find comfort in plantings that restore our area with oxygen, shade, buffering noise.

    Your writing is always eloquent and restorative. This piece especially. Hugs to you as you shelter in place, the perfect place for you right now. 🙂

    1. September 30, 2020 at 11:59 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Thank you, Marian. My love of the land, gardens, flowers, and dogs began at my grandparent’s farm in Missouri. Poochie the Pup followed Grandpa everywhere and Disco is becoming that kind of dog. I know you had a country childhood with farmers and gardeners and women who cooked huge meals (how did they pull that off every Sunday?), baked the bread, stitched the clothes, and kept their homes immaculate.

      My home isn’t fancy, but it’s safe and warm and beautiful out every window. My new walk was long overdue and dangerous for anyone the way it was. I’m working on doing one project a summer and I’ve scheduled having the outside siding painted next year. We already did most of the trim. I then have to think about interior painting which is so much harder because everything must be moved, including the dogs and me.

      I’m celebrating a small victory for the human-butterfly connection this morning because the female Monarch that eclosed yesterday has her little proboscis unfurled in the flowers I picked. She’s exploring and sipping her bouquet of purple and white asters. The squeezed local grapes and orange slices don’t seem to interest her. In the wild they prefer asters this time of year, and she finally settled on the flowers and accepted her fate of staying inside another day. It’s just too cold for her out there until tomorrow, but I’ll be pleased if I can release her with a full belly. Small pleasures in a nutso world. Thanks for your supportive words.

      1. September 30, 2020 at 5:06 pm

        Marian Beaman


        Your post and reply here is so full of joy. There’s no other way to get through this world of woe and bad news. Yes, small pleasures in a nutso world! ((( )))

  5. September 29, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    Deborah Gregory


    Oh, Elaine how you stir up the wild woman archetype within us all with your wise, poetic words and wonderful photos … especially the one of you wearing your rainbow coloured jumper and your very handsome green man plaque! How I wish I lived near … for walking with friends and loved ones, (both two and four-legged kinds) through ancient woodland is one of my favourite things to do, ever!

    And I love how you describe yourself leaning into the elders of the forest and woodlands during these uncertain, challenging times … for that extra comfort and stability that we all need and that Mother Nature is so willing to gift. Lin and I, both share your own deep relationship and sisterhood with the trees, especially the ancient oaks for some reason which we can’t explain. I’m pleased to hear that your other son has found land he loves too.

    With those latticed roots it’s amazing, a miracle even, how they burrow themselves down and hold up each elder, many defying gravity itself! Yes, I’m sure that after nearly 50 years you know your beautiful land well! And you must be really pleased with your new walkway, it look superb! This poet’s heart leapt to inhale … “Those heavy boulders are planted here like me.” and “This is my place on earth” … just beautiful!

    I’m not sure where my roots are planted … even though I’ve lived in the same area now for nearly 40 years. In our present house it’s a ten minute walk from my door to long beaches in one direction and it’s a five minute walk to ancient woodland in the other direction … so I think living between land and sea seems to be home for us in this life. Thank you so much my dear friend for sharing this beautiful post! Love and light, Deborah.

    1. September 29, 2020 at 4:35 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      That rainbow color is worn by my friend Lisa. I love the arc of her body as she looks up to the top of the tree. I checked to make sure I said it was a friend and I had labelled the photo as a friend. Lisa lives 1.5 km from me and we walk together often. My dogs think she’s the best human on the planet. I wish I had such a beautiful jacket! Lisa is an artist and, indeed, a wild woman.

      There’s something about oak, so solid and long lived here. The gully (Saw Mill Gully) is not on my land, but it’s not far away. The banks are extremely steep, but the trees hang on. It’s been scary dry here this summer (although not wildfire dry) and the earth was parched. Today we’ve had gentle rain all day and it’s filling the glass I put outside to measure it. The roots are inhaling.

      It sounds fine to have access to both the sea and the forest. I can drive about 6 km downhill and visit Seneca Lake which is over 3 km across and 65 km long, so it’s the closest to the sea since I last visited California about 5 years ago. I wonder when and if I’ll go back to that beautiful state. Some of my friends are leaving the west coast because danger of fire goes on and on. We’re in precarious times and it’s hard to accept that this is our new world. I look forward to a big change in the planetary configurations in 2021. Much love to you and to your wife Lin, too. May you be safe and at peace.

      1. September 30, 2020 at 8:17 am

        Deborah Gregory


        Oh dear, I thought it was you Elaine! Yes, just looked again … time to get my eyes tested again. It’s been raining here too and I swear I can hear the garden sighing in relief. X

        1. September 30, 2020 at 12:43 pm

          Elaine Mansfield


          Liza is much longer and leaner than I am, but how would you know? She’s wearing the best colors by far. Why is the whole world in love with black clothing? I ask as I search for a warm winter coat. Maybe because we’re all in mourning. It rained all day yesterday and all the plants got a good soaking that will last until the first freeze.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *