I’ve heard this phrase “putting down roots” my whole life, but I didn’t get the literal meaning until just a couple ago weeks ago.

I’ve had a ficus benjamina tree since 1984. It was one of the first things I bought when I moved into my first apartment, along with a 13-layer futon (way too heavy) and 2 other plants (long dead). It quickly outgrew the plastic pot it came in. I was a pretty broke in those days so I ended up buying an small metal garbage can for a pot.

That tree ended up being in that garbage can for decades. After a while even though I could afford a nice pot for it, the metal looked pretty stylish in an urban/industrial way, even though originally it was just cheap. Also, the tree seemed happy, so why mess with a good thing?

I’d pretty much forgotten my original dream of planting this ficus in the ground when I bought a house one day. I forgot, because “one day” was about 30 years later. And when I finally had a house with a yard, and remembered this old dream, I still didn’t want to plant the tree. I didn’t know why. I guess part of me was nervous that it would be a big shock to the tree not to be in the garbage can anymore, and ficuses (ficii?) can be tempermental. I think there was something else in me that didn’t want to plant it.

Then the ficus started dropping leaves. I thought I was watering it too much, so I cut back. It didn’t help. I examined the soil in the can and saw that it wasn’t looking too good. So I talked to K about repotting it, about buying a big pot or half a wine barrel to plant it in. He said, why don’t you just plant it in the ground? And I didn’t have a good answer.

I planted it. I’ve put down roots. The tree seems happier. I still feel uncomfortable.

I guess because as much as I wanted to have a house for all these years, it’s strange to think I’ll never move that tree again. If I ever leave here, I have to leave the tree behind. That tree outlived all my pets and many friendships. When I bought it, I had no idea I would have it my whole life and that it may even outlive me. And yet, it’s just a little tree. That’s all it really is.


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