Guest Blog: Kelly Johnson – Plant a Tree, Watch the Roots Spread (ATL)

When I was in kindergarten, I was given a very little tree to celebrate Earth Day. I distinctly remember bringing this tree home and telling my mom that I wanted it to grow STRONG. She taught me how to care for it while it was still a little sprout: consistently watering it, making sure it got enough sun, etc. After some time, the tree began to outgrow its very little pot, so we re-potted it into an even bigger pot with new dirt which allowed it to grow even deeper and stronger roots. Not long after, we determined it was time to take it out of the pot and plant it behind our house. We dug a hole, put the tree in, and began the re-potting process. We had to trim a few branches which, as my mom explained to me, is a process called pruning that benefits the whole tree by removing dead or diseased branches. I felt bad for the tree, but I trusted her. Sure enough, as months and even a couple years went by, my tree was growing a LOT. About this time, my dad began adding onto our house, and we knew we’d have to move my tree. After searching around our yard, we found the perfect place: it was all the way across our huge backyard on top of the hill. I was doubtful and a little skeptical about having the tree that far away from the house, but my parents assured me it was for the best and this new location would allow this tree to absolutely thrive and be the best tree it could be. So, one day, we moved this, now 4 foot high tree, up to the top of the hill. We had to do some pretty significant pruning to get it just right, and with its new landing spot, I had to trust the process. It took more months than I was hoping, but ever so slowly, with time, I began to see some growth, which meant my tree had strong roots! And, with even more time and now even more years, my tree stands proudly at a whopping 12 feet atop the hill in my parents’ backyard.

Kelly’s Tree

This tree has meant a lot to me over the years, but now, more than ever, do I identify with this tree’s life. 4 months ago I completely uprooted myself from everything familiar in Grand Rapids, MI and moved 800 miles across the country to Atlanta, GA.  I moved away from my house, from my deepest roots thus far in life, to a city that holds deep hopes for my career. My family, my November Project community, and all of my friends assured me this was for the best and that I would absolutely thrive in this new location. I trusted them, and I still do, but I’m realizing, as of late, that a crucial step in the re-planting process is the pruning. We prune trees in order to actually increase their fruitfulness & growth. This process cuts back some unnecessary parts in order to make room for the new growth to come. And if that isn’t a metaphor for my life right now, I don’t know what is. Transitions are HARD. Starting over and building new roots is hard, frustrating, and tiring work. But, here’s what I’m also realizing: my roots aren’t completely gone. When my dad and I moved my tree, its roots were still mostly attached. My tree was still my tree: it was just in a different location.

That leaves me to question: what are my roots grounded in? At my roots, I am a strong woman who finds the deepest joy in cheering others on. My roots are grounded in the belief that life is best spent going forward together. My roots now have a little southern accent while I simultaneously point to my hometown on my hand. My roots are in the running community.

 So, I’ve been re-planted and pruned. I feel a little (okay, a lot) exposed and vulnerable, but I’m learning to trust the process for the fruit & growth to come.

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