Root and Branch

Kilauea Iki


An ‘ohi’a seed fell into the soil, and it found good soil, soil it liked immediately. So it did what seeds do: it sprouted. Two shoots emerged and began to grow.

One said, “I’m going up to see if I can touch the sky!”

The other said, “I’m going down to explore the rich earth.”

And so the two shoots separated. The lower shoot indeed explored that rich soil (and even some hard rocks it found). It became the root, and it spread smaller roots through the soil and around the rocks. 

It had little notion of what had happened to the shoot rising up, but the root would collect water and minerals from the soil, and send them up that rising shoot, which called for them. The root was glad to have food and energy come back down from above, but that was all it knew.

Sometimes everything would shudder, and the root wondered what was happening above even as it gripped more tightly to the earth to keep everything from falling.

One day, a heavy rain came through, and rushing winds, and suddenly the root found that a portion of itself was no longer sheltered in the earth. The flowing water had washed its soil covering away. It looked around in wonder at the surface world that it had never seen, and then it looked up. 

Soaring high above, it found that the upper shoot had become a grand tree, festooned with branches, bearing upon some of their tips the scarlet flowers of the ‘ohi’a. It was nothing like the tiny shoot that it remembered.

“You look wonderful,” said the root. “Did you find the sun?”

“It shines on me almost every day,” said the tree.

“I’m sure you’ve forgotten me,” said the root, “as grand as you’ve become.”

“Not for a moment,” said the tree above. “I’ve grown and changed, but you’re my root. You hold me fast when the winds would blow me down. You send me food and water from the ground that I could never find. You’re where I’ve come from, and where I am, and together we approach the sun.”

That’s what our families, our ancestors, do for us. They are the root. We grow and change, and they sustain us through the high winds of life’s troubles. They feed us as we stretch toward the people we’ll become. They give us what we need so we can grow.

We will blossom and flower because we have our roots.

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