In what is a very mobile culture, I am glad that I have stayed put, as well as that many of those who are close to me have stayed put. I mean that I am in the same city, the same neighborhood, the same house, the same church, the same job, and that my children are in the same school. My best friends are folks I have known for 25-30 years, and they are still here. I realize that change can be good and is not to be feared, and I am not against it; it's just that I am grateful for this rootedness in place and the kind of long relationships with people and things, even inanimate things, this has given me.
There is a maple tree at the end of my driveway. It is larger now than it was 21 years ago when we moved in the house, but it is the same tree, the tree where, bending a branch down for my then infant son to see, I let him hold the leaf, feel its texture, smell it, and hear from me all about it in words he did not understand, of course. It's the tree my black cat climbs. It the same one with striking orange, red and yellow leaves in the Fall. I relish its long life here.
There are, in fact, all kinds of memories associated with place -- picnicking in the yard with our then small children, drawing with chalk on the driveway, riding bikes on the cul-de-sac, swinging on swings in the back yard. When I frequent familiar restaurants, they bring back a flood of memories, mostly good, of people, events, and even, sometimes, a particular conversation. When I go home (that is, my mother's house), I can walk through her home and pick up object after object and remember things, like the ornamental glass box on the living room table that I broke when I was four or five. Well, it's still with us, as are the easy chairs where I read books for hours on end when I was 8-14 years of age. They don't fit me so well anymore.
Orthodox theologian Vigin Guroian, who also gardens, believes that in our increasingly urban and suburban worlds, we are losing our connection to the earth, that we must reconnect "lest we forget who and what we are." I'm not a gardener, but I know that we need to slow down, that we need to pay attention to where we live and who we live with, and that we need to stop changing just for the sake of change, for something new, or just because. We need to appreciate where we are and what we have been given.
This rootedness does something good for us, and yet it is not something that is quite articulable. It's closest to that Hebrew word shalom, that sense of wholeness and peace. It's an echo of eternity as well, where we will enjoy a long relationship with the One who made us and will keep us, the One who does not change.