On a warm June evening one year into a fifteen-year mortgage, I put my seven-month-old daughter in the stroller. My husband slips the harness over the dog’s shoulders. The sun is still high when we set out along the trail in front of our suburban neighborhood. Walls of greenery are in bloom, and my daughter’s pudgy fingers reach out, trailing along emerald leaves and ruby petals.
We walk to the local elementary school and I lift her into a swing, jabbering about how this is will be her school someday and how she’ll run out those doors after lunchtime, chase her friends, and climb the tower to the tallest slide.
As the words tumble out of my mouth, my mind entertains what-ifs: What if I don’t want to live here by the time she’s in kindergarten? What if we take a leap and move before she hits the school years?
The wind picks up, and I hear the rustling of leaves on a nearby oak tree. Its trunk is thick and sturdy, enough so that it doesn’t sway in the breeze, but an acorn detaches and drops to the ground. I wonder if the acorn will work itself into this soil or if it will be carried miles from here. Which would be the better fate? I ask myself. Which option would provide the best chance of not just survival but flourishing?
With my daughter securely in the swing, I push her away from me, and then the momentum changes direction and she comes flying back toward my outstretched arms. Back and forth, back and forth. I fix my feet to the ground in front of her and fight the instinct to divide.
Gardeners divide plants for a wealth of reasons: the plants grow overcrowded and become stressed, or the soil lacks enough nutrients to sustain the growth. Some need to be divided every couple of years for their own health and for the health of the land. I wonder if division is what I needed all along, or if I came to need it because it’s all I’ve known.