It’s late May, and hovering around the zero mark, despite verdant evidence of spring’s enthusiastic upthrusting and many warm, sunny days leading up to this one.
Yesterday I dug up plants from the perennial beds at my house in Fredericton, and transported them here for transplanting in Bloomfield. There are plants in Bloomfield now that were divided from the carefully tended soil of the Pink House, too – an old family home filigreed with a verandah inspired by echoes of ancient mosques of the Middle East. Each plant has been torn from its neighbours, and carries with it the residue of the soils from which they’ve been drawn. As I set the plants down anew into the Bloomfield beds, I observe the contrast of the brown soils in the plants from Fredericton with the ruddy soils of the Kennebecasis valley. I tuck the radicals of each tender rootling into its new red bed, tamp it down, sealing in the muddy slurry that will help blunt the trauma of displacement. In a year, the plants will be well-established. In three, they will have spread themselves, occupying the bed with confidence. Claiming new ground, even intermingling with the neighbouring plants. In five years, some of the more spready varieties will need to be divided and sent off to other beds, or to become compost to enrich the soil another year.
I am a transplant, too. A veteran transplantee. As a child, I was transplanted according to the nomadic whims of philosophical and occupational undertows. Some were patterns of transition on repeat. My sister and I counted the schools once: 13 in 12 years. The transplantings continued in adulthood, too. It’s a long log: northern ontario, western Australia, southern France, New Brunswick, western Australia, New Brunswick again (Salisbury, Sussex, Sussex Corner, Markhamville, Woodstock, Fredericton, Bloomfield). Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia. I remember how easy it was to move when I was very little. How much harder when I was school-aged, struggling to find a place in the jostling, noisy clamour of various classrooms and playgrounds and secondary school social strata. How I leaned forward into the transitions of university and early couplehood: within five years, a strong social network with ties that bound tightly as family, borne of simultaneous blossomings and discoveries that come with the early years of an emerging family nucleus. And in the transitions of midlife, things are slower, more measured, more deliberate…but there is still malleability.
To each new place, I have carried the trace elements of the places I have been: the scents, the light, residual sinewaves of cultural rhythm, the contours of the land and the brushwork of the vegetation. I am an infusion of the people who surrounded me, their influences flecking my mottled composition.
As I get older, the time it takes to integrate in a deep way seems to a little stretch longer. Odd: returning to New Brunswick after years away, I felt the relief the deep recognition that comes with homecoming – and at the same time, the jarring realization that having been away, I am also an alien element. I waft of otherness, which, with so many moves, is familiar, too. Easy it is, resettling in the family flowerbed. Linking with old friends brings a comfort unique to deep acceptance. New connections, though, are fewer and somehow more tentative and careful.
My children have made three major transitions in their young lives: much less than in my childhood, but no less challenging. With each transition, the tendrils of connection have stayed strong, and new connections are being forged. The tension is like that at the edge of a water droplet: that line of separation between containing the past and bursting forth to insinuate and be absorbed into a newness of being.
In Bloomfield, a brook sluices its watersong through the property, making its way to the Kennebecasis, which meanders below the house, winding between willows, alders, dogwood, silver maple, chokecherries, shad bushes, and green pillows of pasture. The presence of water is steadying, somehow. The brookslurry wets my root tendrils and softens the edges of things, offering to welcome a new settling.
I remember reading about imprinting in animals. Imprinting upon one’s parents, imprinting upon place. Later, readings on the importance of place in literature.