transplant shock.

This week I got an email from my Hindi teacher-and-friend, Neetu.  She misses me.  She prays for my heath daily.  She bought me a saree and stitched it herself to send back with David.  And I burst into tears.  Then we Skyped with Keli and the kids.  More tears, and a huge lump in my throat the whole morning.  Maggie wrote this to me today: “My girls miss your kids SO MUCH, Julie. I don’t think I appreciated what a loss this is for them, too.”

On June 6th, we left our home.  I didn’t even get to say good-bye . . . how could I?  I was so sick and depressed, just praying to survive the 24-hour trip back to the States.

But now it’s settling in.  I miss Priya so much it hurts.  I miss our apartment.  Life there in South Asia is so hard (it’s hard even when you’re healthy).  But I miss the fact that it was never, ever boring.  I miss the ever-present reminder of how much I have, and how much I have to share.  I miss the beautiful faces that will stay in my heart forever.

Am I happy to be in Columbia?  Yes, I am.  Am I happy to be healthy?  Oh yes–so, so happy, and grateful.

Is this my home?

I don’t know.  I don’t know where my home is.  I don’t even know where we’ll live starting in October or what car we’ll drive.

My friend, Sarah Chestnut, has herself recently experienced a major move.  She puts these raw feelings of “transplant shock” into words better than I ever could.  I’ve been transplanted so many times in the last eight years, I feel sort of like my roots are in shreds.  But it helps to know I’m not alone.

Perhaps because I have been spending so much time in the garden, and perhaps because the garden is a storehouse for spiritual metaphor, I have been thinking and wondering a lot about transplant shock lately.  Not that any of the plants themselves seem to be suffering from it, but I think it may be the best way to describe my current state.

“Transplant shock in plants is almost unavoidable,” writes Heather Rhoades on a helpful little website I found.  “Let’s face it, plants were not designed to be moved from place to place and when we humans do this to them, it is bound to cause some problems.” 

And we humans?  Are we made to be on the move or are we made for a lasting home?  No doubt the answer is–helpfully and yet unhelpfully–both.  When it comes to plants (and maybe humans, too?), avoiding transplant shock requires gathering up the roots–as many and as gently as you can–and including them in the move. 

Let your plant drink her morning tea or coffee from the mug her dear friend pulled from her own cupboard and sent along in the move.  Let your plant put on her favorite hoodie even though the morning breeze hardly merits the extra layer.  She will feel more like herself that way.  Also, soak, soak, soak the newly transplanted plant with water afterward; running through the sprinklers is good, or taking a toddler to swimming lessons will do the trick. 

When it comes to recuperating from transplant shock, let your plant head for the cookie jar, or to the local doughnut shop, or at least to the apricot tree across the driveway.  A weak sugar-water solution will help to revive plants after a move.  Allow your plant to go underground, to be a little inward, a little inaccessible. 

Trimming the plant back to allow energy to be focused on new root growth will result in more vigorous, visible growth later.  Let the liquids flow freely–the transplant needs to be kept moist.  Iced tea.  Lemonade.  White wine.  Red wine.  Any wine.  And wait.  Recovery–yes, recovery–from a big move takes time.

Thanks for speaking for my own heart today, Sarah.

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