Back to My Roots

By Virginia Foley

I’ve recently turned that “new-age” age of fifty, and with this epiphany I’m feeling a back-to-the-earth pull, a return to basics, eager for a simpler life, simpler times. I’m revving up for some life changes, which may include a return to my roots, my gray roots! Dragging this head of mine back and forth to the hairdresser’s every three weeks is becoming quite tiresome. I was only fourteen years old when the first signs of bristly gray strands began to emerge, and within a couple of years I was camouflaging them with chemicals. Maybe now is the time to uncover the truth, reveal the mature growth under my chestnut tresses, unleash the real me. The inspiration for this transformation was triggered in part by a trip to the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

To celebrate my “big day” I spent a weekend cross-country skiing in the north, returning with sore muscles, some great photos and a fresh, new outlook on life. In the serenity of the forest, I blazed new trails on virgin snow, traced wolves’ tracks that led into dark, dense bush and, closing my eyes, looked upwards, catching fluffy snowflakes to melt on my tongue. I drank tea out of stone mugs, my hands and cheeks warmed by the steaming liquid. I was energized by the crisp air, the open spaces and calmed by the crackling fires and twinkling moonlight. And I thought a lot about the future, about the threshold over which I’m nearly ready to leap.

I have a vision of the woman I would like to become. Her hair is long and white but streaked with the golden-brown remnants of younger days. Thin braids at each side join in the back, keeping tendrils from falling around her face. Her body is lithe, fit and strong, capable of chopping firewood, lugging it from the back forty into the log cabin she calls home. She loads the wood stove, chops a variety of root vegetables, parsnips, celeriac, carrots and potatoes, mixes them with the beans and lentils she’s soaked all night and cooks up a fine stew. The aroma, fragrant with the mixture of fresh herbs that grow from clay pots in every window, fills the cabin on this frosty winter day.  She sits with her hands cupped around a pottery mug and sips jasmine tea while gazing out across freshly fallen snow. Grabbing a book that lies strewn below the overloaded shelves, she settles in for a good read while lunch bubbles on the stove and freshly baked bread sits waiting on the kitchen table, set for two.

Her man soon joins her. He’s been composing at his antique piano all morning and is a little closer to completing his symphony. Leaning down to kiss her, his white beard scratches her ruddy cheek. He selects a bottle of red Burgundy from the wine rack, deftly uncorks it and pours the vintage into two glasses, bringing one to her. After a rustic meal of stew and whole grain bread, they layer up, strap on their cross-country skis and head out into the woods, into the wilderness.

This is the woman I’d like to grow into, the earthy soul who lives off the land and communes with nature. I have always dreamed of living in a log house, and I saw plenty of them on my weekend in the North. I long to be part of the Birkenstock crowd who gather around tables at a local coffee shop, sipping herbal teas and sharing stories. I admire the woman who gave me a ski lesson. She was about my age, with weathered skin, long gray hair and a quiet sense of self-confidence. I long to mix with the flannel-shirted men I saw in dining rooms, who sported beards and deep laugh lines. Through the looking glass it all looked just wonderful.

Perhaps my gray roots can be the catalyst that leads me back, back to the earth, truly back to my roots. I think the natural world is calling me; I can hear the gentle coaxing of its voice. I’m ready to turn the page to the next chapter.

About this writer

  • Virginia Foley Virginia Foley is a Canadian writer, currently living in Wisconsin with her British-born husband and American-born puppy. Her three grown children live in Canada. She has just completed her first historical novel, My Father Played the Flute. Visit Virginia at www.virginiafoley.com.

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