Red Clay Roots: A Weaker Second


After you’ve been a writer for just so long (I don’t know how long, but “so” long), you get inspiration at the most seemingly innocuous times. But it’s not so much the getting of the inspiration but the noticing then capturing of the inspiration that becomes vitally important.

What inspiration did I notice this morning that I knew I needed to capture? Two used tea bags.

I was making my morning tea (PG Tips English Breakfast tea with milk and sugar, thank you) and the little ramekin where I put my used tea bags already had two in it from the previous afternoon. I looked at the small pile, now four high, and wondered how strong the tea would be if I steeped them a second time. Some tea is made to do that but this kind isn’t really. What I was thinking about were times of forced austerity measures and rationing and how I might make do with my tea if I were suddenly to have to be more conscientious about my consumption.

I thought about the tea bags all day at work (not constantly – it wasn’t that fascinating) and pondered possibilities a second time when I arrived home and made another cup. Now there are six tea bags in the ramekin. Yes, I need to just discard them but… Even a weaker second cup of tea would be better than none.

I took my second cup of tea, made to the strength and in the style I currently enjoy, and went for a walk. The temperatures over the past weekend were well below freezing but today, just four days later, it was in the 70’s Fahrenheit and I couldn’t resist a walkabout. Four miles later, after traveling one of my most tried and true paths, I returned home with this photo of tree roots (in addition to some lovely sunset pics).

There was a connection there, between the tea and the tree, the rumination and the roots, the caffeine and the clay.

I’ve lived in Georgia since 1985 with only a short two-and-a-half years in Colorado twenty years ago (holy cripes – TWENTY YEARS AGO?!?) during college. The math says that’s nearly 30 years that I have called the South – the heart of the Bible Belt, a red state, the Peach State, home of cotton and cows and Vidalia onions and “pee-cans” and “gee-tars” and the Blue Ridge mountains and the Appalachian Trail and red clay – my home. My marriage began here. My children were born here.

Here I offer an interlude, wherein I turn you over to one of those children because he interrupted my typing with a query as to why I’ve been so diligently tapping away on my laptop these past few evenings. He read this post through end of the previous paragraph then added these words of his own and requested that I keep them:

I am Noah, one of my mom’s sons! I like to type and I’ve gotten more efficient at it, even though I make a few mistakes every once in a while.

We may have another writer in the family. Makes my heart happy.

Okay, where was I? Tea. Clay. Time. Roots.

Roots. That’s what’s at the root of this post. That even though I prefer the mostly mild winters to the bitter cold of the North, the roots of my story are in that faraway place. I grew up “all over the place,” as I used to say, but there’s a lot of Michigander left in me.

I’m not sure why it matters right now, the writing of this post has been interrupted too many times; I just know it does. I often think about pulling up roots and making a big change… And I know that the boy who lent his words to this post wouldn’t be comfortable with that. And I want to honor his path through the world whenever I can. I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity that I knew would be phenomenal for our family, but I also wouldn’t uproot him on a whim either.

Yet there’s a pull I can’t deny. A pull toward change. Inexorable enough that I know it’ll happen one day – is there a name for that feeling? It might require weaker tea. It might require some colder weather. Fewer pecans. Different clay. More mountains. Maybe larger bodies of water.

Whatever may come, I know my roots, even my weaker second ones.