Rooted, But Limitless


I've been learning a few things about raising humans, while working on growing plants.

One year ago we decided to start a big garden project at our house here in Thailand. The soil around our house is mostly hard red clay, with a very thin layer of composted plant matter on top. It's a less than ideal environment for many plants. The first things we planted came up quickly, and died just as quickly, wilting in the heat without enough water, and then rotting as they flooded when the heavy rains came.

I want something pretty and functional, flowers and lettuce and cabbages, but those can't grow in our soil right now, and survive our hot season. But Aaron has been learning from our mistakes and thinking more long term, about creating the soil itself.


He's been researching permaculture, restoration agriculture principles, biology, how plants grow. Whenever Aaron learns something he dives deep, and learns everything he can about it. And then I get the digested information from him in bite sized summaries. 

Until we heal the land, we can’t expect it to give us enough produce to eat and sustain us. We have to be intentional about planting things that the land needs, that give it life.

The lazy way to heal the land is to let the plants do it for you and to leave the ground undisturbed, so fungus can grow, and to put in plant varieties that dig into the soil and put down deep roots, bringing oxygen to the soil that allows helpful bacteria to grow. Without that bacteria and fungi, plants cannot get nutrients from the soil. Just like humans need gut bacteria to digest anything, plants need soil bacteria to get nutrients into their roots.

Just this month Aaron told me something he’d just learned about plants that I’d never heard before, and I’ve been pondering it ever since.

You have to get a seedling into the ground before its roots hit a boundary. The plant decides how big it can grow based on the limits that its roots encounter in the very early stages of growth, and those limits become embedded into the genetic code of the plant. Once it has decided how big it has the room to get, it will not grow bigger. For a plant to thrive, it needs the structure of the soil to dig deep into, but that structure needs to be in a way that doesn’t impose limits on the room it has to spread out and grow.

So we’ve been racing to get suddenly large seedlings into the ground the past few weeks, spending evenings and weekends planting them out, and the whole time I’ve been thinking about how this applies to people.


I’m now the parent of two adults. My second oldest child just turned 18 last month. My oldest is 20 and living on his own. (How is that possible? they were babies when I started writing this blog.)

I keep wondering if I have given my oldest children the structure they need to thrive, and yet the big enough limitless mindset they need to be able to go out and aim for whatever they dream of achieving. Can I do this better for my younger children?

Does my parenting give the structure and safety they need to sprout and send out roots, without imposing limits on what they can accomplish? These things are rarely taught by words, but by action and experience. Many times we pass on our limiting beliefs to our children as they accept the mental box that we have put around our own lives and possibilities. 

I’ve been investing a lot of time the past few years examining my own limiting beliefs, things I have inherited from my family of origin, or concluded from my own experiences. There are so many places in my life that I have found where the only thing that prevents me from doing something is the belief that I can’t actually do it.

Once that belief is changed, it becomes possible. Though, in practicality, sometimes it’s experiencing that my limiting belief is wrong, just by trying something and seeing it work, that shows me the falseness of the story I have been telling myself.

The story I tell myself is a powerful thing, and it's hard work to change it, or find the falsehoods in it.

This is why I have learned to challenge the voice I hear that says it can't be done, to push against it to see if that boundary really exists outside my own head. The more I do that, the more I realize that I am the main obstacle in my path. Or, my thoughts are, anyway.

Far wiser people than me over the years have said this, and I've even read their quotes before, but I didn't understand them. I thought I did. But I didn't have the necessary experience to see the deep truth in what they said.

So I work to push against my self imposed boundaries, and try to keep my children from running up against one; to put them into the soil of the world they are part of so they can root themselves deeply, and stretch their limbs wide. My job now, after so many years of nurturing, is to let them go from the sheltering place they once needed in order to be able to sprout, and prepare a welcoming, nourishing place for them in the wider world that they can take root in, before their growth is stunted.



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