As an activist, “grow where you are planted” is an adage that is close to my heart. Although I love to travel and live for outdoor adventures, it’s also important to me to encounter the unknown and commune with nature right where I am. I want to live as deeply for blissful weekends soaking up remote hot springs as I do for the reliable miracle of my everyday.

When I moved to San Diego for work several years ago, it was my first year without a winter. I have always loved the cold and my brief stint in Southern California affirmed for me how very necessary this season is for my wellbeing. During the six months or so that I was living in Ocean Beach, however, my brother really encouraged me to grow where I was planted—to choose to soak up everything that San Diego had to offer me even as I hungered for snowy walks through the Hudson Valley. We went hiking together to waterfall oases and camped with friends in Joshua Tree under a full moon. And every evening—even when I was wiped from work and homesick—I would walk to the freaking Pacific Ocean just two blocks from my apartment and revel as the sun dipped into the waves. These experiences helped me fall in love with where I was. I came to cherish the misty marine layer that enveloped my neighborhood during soft grey mornings and tumbled head-over-heels for the sublime succulents that mapped my walk to work.

Although I didn’t stay for too long, that first deep dive into growing where I was planted has continued to shape my activist ethos years later. It’s a lesson I am still learning, each and every day. I have lived in cities clinging to the coasts and in little mountain towns. I’ve fallen asleep to ocean waves and to the cacophony of car horns. And every where I am, I strive to give thanks for and be present to the unique ecosystem I am in. Even if it’s masked by concrete. Even if it’s far from where I had imagined I would be.

Being in present conversation with where we live is a lifelong process. You might have made your home in a region of the country that doesn’t make it easy for you to live your values. You might have moved to a new place with a partner and are struggling to find steady ground. Know that growing where you are planted doesn’t mean diminishing these struggles. The environments we are in can be toxic to us. Factors such as environmental pollution and poisonous cultural dynamics shape our spaces. It’s for that reason that I want to acknowledge that choosing to grow where we are planted is a privilege that not everyone has. I am immensely fortunate to have grown up in a home that made me feel held and to have had the opportunity to travel. Throughout my life, I’ve had the choice to move and to stay and that’s a gift that I don’t take for granted.

What I hope the concept of “growing where you are planted” evokes, then, is a desire to be awake to everything your surrounding social and ecological community has to offer. The beauty. The grief. The hardship. The heavenly. Like plants, we can’t always choose the soil we are sown in. We can, however, tap into a rich well of resources to thrive as best we can with what we have been given.

Growing where we are planted helps each one of us come home to our communities. When we strive to make a rich life for ourselves right where we are—because every one of us deserves a healthy home—we create world(s) worth growing into. We practice naming what needs healing in our environs and find the power within us to spark change. We give thanks for the signs of life that persist even in the cold winter and honor the lessons—some hard-earned—that our homes have taught us.

Putting this idea into practice will look different for each one of us. Maybe growing where you are planted means taking time to learn the names of the trees that surround your suburb. Maybe it means saying “thank you” to the sun for continuing to shine light on your city. Maybe it means volunteering for a local organization—be it a garden, food bank, or political nonprofit—that gives you a greater sense of accountability to your community.

Whatever it is that will make you feel more at home where you live this winter, I hope you’ll join me in practicing greater presence. One of the things I cherish about the Loam community is how we inspire each other to ground our activism in everyday actions. Growing where we are planted is one of many tools that we have to stoke active engagement in and advocacy for our communities. Share how you are practicing growing where you’re planted in the comments! I hope it’ll give us all a much-needed dose of energy during these darker days.

Kate WeinerComment