NOTE: It is said that when you let a writer loose in a garden, you can expect perhaps-strange exultations framed by organic metaphors. Today I illustrate how that maxim might be true!
While battling the gardener’s scourge that is Creeping Charlie, I found myself wondering why *rhizomes seem so widespread, so insistent and so successful. After a little research I found that this variety of vegetation exists throughout the plant kingdom—largely because it’s adept at staying alive, even under difficult circumstances. Think here of bamboo, ginger, iris, ferns, aspen trees, rhubarb, turmeric, some grasses and milkweed. And did I mention Creeping Charlie?
While trying to remove this omnipresent weed, I realized that rhizomic characteristics might apply especially well to some older adults. Rhizomes are tough, long-lasting, and tenacious. They tunnel unobtrusively through the soil and then suddenly reappear—far removed from their original location—as vigorous new offspring. Even a small piece of the root can regenerate into a new plant.
Some among us may be rhizome-like. As we move through life, we may seem quiet and unobtrusive. But under the surface, reaching farther into our surroundings, creating new ideas and possibilities. We’re resilient and hardy. Like groundcover, we protect the landscape. We’re everywhere, hoping to extend our influence wherever we can. We’re definitely not weeds.
This metaphor is close to getting out of control—”Older adults are like poison ivy because….”—so I’ll stop here. But not before I suggest, ever so gently, that perhaps “rhizome” could be a new word to substitute for designations like elder, senior, senior citizen, older adult, golden-ager, etc., etc. Just imagine, for example, how your church could sponsor a monthly Rhizomes Luncheon. Or calling your pastor a Rhizome Gardener!
Neither works for you? Okay then, I’ll just creep back outside….
*Some rhizome stems grow horizontally underground until they establish roots that eventually sprout as new plants. These rootstalks also store food that helps sustain their entire network.