Root Time: Self-Healing Lessons from the Garden


Iris are stunning, elegant flowers. For me, they carry a reminder of the importance of self-care. What I call “root time.”

Before sending up its fabulous blooms, an iris rhizome will spend 3-7 years slowly growing, gathering resources, building a relationship with the soil organisms. That’s YEARS with nothing but a few green leaves visible above the surface of the soil!


iris corm rhizome root

We humans tend to measure our success by visible outcomes! How much did I get done today? How many items are crossed off my To-Do list? Did I answer all my emails? Get to the gym? Finish the laundry? Meet that deadline?

We’re constantly drawing from our reserves, and often neglectful of restore those reserves. We can easily forget the value of downtime, hours spent nourishing our roots. So think of the iris, and give yourself permission for reflection, quiet time, time spent doing nothing. When was the last time you doodled, sketched, or colored with crayons? Sat around in your PJs on a Saturday morning reading a book (or watching cartoons)? Took a long steamy bath instead of a quick shower? Put on your favorite album and sat deeply listening, with your eyes closed? Wrote in a journal? Built a snowman, went sledding with the kids, or plunked down in a drift of white fluffy to make a snow angel?

Healing takes self-care. Self-care requires a break from our normal routine. The willingness to relinquish measuring our life by what we see above the surface.

Iris hold another lesson as well. When they become crowded, they stop blooming. The roots can’t access the full complement of nutrients to support flower development. And so it is with us. Wise gardeners plan to divide their iris patch every 3 years or so, breaking off clumps of rhizome and spreading them out, giving them new ground. The process of root time begins again.

When you notice a flagging in the joy and vitality in your life, be reminded to give yourself more Root Time!

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