Planting our Gardens & Putting down Roots.

How many times have we heard the Third Culture Kid experience associated with rootlessness? We know our transitory backgrounds can leave us with shallow roots, almost eager for pulling up and re-potting elsewhere. We can be adaptable plants with chameleon foliage, able to thrive in a variety of soils and with a variety of neighbour shrubs. Conversely, some of us have grown tired of exposed and fragile root growth and have instead sought out deep soil, from whence we now flatly refuse to budge.

Either way, this picture leaves us as plant rather than gardener. And I don’t know about you, but planting my own garden is my current preoccupation. I spent my developmental years visiting other people’s gardens, fitting in or sticking out depending on the changing social and physical landscape I dropped into. And that’s okay. I saw a lot. I learnt a lot. But I want more.

How would you fill your garden? Elements echoing from your past worlds? Bougainvillea, incense, and well-remembered adventure stories, deep-rooted and giving shade and comfort. Spring flowers of hope, daffodils and crocuses nodding away, those elements that may be transitory but nevertheless matter. Straight, orderly rows of vegetables that mirror the rhythms of life slowly honed over time, that offer substance and stability in your daily life. Honeysuckle for pure joy and lavender for the bees.

If you are so inclined, explore the meanings associated with plants and plant your own garden, either literally or metaphorically. Use software, cardstock and felt tips, Pinterest even! Plan additions, cultivate and prune where necessary. Make friends with the passage of time for gardeners need not rush; each season brings its own variety, activity and harvest.

What will your garden grow?


  1. Dan says:

    Mother Goose gave us this input, Dr. Rachel. “Mary, Mary, quite contrary. How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockleshells. And pretty maids all in a row.”

    Mother Goose doesn’t help us much, but I like your analogy. It seems difficult, though, to oppose the tides of life (in trying to plant according to our own desires/plans). But let us plant where and when we can . . . And maybe one day I’ll stop mixing metaphors. BTW, in literal life we’re enjoying a profusely blooming bougainvillea, soon to be joined by morning glories which should flower in a couple months. That combination of blues and reds pleases me greatly (bougainvillea planted behind the trellis, morning glories planted in front of the trellis; when the morning glories really get going, they mix throughout). Also amaryllis, prayer plant, and gardenia that bloom in their own times. How did that seaweed get in there?

    • Dr. Rachel Cason says:

      I was thinking of Mary, Mary quite contrary too! And I’m so jealous of your bougainvillea… your garden sounds just heavenly! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. Sherry Clark says:

    Hi Rachel: Thank you!
    Once again, your post has resonated strongly with me – at exactly the right time! Wonderful words of wisdom. As an almost-60 and still-trying -to-take-root ATCK who holds great faith in the power of flowers, I’ve often used the metaphor of a garden in my own work – but not made the ‘important-to-TCK’s-especially’ distinction between being a plant and being a gardener – and the sense of agency that being a gardener elicits. May your work long continue, as the saying goes, to let a thousand flowers bloom!

    • Dr. Rachel Cason says:

      Thank you so much for reading, and your very kind words! I’m so glad it resonated and if it added something to your day I’m thrilled!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *