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Max Roytenberg: Rootless

by Max Roytenbeg, Aug 29, 2016



Yesterday, outside our apartment , a tree, almost one hundred feet tall, suddenly collapsed onto the adjoining building. There but for the grace of God went we. Amazing to me was the shallowness of the roots of this great tree. This one was the same variety as all the trees which lined both sides of our street. The one directly in front of us looks very sickly, in my view. Are we in trouble? Who would have believed that these giant trees would have

such a shallow base. Things are hardly ever what they seem.




Is this event offering me a metaphor for our lives, my life?




I have wandered, travelling far from my origins. Expecting the ordinary, my life has been extraordinary. Expecting the conventional, my life has been far from that. Like a bee among the flowers, my work has embraced many disciplines and I venture afresh every day. I aspired to produce many children and have approached my goals. I am a much-married man, something I never expected of myself. I hoped for a lifespan of three-score and ten, but I have outlived so many of my contemporaries. When my tree falls, will I be found to have had shallow roots even though I make a splash like the tree on my street, scattering my blooms’ petals far and wide. Will there be more than detritus left behind? How will it be for you?



My life has been a veritable alphabet soup of destinations. I started out in Winnipeg, where I spent most of the first twenty-one years of my life. I did not realize how those years marked me, as, no doubt our early years mark most of us. And yet, my life has been a symphony of synonyms, a concerto of consonants. I have been in so many places, my life is a veritable alphabet stew.




From Atlanta to Antigua to Antwerp to Athens, Auckland in New Zealand, from Belfast to Boston to Buenos Aires to Bogota to Bandar in Brunei, from Cologne to Cape Town to  Calais, Cairo to Cape Cod, from Dublin to Dakar, Senegal, and Darfur, Sudan, from Fredericton to Frisco,  Falmouth to Florence, from  Galway to Geneva , to Hamilton to Haifa to Hong Kong, from Israel to Italy, from Jerusalem to Jericho, from Kitchener to Khartoum, from Kelowna to Kingston, Jamaica, from London, England,  to Lima, Peru, from Montreal to Milan to Manila, Mykonos to Macchu Pichu and  Madrid, Spain, from Naples, Italy,  to New York City, Newport Beach, California, to Nicosia, Cyprus, from Ottawa to Orlando, Florida  to Ougadougou in Burkina Faso, Port au Prince, Haiti  to Panama City, from Rome to Rio de Janiero,  from San Diego to Santiago, Chile, Singapore to Sydney, Australia ,Toronto to Tegucigalpa in Honduras, Toledo in Spain, to Urbino, Venice and Verona, in Italy, Victoria and Vancouver, with winter in Yellowknife.




I never felt rootless. I always felt my origin in Winnipeg grounded me in my native Canada. I was enamoured of Italy, the Provence in France, nurtured my strong emotional ties to a biblical Israel. But something in my feeling for the community, within which I developed my view of the wider world, imparted the sense of home. What was written on the tabula rasa of my being at that time has remained forever imprinted, incised deeper into my consciousness. onto the clean slate with which I began. What may have been overwritten with time was more easily sloughed off, fading gradually in the face of my nostalgia for my youthful learnings. 




That was the place where I attained that sense of belonging, of acceptance without question, of ultimate recourse in times of trauma. The place I believe in may no longer exist. It may never have, but it resided in me during my wanderings. In fact, even if it does exist, I am sure it no longer exists with the same potency. We have become more disconnected. It matters not. I feel my roots are firmly planted in that earlier space and time.



I feel grounded. I have wandered and seen the sights and heard the sounds. I revel in my memories of the places I have been. My prayers for a brighter future have been presented at my ancient Wall. My exhilaration looking down from the heights of Amalfi and Capri with my Bride at my side, shivers me still. Our explorations of the internal spaces of the Italian mountain towns, Siena, Cortona, Loro Ciufena nearby fabulous Florence, experiencing the magnificence of Rome, the beauty of Paris, all remain a part of me.



From the desolation of Darfur to the swarming overcrowded spaces of Rwanda and Haiti, my travels have made me appreciate the elbow room of the Prairies and the heart-stopping beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Hong Kong and Singapore have given me a taste of Asian supermarkets, (so different from the ones in Fez, Morocco, or the Casba in Casablanca, or in Kinshasa in the Congo,) I need not visit the new Shanghai rivalling Los Vegas. Content with New York, I do not need to climb the heights in Dubai. I do not need to see the poverty in India, I have seen it in Africa and Central and South America. I do not need to ascend Everest to feel close to heaven on earth. That resides in my living-room, with my Bride beside me, and on my flowered balcony with a vista of the western sea.


I retain my roots.

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