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Roots: a meaningful mixed-up metaphor

I once heard an old Texas expression 'that's in my gearbox', meaning that a particular story, song- whatever- connects to a place where things really move you. [Not to be confused with the 2003 Urban Dictionary meaning of 'gearbox'.] The things that you discovered while growing up that made you say 'this is what I want to do.' Springsteen, in his autobiography, writes about seeing Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show when he was a kid, and that moved him to try and become a rock star. But there were other things in his gearbox too- all the sad stories of the dreamers and drifters in Freehold New Jersey, all the great music he heard on the radio and saw in the bars and clubs on the Jersey shore.

These roots (mixing metaphors big time; Urban Dictionary kind of ruined that Texas expression), these roots make you what you are. The things that got you started are always good to return to, especially when you're lost. This is where the deep well of meaningful but murky stuff resides- all the youthful energy, all the dark yearnings, all the conflict, family demons, love, hope, etc. That's what roots do- suck up deep unformed things and give them visible shape. This doesn't mean you have to spend your days ruminating over Woody Guthrie, or Shakespeare, or Nirvana, or Cormac McCarthy, or Kendrick Lamar, or whoever got you going in the first place. Return, get your bearings, and then head out for new work.

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