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Finding hope while digging up a root ball

Last fall I cut all of the branches off of a holly bush that the previous owners had planted on the corner of the house. It had grown too big, and I wanted to take it out and plant flowers instead.

The ground was hard. I couldn’t get the shovel to break the ground. I ran water around the roots for a few hours. No, actually for twenty-four hours, I forgot to turn off the water.

After I dug around the base of the stump, the stump didn’t move.  At all. It felt like the roots were encased in concrete. The root ball will never come out.

I will dig for ten million years and the root ball will still be cemented in the ground.

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
― Confucius, Confucius: The Analects

Two Options — 1.Quit 2. Keep trying.

  1. I could quit, and cut off the top of the stump with a saw and leave the roots.
  2. I could keep trying.

Every day I dug around the base of the stump. Still no movement.

I found tap roots that I cut with the pruning shears. Still no movement. The root ball was firmly in the ground.

Every time I walked outside I looked at the amputated branches of the holly bush. It taunted me, “I am not leaving. You can’t dig me out. Why don’t you just quit? Admit defeat. You can’t dig me out and you will never decide what color to make your new book cover.”

The task seemed impossible. As though Hades, the Greek god of the underworld, was holding on to the roots and not letting them leave the ground.

The stump became everything I am struggling with. The stump is every project on my desk that is unfinished.  The stump is the bowl of tears I keep filling up in the darkness of my closet. The stump is the shadow of the cloud that keeps hiding the sun.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

The value of being Stubborn, the value of not quitting

There was no hope. The root ball will never be dug up, I will never finish my projects, my tears will never dry up, and the sun will never shine again.

After two weeks of digging, no three weeks, the root ball moved.

There was hope.

I kept digging, and digging, and digging.

I dug up the root ball.

There is power in making up your mind to finish something, No matter what. The root ball was coming out. I wasn’t going to quit.

I was determined to remove the root ball.

And I did.

On my desk are projects I am working on. Small stone by small stone. The bowl of tears is evaporating in the sunshine.

Finding hope while digging up a root ball.

Finishing. No matter what.


Are there any root balls in your life right now? 

Please keep digging and don’t give up.

P.S. Would you like to make a living with your writing or your art? Were you told when you were a kid that artists starve?  Jeff Goins new book, Real Artist’s Don’t Starve talks about the false myth of the starving artist. If you pre-order his book there are over two hundred dollars worth of bonuses. Order the book here.  Right now I am reading the book. I am on page 65 in Chapter Four, Harness Your Stubbornness. Harnessing your stubbornness applies to digging up root balls too.

Click here to comment. As always I love to hear from you.

About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • Susan W A

    Here is one of my perseverance stories.

    My favorite example of perseverance happened the summer before my son, now 15 years old, started kindergarten. We often went to the elementary school to play so he would get used to the idea that this was HIS school. One day we were there with a soccer ball, kicking it against the handball wall. My son got the idea of kicking the ball OVER the wall, maybe fifteen feet high. He kicked the ball and chased the ball, kicked and chased, got close, made wild kicks, got closer. It was late afternoon, and my husband and I stood by and watched his efforts. Something inside the “unsure parent” part of me said, “Enough of this; we “should” go home and start getting dinner ready.” I asked my husband if we should move on. His answer was one of those defining moments in our parenting development. He said, “No. What do we have to do that’s more important than this? Let him keep trying as long as he wants to.” Ohhhhh … my heart melted. Such wisdom. So we waited and watched as my son worked with joy and determination … for one hour! And then … “I did it!” … over the wall went the ball with a mighty kick. My son ran and got the ball, and home we went, celebrating his accomplishment.

    To this day, my son has the habit of setting high goals and pursuing them with determination and perseverance. That early experience has allowed my husband and I to more consciously support and nurture that beautiful trait within our son.

  • Rita Jacques

    I knew you’d dig up the root ball! Love the gardening analogy. Wonderful post as always!

  • Yes! Perseverance! What’s the old Zen saying? The 10,000th stroke of the hammer finally breaks it loose, and you just proved that.

    18 months or so ago, I gave up my car; it was old, dollarin’ me to death, and I no longer enjoy driving in today’s traffic. Friends helped me get a three-wheeled bike. It was the absolute apple of my eye; autonomy, economical transportation, and much, MUCH more pleasant than city buses, to me anyway. Thing is, it wouldn’t fit through any of my doors, so I used the lock provided, which was 1/2″ steel cable, to secure it to one of my porch posts.

    It was stolen in the night, the first week in April.

    I cried like a little boy that day. Undeniably traumatic. “This is punishment for da da da da da . . .” But that’s nonsense. A determination rose up in me.

    I am having a utility room built on half of my sizeable front porch. It has a 36″ door and will accommodate my NEW trike. The room is not completely finished but it’s now secure. I could lock the trike in it today if I had it. And I have enough money to pay my contractor WHEN he finishes.

    I don’t want a trike “kind-of-like” what I had, I don’t want a used trike off E-Bay “for a lot less money”, I want the make and model that was stolen. I am scrimping and saving and I’ll soon be halfway to the price of a new one.

    Friends are helping; a couple have even given small monetary gifts. But this is mainly something I feel I must do. You feel so stupid when your prized possession is stolen within two yards of where you are sleeping. I hate thievery.

    It may be August. It may be September. But I am Going to Have a New Three-Wheeler. A friend is taking me to the bike shop later today to shop. And who knows what may come of networking with knowledgeable bike-people who many times are eager to help.

    Perseverance! Thank You Pamela for this post!

    • Susan W A

      This is an inspiring story of perseverance and positive attitude! Thank you for sharing it with the type of details that make me FEEL the freedom of having that bike, and the personal power of preparing and saving to buy a replacement.

  • Berdeane Bodley

    as you are struggling with that stubborn root ball, I was pulling for you and I just knew who the winner was going to be (and it sure wasn’t going to be that root ball), you have always been the winner in everything you do. I love you, xo

  • Susan W A

    You’re awesome, Pamela. I shall return here another time with a couple stories about perseverance. Just enough time right now to say, “hi”, and let you know that even though I haven’t posted in awhile, I always visit, and learn from your reflective stories!!

    Joy to you.

  • Terri Kiral

    I appreciate your perseverance, Pamela. And yes, I do have several roots upon my desk as well as in my heart. Some are stubborn and unmoveable, and others too shallow. I am a constant gardener. Digging, planting, digging, planting, again and again.

  • EmFairley

    I have a bunch of creative elements on my desk that I’ll get round to using eventually, now I’ve cleared the mound of papers off them. Yep, I’m as stubborn as the holly root ball! 🙂
    Em xoxox

    • Hello Em,
      Hugs to you too. 🙂
      Maybe we need stickers, “Stubborn as a holly root ball.”

      • EmFairley

        We do… as long as I don’t misplace them under another mound of papers on my desk…