In my mid-30s, at a lower ebb in my life cycle, when I did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to do next — my funds were dwindling, I’d ended a relationship, my living space was in flux, my freelance work life was light — I entered a writing contest, simply because the grand prize was a free round-trip ticket to Ireland. I wrote a short story about a loner who traveled to escape, who met an introvert who traveled to find. 

I won! There was a reading in a New York City bookstore near me, then I was off, spending several weeks traveling through a country I love. I had gotten to know Central Park horse-and-carriage drivers who were from Ireland, and I stayed with some of their family and friends. One mother took me to daily mass; a brother took me to confession. A group introduced me to American blues music and the Cork Jazz Festival. One helped me find parish records and tombstones in one of eight areas my Irish ancestors came from.

In Galway, I took a hike through the hills and had a pivotal moment of transcendence. I was seated on a rock nestled high above a beautiful river, and was overtaken by a deep sense of head-to-toe peace I had never felt before. I found myself uncharacteristically chanting ebulliantly, “Life is good, life is good.”

After I returned, a friend remarked that I was a changed person. My dark days largely drifted behind me. Within weeks I was offered a publishing management job that gave me the funds to buy a home and eventually have two children on my own.

I believe it is in the spaces where we allow ourselves to be still, to be silent, to be in tune to nature, where we reconnect with the potential of that which is larger than our individual lives. 

Some of the women in these pages this month tell those stories.

New Roots

For many people, our identities are almost inseparable from land. When we are uprooted, sometimes traumatically, from our origins, and relocated to a place where we don’t know the plants and waterways and spaces — where our histories are ripped away from us — how do we regain a sense of belonging?

I asked that question of Robin Kimmerer, indigenous author and science activist, when I met her a few months ago. She offered this: Our sense of innate connection is not only about the land. “We are a part of the story. We cast a shadow on the ground.”

Kimmerer called it “Re-story-ation.” It is in creating human community and reciprocity that we build our stories. Even in an urban environment, where we might feel separated from the land, “I rely on you, you rely on me — that’s where the belonging bond begins.”

Many of the women you also will hear from in these pages tell the stories of the difficulties of finding a home away from home, along with tips on how we can grow new roots together.