Friday, April 9, 2010

Potatoes and Life 101

I planted potatoes - oh, must have been 5 or 6 weeks ago. Got good seed potatoes; planted them according to instructions, in the best soil in the garden; watered lightly (the usual Portland late-winter deluge had abated for a few days); kept the bed weeded. Then I waited. And waited. Examined the soil surface almost daily. Nothing showed up. So I waited some more - a lot more - doubt and near despair creeping into all the formerly optimistic corners of my gardener's heart. Nothing, nada, zip, zilch. Looked at the calendar. After six weeks it seemed time to surrender to the inevitable: no potatoes this spring.

Went out in the yard two days ago for some non-potato-related reason. Two teeny-tiny potato plants had broken through. Yesterday, one more. I know they're laughing at me. In their potato language (gardeners learn this language by osmosis, through the dirt under their fingernails), they're saying, "You dear foolish thing, sometimes all you can do is WAIT. So go do something else for a while and let us take care of the business of growing."

Sigh. They're right. I'm a product of my good old, all-American, let's-fix-whatever's-wrong culture - such a strength and such a weakness. When things don't follow my timetable, I want to dig around and find the problem and apply some magical elixir that will GET THE PROCESS GOING. But if I'd rooted around in my potato bed, disturbing the little quartered spuds to see why they weren't hurrying to burst through to the light, nothing would ever have come up except muddy potato quarters. 

In the climactic scene of the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," lovers Joel and Clementine, played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet - who have broken up messily, each of whom has attempted to have the other erased from his/her memory, and who have wildly chased each other down through multiple time- and mind-streams after they find they really kinda sorta DO maybe love each other - are on the verge of a final, sad breakup. Clementine walks out of Joel's apartment and down the hall, ready to disappear from Joel's life forever. He steps out the door and shouts, "WAIT!" "What?" she says. Joel, anguished, cries, "Wait...just wait a while."

Clementine and Joel DO wait. They commit to starting again, fears, warts and all. We don't get to see the end of the story - whether the relationship lasts, whether it's good or not, whether these two people are "meant" to be together or whether that even matters. All we know is that they've simply decided things aren't so bad that they can't afford to wait a while to see what might put down roots. They give themselves the time to rediscover what brought them together in the first place.

Hence the Life 101 lesson, in a classroom full of potatoes. Sometimes all you can do is wait, knowing you have done your part: Prepare the soil well, get good seed or strong starts, plant properly, water when necessary but not too much, cultivate to keep weeds from taking over. Your job is to learn the language of what you love, and let the seeds you have planted do what they do best.


Bill said...

Diane - this is a good story. I enjoyed the flow of it and the point being made.

Rev. Jon Michael Singh said...

Lovely metaphor. said...

Wow! That was a great story. It reminds me of Mark Twain's quote...something like, "Don't pick up dead golf balls when they're still rolling". Loose translation, but poigniant in my life. Thanks, Diane!

Denise Kawaii said...

A fantastic thought, and very true. I often get caught up in wanting everything to be instantaneous and have to be reminded that much of life just doesn't work that way!