How I discovered hope in a sweet potato.
The kitchen smelled good. The perfume from the flowers of the morning glories was rising from the sweet potatoes. A whole sweet potato baked in a dish with a lid, with absolutely nothing else added was perfect. So easy and so delicious. A strange root growing in the heat of summer still fresh even after the winter snow melt. The smell of the sweet potato distracted me from cleaning the stuff at the bottom of the stairs.
Bored with the thought of taking the shoes upstairs I took one of the sweet potatoes from the counter, still firm after months of being harvested, and placed it in a glass of water on the windowsill. I hoped it would give me lots more of these sweet and starchy tubers. I looked at it every time I washed the dishes, there sitting on the windowsill, a sweet potato in a glass of water. Nothing seemed to happen, just sitting there, like the shoes at the bottom of the stairs.
After a few weeks, I noticed a little bump on the tuber, the size of a pinhead. The next day that hard little pimple on the tuber was just a little larger. I watched it grow, a little bit every day, until one day it became soft and it started to open up. Very tiny curled-up purple leaves at the base of the root. Bit by bit as those leaves opened a little plant started to grow fast, lengthening every day, the leaves unfurling and getting larger. Fed by the weak sunlight streaming through the window, the plant’s growth had been unleashed. I washed the dishes in awe, not at the dirt in the sink, but at the sweet potato’s feat.
My kitchen is warm from the wood stove, warm like my home in the tropics, the original home of the sweet potato. I had cut the little plantlets out from their sweet potato home, leaving a little bit of the starchy tuber attached to it and placed them in an old egg cardboard carton filled with soil. Slowly but surely the remaining piece of tuber magically grew roots. A glass of water on a window sill, a tuber, 12 little plantlets in an egg carton, magic.
Once they take hold of the soil outside they will soak up the heat and grow madly. The will take up all the space, imbibe all the water and grow without abandon. I will open little spaces in between the vines just big enough for my boot to fit so I can walk through. They will flower in the muggy heat. I will wait for that night, that cold night that will nip all the vegetation. The cold will burn the leaves and turn green into black. That cold night when I come back from the barn and smell the first smoke from the wood stove that tells me it is almost time for winter.
That tomorrow will be the time to harvest sweet potatoes. I will save a tuber for the window sill for there is hope in a sweet potato, maybe more hope than in a pair of shoes at the bottom of the stairs.
Monica Bongue, march 6, 2019 ©