Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Birthing Potatoes

Shin bruises from unearthing potatoes
A Standing Ground by Wendell Berry
However just and anxious I have been
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave 
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without an aim.
I am not bound for any public place,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up 
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet berries in a cup.  
As a long time activist, I never imagined that digging up potatoes would become a radical act.  Utilizing a garden fork to bring these starchy vegetables to light wasn't working due to puncturing 1/3 of the potatoes I attempted to harvest so I got on the ground and with arthritic hands in hard soil I dug up the gems.  Without thought I quietly said "thank you" to the potatoes as well as the ground that grew and offered them.  As I dug deeper and wider using my fingers to detect pockets that held firm to these vegetables, I felt like a midwife birthing potatoes.  The soil was flesh and blood and I was simply a wise woman helping to give life.  For hours I dug up by hand yellow potatoes, some grapefruit sized, some small as strawberries; sometimes alone and sometimes with others, and felt none of the pain that must have been present to cause my bruising.  I cared only about providing healthy sustenance for others and my relationship to the earths many offerings. No amount of yelling & marching down streets against forces of prurience can compare to the sense of justness that wholeful agriculture can provide. 

That is not to say I don't believe in actively giving voice to wrongness.  Speaking truth to power has been & remains necessary.  Will arguments instead of berry picking still be an option for me in the future?  Sure, as long as I've picked my battles and my berries first.  Getting off the Facebook commenting habit has provided me time to reflect & renew so that I may not only choose my words more carefully but be more careful about where I chose to put those words.  Angrily commenting on websites & blogs serves only to fan flames of argument and not sustain (myself or others).  Diving into a prickly mini jungle of crookneck squash with grateful appreciation provides ALL with a satisfying experience of grace-filled duty.  

Today I store in the cool dark of a ground level cabinet the potato harvest my farm compatriots dug up yesterday.  This fall we will eat the potatoes that I helped to birth.  Better than any argument is to nourish people and planet.  That is truly a most radical act!

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