Posts Tagged ‘potatoes’

Dear friends, 

It has been seven weeks since I sent you a poem–seven weeks since my son chose to take his life. Thank you for all the ways you’ve supported me in this time–prayers, emails, letters, gifts. Though I have been unable to respond to all your kindness with personal notes, please accept my enormous gratitude. Thank you. Thank you for all the love and kindness I have felt surrounding and infusing me–I have never felt alone. I am so grateful for you. 

I think I am ready to continue the daily sharing. We’ll see how it goes. 

with love, 

Digging Potatoes, 2021

I am not the woman I was
a year ago when my son and I
harvested potatoes. Today
I must look like her—
bare hands in the dirt,
sunhat on. But she did not know
the deep loss of losing a son.
Perhaps she’d imagined it.
That is why she did everything
she could to keep such a loss
from happening. But the woman
I am today knows all too well
what I cannot control.
I plunge my fingers
into the cold earth
and talk to my son
as if he can hear me.
I miss you, I say. And I reminisce
about all the other years
we did this together. I ooh
at the size of the potatoes,
hold them up as if he can see.
What does love care of absence?
Love grows, despite death—
it roots in each cell and insists
on tendrilling, touching everything.
In the middle of the night,
a voice commanded me to remember:
Life needs us to live it.
All day I puzzle over the message.
All day I lean into the words.
I say them out loud as I pull out
potatoes, ask my son what he thinks
it might mean. No reply. He has become
one with life now in a way
I cannot yet understand.
And so I breathe into it, this chapter
of loss, this life needing me to live it.
All around me, inside me,
I notice how so much is changing, notice
in each moment, a new invitation.

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At midday, I dug beneath damp straw

and gently ran my fingers through dirt,

and, there, in the kingdom of earth worms,

found dozens of beautiful ruby-skinned potatoes,

each one of them precious in my hands.


God knows I have longed to be found this way—

pulled out from my darkness and cradled,

held up to the light with an oooh and an ahh

and a laugh of joy, though I’m slightly misshapen,

though I’m bumpy and imperfect.


There are days when I see through it so easily,

the longing to be loved, and I simply feel the love

that always exists, the love that grows in darkness,

that is utterly unconcerned with worthiness,

that feels no need for discovery.


There are moments when I can’t imagine

I ever thought I was lost, like today,

kneeling in the dirt, marveling at the beauty

of potatoes, mud-smudged and lumpy,

knowing myself as another who belongs to the earth.

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The cupboards, she discovers,

have little to offer, but she

finds in a corner some purple potatoes,


and, on slicing them thin, finds

white and purple patterns

swirled like stained glass.


She approves. Pours oil

in the skillet. Nods at the splatter

when the potatoes slide in.


A cauliflower in the back

of the fridge. Yes. She breaks

off florets and adds them.


Some tofu. She crumbles it,

scrambles it, lets the foods meld.

Then lemon. Then rosemary.


Then chile. Then wait. She stirs.

She tastes. There are times

when out of what seems to be nothing,


we find magnificence. Enough

to share. Enough to make us think

abundance is hiding everywhere.





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Just today, in the garden,

I found dozens of dark blue

McHugh Blue potatoes,

hard and small, their

delicious fists hiding

in the cool soil.

How wonderful the world is

if you just dig a little.

All those things you planted,

they show up, even though

everything around them

looks dead.

Don’t be in a hurry,

the woman said,

and I realized

I was wishing away

these difficult days.

Imagine how patient

the ground.


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with thanks to Artful for the fabulous starts



Last year’s potatoes—

small red fists

with stubby white shoots—

they have something

to teach the heart about


about how to find something of value

in their own darkness

something that knows how to reach

toward the light,

something that when faced

with darkness again

will reach even farther

until they become

astonishingly prolific, alive.



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Something in me rails against the word inevitable,

wants to root for underdogs and impossibilities.


But everything and everyone lets us down sometime,

and we meet the inevitability we would rather not know.


Last week, it was the potatoes. When we went

to harvest them, we found them abundant


in the sandy earth, but with their red skins pocked

with black scabs. That’s where the sorrow comes in.


Later I learn Black Scab is the common name

for the pathogen. There’s something almost comforting


in calling things as they are. I learn

that when peeling the potatoes, if I peel deep enough,


eventually the dark spots disappear.

And the potatoes taste delicious, somehow


more potato than the potatoes in the store.

The sorrow was just a surface thing, not like


the letter I received today outlining the betrayals

of a friend. How I longed for it to be a surface thing then—


something I could peel and find the core still good,

still full of nourishment, still unmarred.


How impossible it felt to call things as they are.

I longed for the potatoes to be like auguries,


omens that everything would be okay,

I wanted them to be portents that when we dig


there is treasure to be found, though

it may not look anything like we thought.


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We wait until the plants are dead.
That’s the time to harvest. First,
we pull away the straw. The dirt

below is damp and rich. We rake
with our fingers lightly then,
so as not to scrape the skin of

potatoes near the top. And oh,
that first glimpse of gold, how
we laugh and remind ourselves,

Go slow. After all, we’ve been
waiting all summer. But sometimes,
in the company of delight,

it’s hard to wait a second longer.
I want to say something to my son
about trust, about the way

that marvelous things sometimes
need the dark in order to grow. But
it is the quiet, now, that I love.

The silence of four hands moving
the dirt. Finn pulls another potato
from the earth, holds it up for me to see.

We shake our heads in what, awe?
Dumb wonder at our luck? And plunge
our hands deeper, deeper into the darkness.

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