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Potato Grieving.. in memory of Scott Stanard, stepson extraordinaire

Category: Zoe's Blog Published: Sunday, 28 April 2013 Written by Zoe Kimmel

I worked in the garden today. It was both physically and emotionally necessary… for gardening and grieving. Those of you who garden and who embrace metaphor will totally understand this.

There are many ways to grieve, and I’ve use several of them in the last decade. You can grieve by teaching middle school, especially when you are teaching theology class. You can grieve by cleaning barns. Slinging horse poop or alpaca poop can be amazingly therapeutic. After all, poop comes in many forms!

It turns out potatoes work, too.

But you need to know the back story here. We tried a slightly different approach to planting potatoes last year, in our raised beds. Now I’ve puttered with gardening for many years, but I’m no expert. I do it because I love it. It’s great to be outdoors, to connect, to help something come to life.

Last year's potatoes didn’t go as we had hoped. The weather was bad, and I’m sure we didn’t give the bed the best soil combination. Who knows… maybe we didn’t even plant the right potatoes for our setup. In any case, the plants died and there was no harvest. The potato bed was a bust.

Fast forward to today. Because we’re reconfiguring the raised beds, I was moving a lot of dirt today. Just for the record, this is when I remember that I’m 64. In any case, one shovel load of dirt turned up a potato. It wasn’t huge, it wasn’t perfect, but it was perfectly fine. Hmm.

As I kept working, I kept finding more potatoes… large ones, small ones, some with bruises, some that need to go to the compost pile. And the tears started to flow. When I reminisce about my Brady-Bunch- gone-astray family, I have potato memories. Some involve real potatoes… my late ex-husband (he’s deceased and we were divorced… just to clarify) taking a truckload of kids to buy potatoes and getting a free bushel because the grower felt sorry for him. Or all the times that I filled an entire oven rack when I baked potatoes because we ate so many at one meal.

Other potato memories are far more abstract. When we “planted” our his, mine and ours family, it was done with great love and high hopes. But we weren’t experts. In fact, we were pretty clueless. Storms came, drought set in, we didn’t give the garden the right attention. We probably didn’t even have the right potatoes, I don’t know. In any case, the family garden was a bust.

For a lot of years, I have felt very guilty about that. I don’t like failing. I don’t like hurting people, especially people I love. I want to be a force for good in this world. I want kids to believe in themselves. I want to be a safe place where the human spirit blossoms and grows.

As I turned over more and more potatoes, I suddenly realized that I didn’t fail after all. I just succeeded differently. It isn’t the way I planned, or hoped or dreamed. But the evidence is there.

I’m going to bake an oven full of potatoes tonight. And those that are too small to bake will be left to sprout and be planted in the garden this year. And life will go on, in ways we can’t even imagine.

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