Sweet (Potato) Lesson

Since we live in a town home, we don’t have much in the way of landscaping chores. Our grass is done by a lawn service and there are fairly strict rules governing the rest. We are allowed to put in plants of our own choosing a certain number of feet from the house; we can place decorative pots on our steps and in the flower beds, and we can hang pots in various and sundry ways and places. Last year we bought an enormous pottery container and placed it under the holly tree that grows to the left of our kitchen window. This is a problem spot because the holly is large and provides deep shade in the late afternoon. We have to find plants that are colorful but shade tolerant. This is not an easy task. Last spring we spent several Saturday mornings searching the farmers’ market for just the right plants.

George really wanted to try some sweet potato vine around the edges of the pot. While I agreed that a cascading plant would be visually pleasing, I didn’t think there was enough sun for the sweet potato vine. George was determined to try, so we bought some. The vendor gave us a special deal and we ended up with three plants for the price of two. We only needed two for the big pot, so George stuck the third one into a pot already occupied by a pink geranium I received for teacher appreciation week. It looked lovely.

The vines seemed to be be doing just fine. We made it through those first few days after transplantation without incident. One evening we arrived home and instead of getting out of the car we just sat and admired our plants. George was rather pleased with himself and I had to admit he was right about the vine. It was pretty perfect. But we all know what comes after pride…

The very next morning when I returned from my run I was startled to notice that the sweet potato vine was naked. Not only were all of the leaves gone, but one of the plants in the big pot had actually been pulled up by the roots. We decided that deer like sweet potato vine. The one in the pot on the steps was untouched. George put the sad vine back into the dirt and grimly watered the pot anyway. It was early in the season. Maybe they would grow back. Amazingly, they did–twice. After the second time, the deer seemed to forget about them and they have come back full healthy and full.

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A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the vine in the pot was looking kind of puny. When I came back from walking the dogs, I noticed a squirrel on our steps. It was busily stripping leaves from the vine. It had quite a pile of them stacked up under the pot. Over the course of the afternoon, that squirrel came and went carrying the leaves away, I suppose to line its nest. I was aggravated. Still, the vine rebounded. New leaves came out and before many days it was its old self again. The stuff is really quite amazing.

It is now, however, the end of the summer. George and I have both returned to school, the shadows are longer, the leaves on the trees are beginning to have that worn-out look that they get just before they start to turn. When the vine was stripped yet again last weekend, I didn’t think there was any hope for it. This time there was not a single leaf left–just a sad green rope sticking out of the geranium pot.

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It kind of matched my mood. The summer was over and I was back at school. I was sad.

Don’t get me wrong. I had a great summer, but it was not a restful one. I stay so busy during the school year that by the time summer comes, I owe everybody. I have just a few short weeks to be a good mother, daughter, grandmother, and wife before I go back into school mode. I went at it with a vengeance this year and I enjoyed it all, but I did not rest.

Going back to school isn’t a struggle. I love my job. I love the people I work with; I love my students, but I’ve been feeling a little bedraggled and I don’t feel very creative. My mind seems to be processing more slowly than usual. I feel absent minded instead of focused, and I’ve been worried. School takes a lot of energy. Where am I going to find some? I haven’t really had any more hope for myself than I did for the sweet potato vine.

I’ve been watching that vine for the last two days, hoping for some sign of life. Could it possibly rejuvenate again? Somehow, I felt desperate that it should. This morning as I returned from my run, I glanced at the pot. I did a double-take. There, on the end of the vine was a tiny leaf. This afternoon there are two of them.

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This vine doesn’t quit. I feel like celebrating!

I am going into this year tired and not quite up to speed, but I’m still rooted and grounded in Jesus. I don’t know exactly how long it will take, but the leaves of creativity and energy will come. They may be tiny, stunted, pitiful things at first, but they will grow. I knew this the moment I saw that valiant little leaf this morning. God uses all kinds of things to teach. Maybe He can even use me!

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