Can faith in humanity be restored by a yam?


So this is Cleo:

Cleo is a yam I got by mistake when trying to buy a sweet potato. Since yams and sweet potatoes do not taste the same, the yam stayed sitting on my kitchen table as I was at a loss as to what to do with it.

Then it started to sprout. Lovely little tendrils with pretty, delicate leaves and I thought “this would make a lovely painting”, but of course I was distracted and didn’t do it. And it continued to grow. I am not sure at what point she got a name, or how on earth it was determined that it was a “she”, but there you go.

For months she lived on my kitchen table and it was driving me insane and always in the way, but after naming her it seemed cruel and murderous to just dump her in the compost bin, so we continued to stare at her and she stayed by default because I couldn’t make myself throw her away.

Proving that I am occasionally a complete lunatic.

Please don’t argue the “occasionally”. I need my delusions.

I posted this mental disaster on Facebook one day when feeling particularly exasperated at my own inability to “kill” a yam (that I would have eaten without thinking about if I had intended to purchase one) and got an offer from a fellow artist, Nikki, to take her home and plant her. Problem solved! Yay!

And she did! and she sent me pictures of Cleo getting “tucked in” to her new home.

And there was joy and happiness and I promptly forgot all about Cleo, because out of sight is out of mind, and she is only a yam.

However, several months later I got this message:

“Cleo lives! I felt so awful. For a long time after you parted with her, we had that drought and even though the garden gets watered, Cleo hadn’t been acclimated to the outdoors yet and .. she died. I felt horrible. I couldn’t say anything and was praying you wouldn’t ask, but I went out today and looked down and, shock! Sweet potato Vines everywhere! I will have to get a photo with my husband’s phone since mine isn’t working. She looks great!”

I had forgotten all about Cleo, and here Nikki was more emotionally invested than I was. Now I get a photo every month or two updating me on Cleo’s progress.

Like when she moved indoors for the winter:

When she made a ladybug friend somehow in December (the image is blurry, but you can see it):

It is charming, and ridiculous, and totally sweet, and every time I get an update or a photo, it makes me grin like a maniac. A silly kindness from someone I don’t know well at all for essentially a stranger. It’s easy to think that people completely suck, and they can, but they also do things like this and it is all those little connections that get us through. For 2022 I am going to try to focus on all those silly little minutes, even when the sky is falling.

I have been distracted with radio and writing lately, so art is more of a puttering activity (not that that is a shock, since having a work space matters), rather than the main event, but here is my latest painting of a caterpillar. As we kick off a new year it is a good reminder that having things start one way and end up totally different isn’t always a bad thing. Happy New Year, all.

Acrylic on canvas
10″ x 10″

4 Responses

  1. I grew up in an ancient farmhouse in southern Colorado that had a 2’x2’x4’ tall oil stove in the living room that heated the entire house. When the stove wasn’t being used in the summer my mother “planted” a sweet potato in a container of water, placed it on top of the stove, and the draping vine covered the entire stove by summer’s end. Thanks for jogging that memory! Yams/sweet potatoes are hardy plants!

    1. That is such a great story! thank you for sharing.
      Also, it could be fun to do a painting of a vine covered stove….

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