I love planting potatoes, but only partly because of the promise of creamy, tummy-filling carbohydrates later in the year.
To me, planting spuds is a metaphor for life, and death, but in reverse. You first prepare a grave. In my case this spring, it’s a new spot, between the ashes and rusted roofing nails of an old homestead barn that burned down a decade ago. You dig deep enough to give tubers room to descend and fruit. Then you bury parts of a body, in my case the swelling eyes of seed potatoes that were given to me by a neighbor. They’re heirloom Duke of York varieties, pink as a May strawberry and only slightly larger than a spark plug.
With the sun on your shoulders, you cover these eyes, tamp the soil around them, and then plant a grave marker that reminds you later, when weeds come up and you get distracted by hunting season, what exactly is planted there.
The delving of potatoes in the fall is like exhuming a body. You dig, gently at first, and once you find the perimeter of the spuds, more aggressively, turning over every shovelful and admiring the clean, honest orbs of potatoes that have been swelling underground all summer. You knock off the dirt, level the ground, and savor all the meals those spuds will improve.
Why do I mention this now? And in terms of Yukon golds and russet Burbanks? Because just as nature is starting to bud and bloom and hatch and sprout, it’s a good season to reset ourselves and to remind ourselves of both ends of the mortality rope during this season of redemption.
Whether you call it Easter Sunday or May Day or the season of the Full Flower Moon, humans have a cellular need to remind each other that we are better than we were. That’s the idea of redemption, after all, but it’s also a recognition that as nature blooms and fades, so do we.
So, this spring, do something epic and memorable, something that will last longer than your body does. Maybe you teach a new hunter, or you build a barn, or you plant potatoes with your kids, so that they’ll remember that moment of life long after yours is over.