This first year, the potato plants in the water-logged soil beneath the mountains made a bedraggled- looking crop. They went in late, so we dug them in late October.
As we uncovered them, I kept thinking how they would have looked to famine-time diggers. Bright nuggets, valuable as gold; each a life-saving package of food. Each clod of earth yielding, or not, its life-saving load. Each decent-sized potato bringing a rush of relief, each marble a disaster.
How carefully they must have dug with their children’s lives at stake; potatoes rolling away with the loosened soil, disappearing into the ground, fingers scrambling after them. How it must have bound families together in their struggle to survive; how strong must their kinship with the soil have been.
A different life now: my kitchen stocked with oranges from Spain, olive oil from Italy, wine from France; leisure filling the space that was filled with struggle and fertile soil disappearing under concrete.