Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Potato Vine

My friend Debbie was recovering from a hysterectomy. I went to her house to visit. Of course I brought her cut flowers from my garden. See, Debbie is the original flower child. She loves all living, breathing things. She truly enjoys gifts others have enjoyed ie. books read with missing covers, blankets with holes from many warm winter nights, thrift store finds such as sweaters with mismatched buttons sewn on by an unknown wearer, threadbare curtains that still sway. You get the point. My friend Debbie is a rare find and I treasure her joi de vivre and "down to earth" style.

After giving Debbie the cut flowers, I assumed in her weak physical state she would merely ask me to put the flowers in a vase. However, she clutched them in one fist and proceeded out the back door into her garden. Debbie's garden is fun! She tells stories of who gave her which seedling and which plant she found curbside and nursed back to health. Literally, every plant has a story. After taking a quick breath as a short pain made its way through her midsection, she asked me to go back inside and get the scissors. I came back and she was on her knees in the dirt, smelling a flower's face that had peeked out to catch a ray of sun. Debbie made me smile. Seeing her on her knees reminded me that even in her weakened physical state she loved to be in the garden!

Debbie cut a long vine and handed it to me. She had cut the only vine with a fuschia lavendar mix of flowers at the very end. She had given me the best cutting. I remember her calling this particular clipping a "potato vine". I put it in water when I got home but did not hold much hope because my thumb was anything but green. But the flowers sure were pretty. That is, until they turned brown and died.

Needless to say, that glass sat on my kitchen counter for many days doing absolutely nothing but forming a slimy green layer around the mouth of the glass. I kept adding water to it when I remembered to do so and the rings formed many times around the glass as the days passed and the water level went up and down as I added water and as the water evaporated. I never did think of cleaning the glass.

I got sick of looking at that ugly lifeless vine. It was not beautifully flowering and was no longer even green. It became a sad shade of greenish black. I decided to plant it in a clay pot. I set it in the dirt outside the patio. Out of sight and out of mind. Two hurricane seasons passed and our yard was pummeled by high winds and heavy rains. However, that potato vine was unaffected. It was not giving up but it was not really growing at all. I did not have the heart to give up on it. Somehow it seemed an affront to Debbie to lose hope on ever seeing it bloom again. So I just left it there.

A year ago, I looked out the same kitchen window where the vine had sat in a glass on the counter. I was quite surprised to see a tendril of the vine reaching heavenward. The vine was making it's way up the patio screen up into the eaves! It was so pretty with the northern sun lighting up the green leaf from behind. I appreciated how fast it was growing. I smiled every day as I did dishes. One day fuschia lavendar flowers bloomed. The flowers dangled just above the window. Just a whisper of wind would cause them to move slightly back and forth. I had fun pretending they were dancing! Debbie came over one day. She looked out the kitchen window and saw the flowering vine. She said, "I love your garden! You have such pretty wildflowers and so many different colors." When I pointed up at the potato vine she exclaimed, "It's so pretty!" but did not remember giving it to me. We laughed. Debbie is such a blessing. She gives so much all the time it is no wonder she forgets giving. She remembers who gave what to her but not who she gave what to.

Just recently, after the flowers bloomed, the vine got a bit messy. Dead leaves began to form. I toyed with the idea of getting up on a ladder and trimming the dead leaves. I had good intentions to do so, but never did get around to it.

This morning, with cup of coffee in hand, I walked to the center of the patio and for no real reason, looked up at my vine. When I looked up I immediately spotted a bird's nest in the highest part of the vine - in the dead leaves where the vines twisted and became messy. I had seen a cardinal playing in the vine for a few days up til today, but not a nest. I was so glad I did not clean up the vine, because I most likely would have ruined this creatures plans! The nest was perfectly formed. It securely sat amidst dead leaves and vines.

I stood in awe as I realized what that vine represented. What I had seen as bothersome and ugly many times over, was truly an amazing work of art that only the Master Artist God could have created! Debbie had known the possibility that I would not take the vine if it did not have a flower. So from her garden she gave me the only vine with a flower. I had forgotten the potential of that vine to flower as it sat on my counter in a glass of water and became ugly and sadly, annoying to me. Then as it sat in a clay pot in the dirt out of sight for two years doing seemingly nothing. It endured two major storms and still refused to give up.

The vine had the potential to do many things even though it was not evident to me visually. Then today, as the three vines grafted into one leafy mass, it allowed for a safe haven for a family of birds. It did not matter that my cats sun themselves on the patio every day just mere yards from the nest or that I clatter pots and pans and make noise in the kitchen below. That vine always had potential and so many more reasons to thrive and exist in my yard. Its purpose is evident for now. I am glad I did not give up on it. I can't wait to see the cardinals there and watch their baby birds be born. I can't wait to hear them sing their birdsongs and chirp for worms. I can't wait to witness life and all the wonderful things in store....

My friend Debbie knew the potential of her gift. She is a wise wonderful woman. Even though she forgot she gave it to me that day, she gave it willingly. I am wondering what the vine will do next. If the birds decide to leave the nest, I just may decide to take a clipping to a friend. But I want to make sure it is a clipping with a flower. For I know it will get ugly. But the memory of that blooming flower will help to get it through the next seasons of it's viney life. The purple flower will help it make its way to the glass on the counter and the legacy of the potato vine will hopefully live on to house birds for many seasons to come.
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