Monday, November 14, 2011

The Beauty in Ugliness

Much of the pizazz in this year’s gardens was supplied by three ornamental sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) that Mars potted and placed on each side of our garage door and near the edge of our family room flowerbed.

The recent pre-Halloween snowstorm decimated them and so, as part of the après storm cleanup I removed the vines from their containers. Some came out easily, one did not. I took my fork-tongued hand weeder and wedged it into the potting soil, levering up the reluctant vine. To my surprise I unearthed what looked to be a deformed sweet potato.

This evidently is not stunningly unusual – at least according to the forum on The starchy tubers apparently are edible and easily propagated. Unfortunately I learned this information after I had added mine to the ugly plant portion of my compost pile – from which it is now too late to retrieve.

My mind however was more attuned to the aesthetics of my discovery rather than the gastronomic. I tried to photograph it in a way that improved its appearance – while at the same time trying to figure out a way to write about the ugly vegetable. I thought perhaps something about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave wherein the shadows represent the imperfect world, and my spud (in this instance) the realm of reflected reality – except the silhouette was better looking than the real thing.
I went inside and Googled “beauty and ugliness” and found lots of links to local television “special reports ”on the “ugly truth behind the beauty industry” – as well as one interesting blog from a Canadian designer who spent time in India and returned questioning her long held artistic assumptions. The piece was entitled “The beauty in ugliness, the order in chaos.” – the first part of which also happens to be a great middle line for a haiku. – which got me to thinking

Oft, in gardens too,
the truth behind the beauty
lies buried in dirt.

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