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山药的生命故事

王维森

Early last summer I bought some yam roots for food. In many a day, one tuber left in the kitchen was sprouting,2 so I supposed it was not edible any longer. Thinking it was a waste of money and not environmentally friendly to throw it away, I buried the tuber into a flower pot hoping against hope that it might take root and yield something that could be put on the dinner table.3 The pot was about 40 centimeters across and 30 centimeters deep.

To my happy surprise, in a few days the tuber did begin to grow. In the following months I watered it when necessary. The potted yam grew very well. In the early summer tubercles appeared on the vine, some as big as peas and some only big as mung beans.4 Though they were too small to serve as food, the tubercles built my hopes up. When free, I would stand by the plant, admiring the glossy heart-shaped leaves and tubercles the way I was looking at a carnation5.

Time flies. Soon it was autumn and the tree leaves started to turn yellow.

One Sunday morning I poured into the pot some rainwater collected a few days before. After a wonderful lunch, I went to the balcony to have a look at my plant, as was my custom. Seeing that the tuber or tubers would not grow any more though it was still warm enough on the balcony, I decided to harvest. I pulled out the yam plant, which took some effort and began to dig with my fingers to see if there was any tuber in the pot. I dug with full attention when, all of a sudden, my finger touched something different, which I thought must be the yam root. Yes, it was! I got thrilled and went on working with care and expectancy, wondering how big the tuber might be.

When my fingers could almost reach the bottom of the pot, I took the root between the thumb and the forefinger and tried to pull very carefully, for I knew the yam could break easily. But the tuber wouldnt budge6; I loosened my grip and resumed digging. When almost no earth was left, I tried to pull the root again and again I failed.

一塊山药,弃于阳台,日久生芽。埋于花盆,几日后,叶子舒展,油光发亮;月余,长出大大小小的山药豆。光阴荏苒,转眼已是收获季节。挖山药,大惊,原来山药从花盆底部的排水孔钻出,一半在盆下,被挤压变形,酷似手指——强壮的手指。这使作者不禁感叹:山药看似柔弱,却具有如此顽强的生命力!

In puzzlement, I pushed the pot over. Half of the yam root was outside the pot! It had grown through one of the three holes in the bottom.

The sight of the Chinese yam root outside the pot filled me with awe. Then and there I changed my opinion of the climbing plant. It was no longer what I thought it had been—simply a kind of nutritious food. The seemingly soft plant commanded the respect of 7 me.

Very slowly I emptied all the soil out of the pot fearing that the tuber could be hurt.

At long last, I with great care pulled the tuber through the hole. It was around thirty centimeters long in all. The whole tuber, consisting of two parts, one in and one out of the pot, was in the form of a handwritten L or the Chinese character ren or man. Holding it in my hands I looked and thought. Unlike ordinary yam roots, the part of the tuber outside the pot was not round. It was flat, looking like a thick and strong finger, one of an old farmer who has toiled8 all his life to make a living and endured hardships of life.

The color of the part outside the pot was different. It was dark gray. The very end, which was about the size of a thumb nail, was skinless. Obviously, the peel must have been rubbed off during his struggle with the heavy pot. The skinless part was in tone9 of dark red.

“Was it bleeding?” I wondered.

What struck me most was that the very tip of the flat part was broken. Needless to say, it was not damaged by me. It was crushed by the oppressor—the pot.

It dawned on me that the tuber, though seriously wounded, had struggled hard. It seemed the yam had never given in.

Such was a Chinese yam, an ordinarylooking climbing plant with tough characteristics. It managed to grow where I thought it was almost impossible to exist.

1. yam: 山藥。

2. tuber: 植物块茎;sprout: 发芽。

3. hope against hope: 抱一线希望;yield: 产出(果实)。

4. tubercle: 小块茎,这里指山药豆;mung bean: 绿豆。

5. carnation: 康乃馨。

6. budge: 稍微移动(尤指重物或卡住的东西)。

7. command the respect of: 赢得尊敬。

8. toil: 辛勤工作。

9. tone: 色调。

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