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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Life is Like a Pumpkin Patch

Ahhh. The beauty of the countryside in the Fall.  Tree studded hillsides glow in a blazing array of glorious autumnal colors... ravishing reds, golden yellows and electric oranges. Rural farm vistas are dotted with juicy apple orchards, corn mazes, giant hay bales, bumpy hay rides and rustic harvest stands with a feast of fall produce. It's my favorite season of the year. But more than anything else, for me, the one thing that tops the list of Fall fun is the wondrous pumpkin patch. Forrest Gump's mama compared life to a box of never know what you're gonna get. I say, life is like a pumpkin patch because it represents the good, the bad and the ugly.

Last week we were standing in the middle of a field of rotund, orange spheres on the old Steffen farm just outside of town. We make the pilgrimage to this picturesque pumpkin patch every October. It was a crisp, overcast day but the saffron glow cast by a million orange pumpkins lit up the patch like floodlights of sunshine. Surprisingly, my husband and I were the only people in the entire patch. We had the place to ourselves which meant we had no competition in choosing the very best pumpkins and we could take our time making our selections. As we surveyed row after row of these over-sized orbs, we were amazed at the incredible assortment of shapes, sizes and varieties of pumpkins strewn around us. There were your basic round, orange pumpkins. Then there was an array of white ones, deep-reddish orange ones, russet ones, green and yellow ones, tall jumpin' jacks, baby bears (small and flat), skinny, fat, oblong, short and tall ones. It was a pumpkin extravaganza.

Pumpkins, which are in the squash family, grow attached to thick green, prickly vines that are nearly impossible to break unless you use a sharp, knife-like tool. Rather than having customers bring machetes to hack their way through the pumpkin patch, farm owners, well ahead of time, slice each pumpkin from its vine...leaving a nice sturdy stalk on every pumpkin. The pumpkins remain in the field right where they sprouted but now they're ready for picking by the public.

And therein lies the secret of the humble pumpkin patch. As in art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to pumpkins. Call me pulpy, but I prefer oddball pumpkins. I seek personality over perfection. Geeky over glam. Unusual shape, uncommon color and unique appearance are my criteria. I pass over the voluptuous designer divas with their smooth, unblemished shells, perfectly round shapes and exquisite stalks. I take pity on the rather homely ones which sit there in the mud...all alone and unwanted. I know there's potential in even the ugliest of pumpkins. I feel like Charlie Brown choosing the  straggly Christmas tree.

Into a little wooden wagon provided by the farm folks, we hoisted a chubby, deep-reddish pumpkin that resembled a flattened souffle. It's called a Cinderella pumpkin and sort of looks like her fairy tale carriage. Next we chose a baby blue pumpkin (yes, blue) and then a dappled, lopsided white one. We hiked up and down the mud encrusted rows of pumpkins. Still nobody invaded our privacy. There were so many pumpkins, so little time. We selected a tall, skinny, orange and green one with a wrinkled, crooked stem along with several tiny miniature pumpkinettes. Finally the piece de resistance....a very wide, but stubby and stocky, cinnamon-red giant with green stripes, weird, knarly white spots and a chocolate-brown stalk thick as a cue stick.

And so it was, we took home our unpretentious pack of pumpkins. We did not choose the cream of the crop; the best of show. But we did find pumpkins that suited us...ones with character and interesting knots and bumps and striations. "Pumpkin personality" if you will. As in life, what's pretty on the outside may not be nice on the inside. Yet after it's cleaned, scoured out, cleverly carved and adorned with a candle, the lowly pumpkin evolves into a thing of bewitching beauty. Gathered together on our front porch, our modest band of imperfect pumpkins was transformed into fetching, grinning, jolly jack-o-lanterns.  Basking in the moonlight, with a candle flickering inside each one, their smiling countenances glow and glimmer at all who pass by. They are like the faces of the world...the diversity of mankind.

Well....maybe that's stretching it a bit. I'm no expert on pumpkin psychology. But that's how I see the pumpkin patch. A tiny microcosm of the good, the bad and the ugly. The good pumpkins generally get selected first. All they have to do is sit there and preen and look perfect and it's a sure thing somebody will buy them. The bad ones don't have a ghost of a chance. They're the poor forsaken blobs that are decayed, smelly and smashed.  As for the aesthetically-challenged pumpkins, they often get passed over because they're different. But it's the very essence of their uniqueness that I find appealing. They may not be pretty but they've got possibility. They are the workhorses of the pumpkin patch because they have to convince customers that their imperfections and flaws only add to their charm and loveability. For our family, it's the ugly-duckling pumpkins that win our hearts every time.

P.S. And aren't we all a tad bit like the lowly pumpkin? We get to shine for a few, brief moments of life and then our light goes out and we're left to rot in the dirt. Sphere: Related Content


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