Sunday, October 31, 2010

Harvesting the Halloween . . . . . . Eggplant????

Our normally sedate town goes crazy for Halloween. The iconic vegetable of the season -- the glorious pumpkin -- is displayed everywhere. It's been fun seeing those reassuring bright orange globes appear on porches around the neighborhood. People don't hold back. Some houses have all sizes and shapes lined up along railings or sitting on each step of their front stairs.

I have to go out to see pumpkins. We don't grow them and don't even bother putting one on the porch because the trick-or-treaters never seem to make it to our cottage behind the hedge at the end of a dead end street.

Despite the dearth of pumpkins here at our hidden homestead, we have been reveling in summer bounty even as the seasons shift: picking eggplant in the autumn rain, plucking peppers and tomatoes on chilly, foggy mornings.

But there are plenty of pumpkins to admire wherever I go. On the outskirts of town I drive by fields of them swarmed by hordes of school children as the farmers make the most of their brief window of profitable time. By tomorrow those fields will be left to rot, along with the pyramids of hay bales and tee-pees of corn stalks, as the inevitable processes of decay take over.

Maybe, deep down, that's what this holiday is all about: coming to terms with the encroaching darkness. We conquer our fear of the dying of the light and take control of our worst nightmares by dressing up like them or by inviting them onto the porch and into the light so we can bribe them into playing nice and thereby harness their power.

Gardeners know that darkness and the sometimes gruesome progression of rot and decay are regenerative forces that eventually bring about surging new life. Still, there is sadness when, at the end of a productive lifespan, the pepper plant topples over because its stem has rotted or the eggplant succumbs to mildew or a sprawling zucchini plant has to be flung onto the compost pile.

So light up those Jack-O-Lanterns, folks, and lift a glass of cider to the turning of the year.

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