From My WindowIssue Date: October 18, 2018
Pumpkins and Preparation
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
We are in the heart of autumn now. This past week the fall colors were truly spectacular " and it was every bit as amazing as I remembered. Sometimes memories reach our brain through the filter of "rose-colored glasses," and when we re-experience something after a long time, it is just not as good as we recalled. Not so with the Wisconsin woodlands annual show time.
The farmers around my rural home are bustling up and down our gravel road with loads and equipment as the fall harvesting is well underway. It is a good reminder that the farming life knows no "weekends off," especially at this time in their annual cycle. Our little country church always has a prayer of intention for a good harvest " an acknowledgement of the agricultural roots of the people of this area. Most of them no longer farm, but it is part of their heritage. It is symbolic of those deep roots that we take time for public prayer for a single occupation; but since we all rely on farmers for our daily bread, it is appropriate.
There are dozens of roadside displays of fall vegetables, but especially pumpkins. Homemade signs dot the driveways; with a wagon or sheet of plastic spread on the lawn to display their wares. Nearly all of them post their prices on a hand-lettered sign with a little "honor box" for payment. A mark of the honesty expected and in most cases, given " if I do not have exact change I always overpay and feel good about doing so.
Our house is not quite done yet, so my "indian corn," cornstalks and pumpkins decorate our barn instead. Some homes go over the top with inflatable ghosts, strings of lights and dozens of pumpkins. I enjoy these displays as much as I do similar ones for Christmas; but my favorites are more humble and more traditional. One charming custom I have noticed in rural church cemeteries, now that flowers have died or been removed, is placement of a pumpkin at a headstone. It's a little whimsical, but also so simple and dignified, that it seems perfectly appropriate. After all, the whole intent of leaving anything at anyone's grave, whether it is flowers or something else, is just a visible reminder that the person who has gone on before us is missed, and remembered. A pumpkin does that as well as an artificial wreath of fall flowers, and is also more environmentally friendly.
The deer are out and about, feasting on windfall apple trees in old farmsteads, roadside ditches and lawns. They also get their fill of corn, and startle me when they dash from fields when I am driving. One particular group of three seems to be stalking me. I have repeatedly encountered what I am sure is this same little group with a similar script. Two burst out of the corn or ditch and run hell bent across the roadway " and just when my heartbeat returns to normal, the third one pops out, after a delay just long enough to tempt me to be complacent. Their antics will probably not end well, but I am determined they won't catch me in a moment of distraction.
I am preparing for trick-or-treaters as I always do. While I probably live in too isolated of an area to get many, I will offer "extended hours" and the temptation of extra-generous handouts to lure great nephews and nieces here, if not on Halloween in costume, in any clothes before or after the actual day. I find trick or treating totally charming " although I fear it is becoming completely replaced by organized fall parties. These are safer and better supervised, but they really involve mostly young children and their parents, sort leaving the rest of the community out. It is nice for us older folks to be able to stay home and be visited by the little roving goblins, although I know many people view the kids and the knocks on the door as an annoyance. I hope there are always some little urchins roaming the roads and streets.
The summer birds have left us long ago. The northern migrants are passing overhead, but our woods are still alive with the sounds of the hardy feathered friends who will be with us all winter. I love hearing the ruckus of the blue jay announcing my unwelcome presence at the pond. Chipmunks dash across the path, busy stashing a winter's food supply and driving my poor dogs to distraction with their shrill chipping. That sound is like catnip for dogs " an irresistible invitation to "chase me!" to the canine ear.
Today the sunshine is bright and the wind is floating leaves through the woods outside my window. A melody line of chainsaw music can be heard in the distance " as the humans, too, are preparing for the winter. I must go outside now in this most beautiful time of preparation. I have a pumpkin for the headstone of my mother and father in law, and I believe they will look down on this gesture of remembrance and smile.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
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