Of Agrarian Advice
by Charles Grabuski
On Samhein night the moon was a neat crescent and the stars twinkled brightly as they tend do during that month. We ate a meal of pumpkin curry complete with chick peas and fiery red peppers. Before dinner, we lit candles in front of pictures of grandparents and great aunts we had never met. I got to light the little tea candle for the cat that passed-over the year before. Though I didn’t quite understand the significance of all these back rituals then, it was what the family did and I did not question it. To this day, we still light candles for those who have come before and eat a meal of pumpkin on this night.
Of course we went trick-or-treating. This is also tradition. That year my brother was a skeleton made of flaking white paint on black cotton. His friend was made into a goblin; his mask a handcrafted piece of leather. His mother made costumes for many of the children in our neighborhood and they were all spectacular but mine was the most dazzling of all. I was a beautiful butterfly princess with stretchy pink leggings, which did not keep out the cold, and high leather boots, my first pair of heeled shoes. My wings were made of gossamer fabric and sparked in the candle light. My father called me petit papillon — his little butterfly— and shooed us out the door.
What a bounty we found that night! We must have eaten half our ill-gotten-goods by the time we returned to the farm house; our bags half filled with empty wrappers. We walked along the drive which lay next to the garden. This late in fall it had turned from well kept beds to a voluminous mass of pumpkin vines. A rustling silenced us. I though it might just be a deer, which can be jarring.
But in the light from stars and flashlights we could see it was no deer. What climbed its way above the vines could only be described as the exact hybrid of man and pumpkin. It towered over us and would have done the same to our parents. Its musculature was that of several heaving gourds melted together. Their ribbings were the contouring muscles of its arms and chest. Its head was a jaunted jack-o-lantern. Its face was simple. No jagged hill-billy teeth or triangle eyes but in there place were slits like almonds for sight and a gentle curve for a mouth. We stood there with mouths agape. My stomach knotted around the mass of candy inside. My arms went numb and my intestines burned cold like that October air.
“Why hello there,” said the hulking creature. Shining orange seed-studded pulp tumbled from his mouth when he spoke, “Isn’t pleasant we finally meet?”
With this it extended a beast of a palm towards us; the peel of its skin as tight and as polished as any gourd would be. Tentatively and with great caution, we stepped off the paved drive and into the vegetation. We were careful not to crush any lingering pumpkin or snap any twisted vines, lest there be a biological or metaphysical connection. Still nervous but not terrified for his demeanor appeared benign, we stood before the pumpkin golem.
“I am Mr.Pepo and I have seen you play among my vines and polish my children with your shirts all summer long,” he said, vomiting up more sticky pulp.
We looked upon his face with awe. There was no light, candle or otherwise, inside this seemingly empty head.
“And I wanted to thank you. Your love; that childish way of loving, allowed them to treadle across their prescribed allotment of space…”
We stood still, not quite understanding his message. What love could he have been talking about? We had played jungle explorer and attack-of-the-killer-pumpkin-monster that summer in that tangle of ever creeping foliage. My brother, older than I, said he saw a troll in the vines one day back in August. We didn’t believe him but he was adamant as any thirteen-year-old would be. We went in search of that crypto-biological formation but came up empty on all troll or gnome encounters. To us, at the ages of eleven and thirteen, this talk about love did not make any sense.
“Umm okay?” I said not knowing the correct response to such a compliment. I lifted my plastic pumpkin toward the monster and with a smile, offered it a piece of candy.
“No thank you little one,” he said and again seeds and stringy pulp spilt forward, “But I do wish to offer you some agrarian advice. To make things grow; it takes love. One must love the earth as they love themselves and their neighbors. Love can be measured in highly quantified and qualified processes; everything named and numbered and explained to extreme exactitudes. There are also astrological events which can chart the path of love; the phases of the moon and the retrograde course of Mercury. There are many was of cultivating and calculating the numerous aspects of love.”
Boggled by this monologue, as children are quickly board by long strings of words, we thanked him for his advice, for we were kind children at those ages, and went inside to sift through and organize our confectionary bounty.
I often think of that night now when I see my own grandchildren bounce around the farm; juiced up my berry cobblers or fruit pies and wonder which plants are growing exceptionally well. Did the abundance of apples this fall come from a good and thoughtful pruning in the spring? Was the insect population low this year? Was Saturn in Capricorn from March to September? Or did the leaves feel loved when the children climbed into the boughs and unconsciously enjoyed the blossoms in spring. Are these the things that make miracles happen on cold autumn nights when the veils between are thinnest? I sure do hope so.
Charles Grabuski is an undergrad at the University of Minnesota, Duluth within the Women Studies program. Working towards social and ecological justice, he spends his time at community sustained agriculture farms throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin when not at the university. Writing is a huge passion of his and a substantial part of his life. His poems, stories and essays reflect his desire to create an ecologically sustainable world in which all peoples are valued equally. He dreams of living on a farm with a loving community and llamas.
Poems and random writings can be found at his blog http://almost-chosen.blogspot.com
Pieces Inspired by this Image
'Feeding the Imagination'
'The Pumpkin Man'
'Nothing But Dark'