The Joy of Pumpkins

Posted in #AgeWell

Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center

Breath of Fresh Air 02It’s been a rough few weeks. Between election turmoil, COVID numbers surging, weather challenges, and an isolated holiday season, where can we turn for comfort and joy? I turn to pumpkins.

There is something delightfully warm and silly about pumpkins; even the name is hard to say without a smile. They can be comic (or comically scary) at Halloween or be the stately centerpiece of a fall cornucopia. They make yummy eating too; from pumpkin soup to pumpkin pie, cooking with pumpkin fills the house with comfortable warmth and enticing smells (Pumpkin Spice, anyone?).

I am now discovering that pumpkins can also bring sense of hope and joy. Bear with me here while I explain.

A year or two ago, we had a “volunteer” pumpkin vine start in an empty planter in the backyard. My best guess is that an ambitious squirrel had buried a half-eaten small pumpkin (the kind that local real estate agents leave on doorsteps). It produced one flower and a small, hard, inedible pumpkin.

As I was chopping up a pumpkin for soup a bunch of weeks ago, I remembered how the rogue pumpkin grew without any help from me, so I decided to experiment with planting pumpkin seeds of my own. We have a narrow stretch of flower bed along the side of the house by the driveway. In the 50+ years we’ve lived in this house I never remember anything growing there except weeds. After I watered it well and pulled up the weeds, I dumped the fresh pumpkin innards there and loosely covered them over with dirt. There was nothing scientific – or even realistic – about this approach to vegetable gardening.

Imagine my surprise, when almost immediately sprouts began to show. And more sprouts, and more, and more. It was as if every single seed had taken hold. Yikes! So I spent about a week, going out each morning and thinning the seedlings to what looked like a reasonable amount. And they kept growing. Very fast. Within a few weeks, they had grown exponentially in size, putting out leaves and forming buds. It was pure joy to come out one morning last week and see the first of the yellow flowers had opened.

Every morning I go out and check on my pumpkin vines. I spend a few minutes weeding, watering, and clipping off old leaves. It is a hopeful thing, watching the vines grow and flower. It doesn’t matter if pumpkins actually materialize, and even if they do, I don’t really expect they will be edible. What really matters, is I have something to look forward to at the start of every day. I’m eager to see what changes have happened in 24 hours, and how it looks different each day. I’ve turned a barren and forgotten spot of dirt into a place of joy. What fun! There may be hope for me as a gardener yet.