In a few days, our hands will be in the slimy muck. Before we make our final choices, we will be talking with our friends and neighbors at grocery stores or a farmers market in town. Although it is often difficult for us to reach consensus, many people agree that it is a mess. Some people even refuse to participate in the ritual.
Our decisions may be informed by what others will do. It might be based on habit or even fear and superstition. Although many of us are enthusiastic about this ritual — putting signs or decorations on our houses or cars — this time around seems a little different.
As we make our final decision, we might pick something that has a strange orange complexion. We might make a selection that is far from perfect — blemished on the outside and perhaps rotten on the inside. We have to be careful. We could make an artificial choice that is plastic and unnatural. We could go with an unconventional choice. But that seems like a wasted opportunity just to make a statement. A household may agree on what they want to do, or it may be a contentious decision. The final choice could even be a source of bitter division.
For this task, we might be using sharp, pointed instruments. Therefore we have to be careful not to hurt ourselves or someone else. I suggest using a newspaper in order to keep the slop to a minimum. Sometimes, we look online for more ideas. Or we watch television for guidance from so-called experts.
But there is no way around it. Once we get started, we will have to shove our hands into the gloppy sludge. We will be up to our elbows in the gross, wet, sticky mess. After it is all over, we will need to vigorously wash our hands with soap and warm water.
Despite all of our preparations and our hopes for the best, it never turns out quite how we expected. We have an ideal vision in our minds. We may have even put a pen to paper to plan a little bit. Despite our best efforts, it does not turn out that way we wanted.
Maybe a little bit of light will make it better. Yes, put a small light into the hollowness. We hope the light will bring us enlightenment and illumination. We want a strong light leading the way against the cold winds. But, too often, the glow is dim and disappointing. The dripping, decaying insides often extinguish the light.
After a few days, the results will begin to fester and smell. We will be exhausted by the ordeal. We will be ready to move on and will throw the rotting debris into the garbage. After every season, it is time to put away the scary and grotesque.
If this season does not turn out the way you wanted it to, do not worry. If you feel that, in retrospect, you have decided poorly, do not panic. In a short time, we will have another opportunity. When the season is over, we have to be satisfied with the results until the next time. That has been our tradition for hundreds of years. Of course I am writing about carving a pumpkin. What do you think I meant?
Aaron Miller is one of The Republic’s community columnists and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. He has a doctorate in history and is an associate professor of history at Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus. Send comments to [email protected].