I am sitting here with a blank screen that awaits the words that will form the story of my latest 40 before 40 adventure. It’s early on Saturday morning (early for me anyway… 7:30am) and the windows in my office are wide open. There is no breeze, just incredibly humid, sticky air that amplifies the screams of the cicadas — a dull roar that is only interrupted by the occasional screech from a blue jay that has found the feeder on our porch. As I was making my cup of coffee a few minutes ago, I watched a mother deer and her still speckled fawn graze in our yard.
I feel so lucky to have landed here, in a church house, on a gorgeous plot of land surrounded by a state forest that so many call home.
It’s easy to take this all for granted. It’s so quiet and beautiful so much of the time. But then something like a baby pumpkin comes along, and I fall in love with our home all over again.
You see, for a decade, I’ve had a dream. That dream is to grow a pumpkin so massive that it takes an army of friends to transport it to the state fair so I can collect my grand prize ribbon.
This dream began in 2006, in California, where our apartment porch held several pots of pumpkin plants that we would cultivate through the year. Unfortunately, a team of raccoons ensured the little seedlings never made it beyond the top of the soil. (There is one story that we love to tell that involves Scott chasing a mama and her three babies away with a Swiffer at 3am.)
When we moved to the Finger Lakes four years later, our apartment had actual land. We built raised gardens and purchased expensive pumpkin starts and high-end fertilizers. For five years, we cultivated the heck out of that little pumpkin patch.
And yet, we grew nothing.
Well, that’s not entirely true. We grew gorgeous pumpkin vines with incredible pumpkin flowers. But even despite my efforts to inseminate the flowers with a Q-tip, we could get no actual vegetables to grow. Including the locust I used to build the beds, I probably spent $300 on that garden. For nothing.
This year, in mid-May, I was standing in line at Home Depot when I saw a packet of pumpkin seeds on a rack. I chucked them in my basket, and then when I got home, I chucked them in the one garden bed I’d had time to prepare.
I forgot about the pumpkin seeds. The garden bed was soon overgrown with weeds. We have waaaaaaaay too much going on with the house to think about tending a garden.
And then July happened. Our life flipped upside down. My parents stayed with us for a couple weeks. We were running back and forth to the hospital daily. It was everything we could do to keep the front lawn mowed. I didn’t even visit the section of the yard with the garden.
Then, about a week ago, I was beating back some weeds that were starting to encroach on the compost bin. I looked over at the garden. The pumpkin vines were so large that they had collapsed a portion of our fence. I looked more carefully and under a pile of plastic fencing, I saw a teeny tiny pumpkin baby.
There were loud screechy noises coming from my face before I even realized what was happening.
Listen, I get it. It’s mid-August. My chances of this becoming a state-fair award-winning pumpkin by Labor Day are perhaps a bit slim. But I don’t care. I have already won.
The church house has taught us a lot, and this is only its most recent lesson : let go. Let nature do its thing. Even if a woodland creature comes along tomorrow and chomps it off its stem, this is progress. This is more than I’ve ever done before.
Magic is out there, and dreams can come true. As long as you modify those dreams sometimes.
Here’s the pumpkin as of two nights ago:
And as I was snapping that photo, I noticed this:
Thank you, church house. Thank you.