Saturday, November 15, 2014

Seeing the Good

I love pumpkins.
Maybe because I was born on Halloween, or the fact that this time of year gives license to making art from vegetables, putting on your fanciful and spooky, and even connecting to the souls who have crossed the veil before us.

Mr Mean

Or perhaps because I love food that you can grow and put in your basement after harvest and bring it up months later for a delicious meal. And that the seeds scooped from their fleshy nest hold the promise of next year's garden, waiting over the long winter to be planted again.

But there was an extra special pumpkin that arrived one fall in our early years of starting Magpie Ranch. It had been a decent year, with plenty of challenges. Mike was dividing his time between ecological site inventory work in Southeast Oregon and running the ranch. I held down the down the fort at home as best I could when he was gone.

Rangeland drill - restoring an old feedlot

We both felt stretched thin, trying to lay the foundation for a new enterprise, with so much infrastructure still to rebuild, fencing, corrals, water lines. And riparian areas that we hoped to help to recover from long use as winter feedlots.

That fall, a friend had gotten cancer and was fighting for his life. We organized a benefit dance, took extra time to stay in touch.

Waiting for 2 babies 

And two babies were waiting to be born in our extended family. I was far from the mothers, but made the special chord we all tied around our wrists or ankles, to hold them with us day and night until the babies had arrived.

When my birthday came along, Mike decided we should celebrate at the river. After many repairs, the house was finally livable enough to host a gathering. The afternoon of the party, we drove down into the canyon. As we approached the bridge crossing over to the house, I caught a glimpse of a small bright globe atop the rock abutment. How sweet I thought, someone's come down ahead and left a pumpkin to welcome us. Who could that have been?

Dancing with Pam

Soon our children and friends began to arrive. Did you bring the pumpkin I asked? None of them had.

I finally ran back across the bridge to get the pumpkin and bring it to the house for the festivities. That's when I realized, to my amazement, the pumpkin had actually grown there.

Sometime in spring, a seed had traveled more than seven miles downriver to be swept upon a gentle wave into the rocks of the abutment and left behind at the high water mark four feet above the ground. And just enough flotsam had washed up with the seed to keep it moist, let it germinate and nourish its roots atop the rocks. And just enough rain had fallen over the summer to keep it alive during the hundred degree days of July and August, when a single flower blossomed and then bore fruit. And no freezing frost had nipped either the tender shoot or the maturing fruit, so that there in a nest of withered vines sprawled across broken black basalt, one small pumpkin rested in it's fullness, having grown and filled itself with seeds and the promise of another year.

The Very Special Pumpkin

It's moments like that, years like that, stories like that, which help me remember to look for the good, to look for it and to see it. To marvel at it, and be glad.

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef