Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pumpkin as Metaphor

“What would you rather have my friends

A chance to shine, or die here on the vine?

The better way seems very plain to me/

You will have eyes to see, and for that night, you’ll be

A bright lamp burning in the darkness”

- From “John’s Garden” Music and Lyrics by Peter Mayer

I took my eight-year-old daughter to her first real concert on Friday. Peter Mayer, a folksinger with incredible vocal and guitar skills, was the star and solo act. She and I sat enraptured while he worked his guitar-string magic, making cat’s cradles of the cat gut and tuning the instrument as finely as a mother might comb and braid her baby’s hair. Many of his songs are humorous and many contain moral queries and speculate on life’s big questions, such as “is it better to go big and flame out or slowly fade away?”

The song above, “John’s Garden” addresses this question in a pumpkin patch on the eve of Halloween, when farmer John comes to tell the pumpkins that their lives will soon change forever. The big moment, the climax of their existence, is at hand and though it may be unfamiliar it will be glorious. When John leaves the pumpkins call a meeting and most are confused, scared and reluctant to become the jack-o-lanterns John has planned. One boldly speaks out and calls the promised eyes and candlelight a lie, a trap that will not be worth the sacrifice. Another counters with the verse I included, saying that their moment of glory will encompass splendor and vision (maybe even starlight!) and be worth any sacrifice.

On the way home I asked my daughter which were her favorite songs. “John’s Garden” was at the top of her list, and I asked her what she would decide if she were a pumpkin at Halloween. She quickly and decisively replied that she would want to die on the vine. Hmmm. She did not ask which option I would choose and I held my counsel, pondering instead her perspective. I asked why, and she said, “I don’t want to be carved.” Perhaps I would have answered the same way when I was her age, withholding my promise and potential from the mere thought of endings, of fading away, of bruising and carving.

Now, at what I hope is the midpoint of life, I tend to favor the road of the jack-o-lantern. I know life will carve me up (there are a few slices already), and if either original or reflected light burns within me, I’d opt to have it shine through the cracks. Hopefully the candle within is long and slow-burning as opposed to the short and stubby blackened nubs that we usually place in our carved pumpkins, but I have no wish to die slowly and peacefully on the vine. Who knows, if my jack-o-lantern self is not too bruised and blackened at the end of the party I might even be used in a pumpkin pie.

We will attend more concerts in the future, as I’m finding music an amazing way to connect and grow with my children. Philosophy and religion can be encompassed in music, as in poetry or stories, in such a manner that unfolds within rather than attacks on the face. How delightful it is to discover hidden treasures and questions together and to while away a peaceful Friday evening with friends and live music. Thank you, Peter!

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