The strange faces of carved pumpkins greet me at doorsteps. Wide toothy grins, or grimaces, o’s of surprise or intimidation. Faces carved into these front porch orange moon fruits. Lights flickering inside to welcome in good spirits or scare away bad ones. The ones carved last week have already begun to wilt—their mouths sunken and toothless, their eyes melting at strange angles like parts of a Salvador Dali painting.
All my life I’ve loved pumpkins—for their color, their heft, and for their association with the holiday of disguises, mystery, and free candy. I love the way that heavy orb so easily gives to hollowing. The seeds easy to scoop out, the cavern inside growing with each pass of a scoop. And all this work to make way for a face and a flickering candle. A few strokes of the knife are all we need to form a connection with this beautiful squash—to feel somehow that we now understand the jack-o-lantern in a way we did not when it was simply the blank orange pumpkin. We remove the vegetable string and seeds of the thing and then carve it into our own image—finally putting a light in the head in hopes perhaps of imparting a good idea along with that new and strangely grinning face. Or like Dr. Frankenstein perhaps we hope to impart a little life to our new creation.