|No, that's not a pee stain...just a humorous coincidence|
So in the interest of not repeating the gooey mess of last year, I'm being proactive and throwing them out today.
Jack o'lanterns have a lot to teach us about impermanence. They're almost like a Western version of the Tibetan sand mandalas or the Hindu butter sculptures. They are one of the more noticeable of the temporary holiday decorations left in our plasticize everything commercialized holiday culture.
The Christmas tree used to be another example. We go out and chop one down (or buy one at a lot) and bring it into our homes to decorate. It stays for about a month before we undress it and toss it to the curb. Nowadays, many of us have shunned the "real thing" in favor of an artificial tree for various reasons.
But a Christmas tree is different than a jack o'lantern. The transformative process of the tree is decorative. With the jack o'lantern it's visceral. We cut into the juicy squash releasing that familiar aroma that traces back to childhood. We pull its guts out and toss them aside with a satisfying gloppy sound, juices squishing between our fingers. We draw a design, intricate or simple, on it's face and hack into its flesh like a sculptor into marble.
We make it.
A Christmas tree is a Christmas tree before you decorate it just as much as it is when it's decorated, but a jack o'lantern is just a pumpkin before it's carved so it creates a certain attachment.
Some people go all out, carving away just the opaque orange creating a cut glass effect. Others are more traditional and stab all the way through. Either way effort is expended on a work of art, a work of art whose life is limited.
Keeping this in mind presents us with a dilemma: work as hard as we can to make it perfect, or hack and slash to get it over with since it's practically trash already? Each is an extreme to avoid, but both must be kept in mind.
There's nothing wrong in taking pride in your work, in fact you should take pride in everything you do. If you're going to do something, you might as well do it to the best of your ability. But don't crave perfection, it is just a pumpkin after all. It's not going to be placed on a pedestal in some museum for generations to venerate and critique as the height of the Pumpkin Carving Movement. Hell, people in some places shoot the damn things out of home built artillery pieces.
What else can we learn from this humble Halloween tradition? Well, after the things said and done, I still have the seeds and guts as well as pictures. The memory of this year's pumpkins lives on in a delicious salty snack roasted in the oven. Last year's guts were pickled and have been sitting in the fridge waiting for me to enjoy them.
Though the jack o'lanterns are long gone they still exist in different ways just like everything else we've seen pass and everything that will pass in the future. Enjoy them while they last, existing in the moment.