Sometime either tonight or tomorrow, we are due for some snow. The massive cold front that has wreaked havoc on the western U.S. is moving east. When it finally hits, the garden will transform from a muddy mess into a winter wonderland. But this transformation is an illusion. Underneath all that pretty snow, the muddy mess remains. The real transformation is a deeper, slower, and more hidden process It doesn’t happen overnight, and it isn’t nearly as sparkly-shiny.
In my backyard is the vegetable garden. Consisting of several raised beds that are home to my tomatoes and peppers every summer, they are mostly empty of growing things now (except for one last brave kale plant which may end up the subject of another blog entry).
In one of them sits our Halloween jack-o-lantern pumpkin. Or rather…what used to be our Halloween jack-o-lantern pumpkin. Right now it’s more like a slimy, icky orange-ish half-frozen blob. It’s on the way to becoming part of the soil in which next year’s tomatoes will grow. But it’s not soil yet. And it’s not really a pumpkin anymore either. It is in the in-between place.
It is becoming part of the soil. It is un-becoming its former pumpkin self. And it’s not particularly pretty.
People in transition can be like my rotting pumpkin. Undergoing a transformative, life-changing experience isn’t always a pretty thing either. We aren’t what we used to be. We aren’t yet what we will become. We are in-between, in that time-out-of-time liminal place where powerful changes take place. The changes we are experiencing might spill over into the lives of those around us as we lash out in frustration or despair. We may instead cocoon within ourselves, withdrawing from the world, not wanting to expose our rotting-pumpkin selves to harsh criticism from those who don’t understand.
I’ve gone through a few rotting-pumpkin transitions in my life. Un-becoming what you were, and becoming something else is not an easy process. You might be in the middle of such a time right now. If you are, know that you are not alone. Know that the Earth is journeying right along with you.
Next year, the soil underneath where the pumpkin sat will be especially fertile and rich. Something wonderful will grow there. The possibilities are endless.
Superficial changes (new hairstyle! new car!) can be like the pending snowfall: all sparkle and no substance. They might be visible to the casual observer, but underneath, nothing has really changed.
Life gives us both. Sparkling blizzard changes that fade in the heat of the sun, and deeper rotting pumpkin changes that transform our lives forever. Our task is to sort it all out, not confuse the two, and accept the gifts that come from both.
Rebecca Hecking keeps her mittens dry and her snow boots near the back door in her home in northwest Pennsylvania, USA. She is the author of The Sustainable Soul: Eco-Spiritual Reflections and Practices.