This weekend, aside from a spot of rain on Saturday, was the perfect example of fall in New England. The sun shone through leaves of gold and auburn; a slight breeze blew along making it just cold enough for a light sweater; the Head of the Charles regatta enticed thousands of otherwise smart students to risk getting dumped in our murky river...and I got in touch with how much I love the humble gourd.
A gourd, for those of you who live in places where they don't appear outside the grocery store every October, is a hollow, dried shell of a fruit in the Cucurbitaceae family of plants of the genus Lagenaria. (Those Latin terms mean, essentially, "Not so good for eating.")
(The Gourds are also a country music group, but I'm not nearly so inclined to see those guys in a decorative pile on my dining room table.)
As I was food shopping yesterday. I passed row upon row of pumpkins, harvest corn trios, and dried stalks to tie on the front porch. I felt a stirring deep inside me, and realized, "I would like a gourd. Or perhaps three or five or twelve to place around the house as a tribute to the glory of fall." I tend to get a little grandiose in my decorating dreams around this time of year, and typically the ridiculousness of my thoughts--i.e. "A tribute to the glory of fall"--is inversely proportionate to the disappointment I'll feel when I realize a small pile of squash-like objects isn't much of a tribute. But hey, it's part of my creative process...
What I love about gourds is that they're bizarre--they look like something you'd find in the dumpster behind Harvard's science lab. People grow them, knowing full well that they have no purpose. The glory of the gourd is that it places almost no expectation on me as a consumer. I can buy one or ten or twenty, and everyone understands that all I'll be doing with them is decorating--I'll place them on shelves, in bowls, artfully tumbling down some stairs, perhaps. Eventually, I'll throw them away. There's no annoying recipe book at the checkout counter pressuring me to MAKE something of my gourds, like a pie or muffins or a tureen for soup. I don't need to crave it into some creepy face that will scare small children. The gourd is complete as is, with no reassembly required. I like that.
The sad thing is, there were no gourds to be had yesterday. All the good gourds ("good" being defined as bright orange or green or yellow, with a nice assortment of weird bumps and bulges) were gone. There were just a few scrubby ones in a anemic shade of yellow-ish, truly pitiful little fruits that failed to live up to the minimal gourd standard of looking interesting enough to take home.
Wandering forlornly back to my car after grabbing coffee and milk and cereal, I found myself singing the Counting Crow's version of that Joni Mitchell song:
Don't it always seem to go
that you don't know what you've got till it's gone?
They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.
(Ooo, sha la la la...)