Frost on the pumpkin is a reminder it's time to forgive
By Richelle Sampl / Guest Columnist
CASHIERS-HIGHLANDS PLATEAU -- Some of our folks here on the plateau may have experienced some frost already this October. There certainly have been some widely fluctuating temperatures lately. As a newbie back here in southern Jackson County, I’m remembering rather quickly that I need to “dress like a Girl Scout” – in layers – so I can peel off layers or layer on layers according to the whim of Mother Nature during any given hour.
Like many of my fellow fall fanatics, I bought my traditional pumpkin or two and ceremoniously placed them on the front porch steps as my celebration of the autumn season. Then I heard about the potential early morning frosts in the forecasts lately, and a phrase that I had not thought about for quite some time popped back into my head: “When the frost is on the pumpkin.” I couldn’t remember if I ever heard where that phrase came from and what it’s supposed to mean. Of course, I assumed it refers to the cycle of autumn turning into winter, but I wondered if there was more to it than that.
I did a little research on the matter and found a great old country poem by James Whitcomb Riley entitled, “When the Frost is on the ‘Punkin.’” In all of its local color and dialect, this poem sings of the sights and sounds and symbols of a farm during the autumn. It’s a living picture in words and rhyme of farm life during the changing season and the work of the farmer and his wife.
This week, however, I just couldn’t get that picture of frost on the pumpkin out of my mind. It seems that in addition to a folksy poem about autumn farm life of yesteryear, this little phrase and picture painted in our minds of a pumpkin with frost on top might have an additional meaning for us today.
As I see pumpkins literally everywhere around town, the sight reminds me that the fall and winter holiday line-up is almost upon us. Many times, those special days tend to just blend together and overlap. I was in a store last week where there was an aisle of fall and Thanksgiving decorations, and the next aisle contained all Christmas decorations, followed by yet another aisle of Halloween decorations! There’s no real separation of these special days anymore, I’m afraid.
For most of us, the pumpkins, along with all the special flavors of deserts, coffees, and candies – pumpkin spice, caramel apple, gingerbread, peppermint, and eggnog – remind us of home, homey settings, and reuniting with family and friends. But then there’s that frost – icy, crystalized, covering the beautiful orange color of the pumpkin. And if there’s a freeze, that plump pumpkin can quickly rot and decay.
I wonder how many of us might have frost on our pumpkins – family or friends with whom we have become estranged or there’s been a “falling out” or the relationship has become, well, frosty or even frozen. Might the idea of the frost on the pumpkin be a reminder to us all to do our part to help thaw those relationships that have become frigid? Might the frost on the pumpkin be a reminder that our Lord, who is always so gracious to forgive us asks us to do the same for others? The Word of God tells us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). Perhaps that frost on the pumpkin may just be the best holiday reminder to us to make this fall and all its wonderful festivities be the best year ever by making it a time of forgiveness and love for all!
(The Rev. Dr. Richelle Sampl is the pastor of Cashiers United Methodist Church. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)