Creativity and carving pumpkins

A little girl finds the perfect pumpkin – but more important, she gets an introduction to the creative process.

One year I decided to get my Halloween pumpkin directly from the source – straight from the pumpkin patch. The farm I went to was large. Lots of children were there, pulling their parents along behind them. We were all searching for the perfect raw materials out of which to carve our annual jack-o'-lantern masterpieces, and it was hard work.

Along the way, I chatted with a little girl and her dad. The girl looked ready for an arduous journey – her backpack held a snack and a stuffed animal, to which she introduced to me. The dad looked as though he might be happier tossing around a football on that crisp fall day, but instead he was helping his budding sculptress in her endeavor to find the perfect pumpkin.

There are so many artistic elements to consider when choosing a pumpkin. There's size: Should the pumpkin be tiny, huge, or somewhere in between? Shape: Should it be a symmetrical globe, or a squashed-in oblong shape, for character? Texture: smooth or bumpy? (And could those bumps be used as part of the design?) Color: Some people like a golden hue, while others insist on intense orange.

There was much to decide. My acquaintances and I wished each other well, and then set off separately to select our pumpkins. It was a long, muddy process.

After I found what I wanted, I headed to the exit to pay for my pumpkin. The little girl and her dad soon joined the line behind me. As we waited, she explained the merits of the pumpkin they'd chosen. While she talked, I noticed that something was missing.

"Where's your backpack?" I asked.

She looked surprised for a moment, and then pointed to the fields behind us. "I left it out there," she said. Dad's shoulders slumped, and I knew why. The girl's backpack was orange.

That is when I realized that the dad knew more than I suspected about the difficulties of the creative process. It can take a long time to produce a satisfactory piece of artwork, and there may be a multitude of setbacks along the way. Sometimes we have to retrace our steps to make things right. They never show you this in the craft manuals, but it's true.

The way we deal with these problems can make our artwork richer and more humane. Dad seemed to know this. He gave a brave smile, then quietly asked the cashier to hold onto their pumpkin. He tenderly took his daughter's hand, and they set off to find her orange backpack among the acres of orange pumpkins.

I wonder how her jack-o'-lantern turned out that year. It was probably one of those smiling pumpkins. But more important was the girl's introduction to the creative process. Her dad's kindness and patience that day will shine in her memory long after Halloween is over.

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