Wild Branches, Trifecta

Published on 2 February 2024 at 18:02

Medium: Watercolor on paper

Date:  2008


On our Iowa farm we had a lane marked by old pine trees. Mom had once had tree houses in them where she could sit and read.  On this night, Halloween, when I was aged three and my brother aged five, we walked with our mother down the lane. In the pale evening light, I could see the faces and bodies of animals and birds. We walked over the gravel road and into the ditch.  The ditch was full of dried thistles and those awful very sticky cockle burrs. 

Two pheasants jumped out of these low weeds and flew down the road in the dim light.  Mom had a flashlight which my brother carried and focused on the black big clouds of earth from the field plowed recently full of the stubble of corn    stocks all dried and bristly.  We struggled over this plowed field for about half a mile. 

Mom carried a big pumpkin.  I saw cut into the face of the pumpkin were two eyes, a nose, and a mouth with teeth.  We came out of the stubble and earth clod field to a place with much higher weeds, some higher than me, and then after that with the flashlight I could see the flat area of chicken pasture and up to a house. 

From the window of the house came a light. Past the kitchen curtains was a woman that I knew.  It was Mrs. Gamalgarde our neighbor.  We did not usually cross the fields to get to her house. We usually went in our car. And Mrs. Gamalgarde visited our house, too.  Something tonight was different.  Mom set the pumpkin down and got out a big candle. 

There was a place for the candle carved into the bottom of the pumpkin.  She took out a very long match and reached up into the pumpkin’s mouth past the three teeth.  She took her hands back out again.  Seeing a stone nearby she scratched the match.  It lit and she put her long fingers back into the pumpkin’s mouth and lit the candle. I could see the face really well; it was kind of a scary face. 

Mom held the pumpkin up to the window.  Mrs. Gamalgarde screamed, threw her arms into the air, and ran from the room.  Mom chuckled.  My brother smiled.  I was just a witness. 

Then we went over to the kitchen door and knocked.  The lady came out and laughed with my mom.  She invited us into the house.  She had hot cocoa on the stove. 

We sat at the table and drank cocoa.  Mom and the lady were happy to be together. 

They remembered past Halloweens.  This was my first Halloween.  

What really stayed in my mind were the bare gnarled branches of the old pine trees along our lane. In the areas between the branches, I had seen faces and bodies of animals and birds in the pale evening light. I compared my visions with that unexpected face on the pumpkin.  I was satisfied that I could make faces, too.  

Then our dad came with the car to take us home.  

It was a special night. This art piece is a testament of its magic. 

It still lingers with the familiar warmth up to this day 


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