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“Ma’am, you got a punkin growing over there?”

The man pointed to the tangle of vines and weeds growing under the scraggly limbs of a dogwood tree that stands to the side of my new home-to-be. He was doing some work for me and his boss had left to run an errand. We were biding our time.

“No, it’s not a pumpkin,” I said. It’s similar. I’ve heard it called Native Squash, or Seminole Squash. Full grown, they’re about the size of a pumpkin—a small to medium-sized one.”

“Taste kinda like a butternut squash?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “I grow them every year, but this year I’ve been too busy. I threw some kitchen scraps here in the spring—just to help out the tree—and some of the seeds sprouted. I don’t think I’ll get any squash, though. Weather’s been too hot and dry.”

“Ma’am, it’s already making some squash. Look, right there,” he said and pointed. “There’s two of ‘em.”

“Oh, my,” I said. “You’re right!”

There, buried under the confusion of a season’s growth were two tiny squash, shaped like small, green light bulbs, showing all the promise in the world.

I have grown these squash for several years, using the prior year’s seeds for my new harvest. Some of the squash—hardy little souls—can last several months with no refrigeration; so, even in the wintertime, I’m able to savor the sweet, orange flesh. This year I lamented that I’d miss the luscious meals, and, worse, have no seeds for next spring.

In April, once I’d spotted the determined little vine growing out of the small mass of kitchen scraps, I’d been diligent in keeping it watered. Still, I wondered: How will this plant produce anything—competing with tree roots, growing on next to nothing, strangling in the heat?

It was late August when the tiny bulbs appeared. It is October as I snap this picture. The squash is about six inches in diameter—a very small specimen—and I’ll pick it soon. It’s a small harvest, but a harvest, nonetheless.

It’s amazing, it really is, what can come from next to nothing.


Today I had hoped to finish several projects, to muscle my way through the day. Only some of that work was accomplished. What mattered most happened in a speck of time and can’t be measured with a ruler.

This afternoon I spread myself too thin—working on a small carpentry project, making a squash and onion casserole, painting a door jam, making blueberry muffins, preparing to wash the back deck, and rearranging the stacks of paperwork on my dining room table. Having my mind on too much at once, I bumped into something on my kitchen counter that bumped into a plastic tub piled high with vegetable scraps for my compost.

The tub took a dive and, onto some of my painting supplies, carpentry tools, and the floor went slivers from the squash, skins from the onion, red apple peelings from breakfast, innards from the green peppers I put on my pizza last night, and avacado skin from the guacamole I’d made the day before.

For a moment, I started to rise up, to let fly a curse word or two. Quick tempered, accustomed to storming and stewing, I stopped. As if a tiny cog in the machinery of my madness had broken. I managed to be still in my mind and quiet in my body, picking up the scraps before the dog discovered the mess.

It was a tiny cog of unknown dimensions, its absence cause for quiet jubilation.

We celebrate what we can.

Ellen Hamilton