Have you taken a hayride or picked a pumpkin this Autumn? If not, I implore you: please do not bypass this important American Ritual this Fall.
The harvest is here, and we have work to do. There is decorative corn and lumpy gourds to arrange, while the hot whiskey cider is brewing on the stove. Forget all the Halloween stuff that comes at the end of the month – there’s plenty of advice on how to bob for apples and do your make-up like a sexy kitten. What we should really be focusing on is the soul-enriching harvest rituals of our forefathers and mothers.
This weekend I participated in aforementioned rituals. We drove out in bumper to bumper traffic to the nearest rural island just to participate in America’s finest rural mythology. We rode an exhaust-puffing tractor between a parking lot and corn “maize” in order to pick our pumpkins on the far lot. Side Note: Does it occur to anyone else that the REAL corn maze is America’s monolithic agribusiness policies that happen to be dominated by the production and distribution of corn, making it difficult for farmers to thrive on growing any other product? Kind of makes the corn maize feel like a cruel joke, doesn’t it?
Anyway we came back, pumpkins in lap, to sit on hay barrels while we watched the children ride sad little ponies in a circle next to the corn maize. We also spent about a half an hour in line waiting for hot cider that was probably pressed somewhere in Washington. Why was this so satisfying? For me, it undoubtedly filled a gap in my hedonistic fast-paced urban lifestyle.
The collective genius of OK Cupid suggests my pastoral pangs are not uncommon. They did a trend report on the users of their dating site and found that the vast majority of white users (particularly women) identified with the hallmarks of America’s heartland:
“[It's] amazing the extent to which their list shows a pastoral or rural self-mythology: bonfires, boating, horseback riding, thunderstorms. I remind you that OkCupid’s user base is almost all in large cities, where to one degree or another, if you find yourself doing much of any of these things, civilization has come to an end.”
200 years after settlement and white Americans are still convinced they are homesteading cowboys and country girls. We carry these identities around in our pockets while we ride the subways and sit in cubicles all day long listening to Keith Urban on the ipod. Side note: Keith Urban? Also cruel irony??
Other cultures must have their own parallel cultural mythologies, ideals about the characteristics of an upstanding countryman. American Rituals may not be as deep-rooted but they still have their charms – growing pumpkins so big they explode, for example, is one emerging harvest-time ritual that seems to embody a uniquely American philosophy. We also do this with pigs at the State Fair, which seems more untoward. I can’t explain it all, but I do hope that years from now my future ducklings will be as excited as I was as a grown adult to ride en-masse on tractors to the nearest pumpkin patch.