Today I cooked one of the three Cinderella pumpkins I have stashed away in my boyfriend's makeshift "root cellar" (it's actually his pool shed) and am now up to my eyeballs in pumpkin puree. If you've never eaten one before, Cinderella pumpkins are delicious, and yield quite a bit of edible pumpkin goodness because of their enormous size. But this means that I did spend the better part of the day hacking up, steaming, peeling, mashing, cooling, and freezing orange goo, and the kitchen looked like I'd detonated the pumpkin instead of cooking it by the time I was finished. Two more things I accomplished today: 1. I saved the petals from a fading bouquet of red and yellow roses, and 2. I harvested the pine needles from the two boughs I had put aside from our Yule/Christmas tree. Both the needles and rose petals need to dry out further, and then can be used for a variety of things, from incense or potpourri ingredients to spell components to craft supplies (such as candles or handmade paper.)
Technically all of these activities qualify as "chores." And yet, because of their nature, I don't mind doing them one bit. I'm big on the idea of recycling and of using every part of something, as people did in the past, and the idea of getting all this extra mileage out of stuff that would normally be thrown away is a theme that will be repeated often in this blog. I've made arts and crafts for years out of things like packaging and worn out clothes, and I'm still discovering new ways to recycle all the time, often using other people's trash. We are, unfortunately, very wasteful in our culture; the majority of us have not been taught how to get the most out of all the things that we consume, and this shows in the fact that we've become a "throw-away society." I think this is (at least in part) because the economy of the U.S. is built upon capitalism, and in order for capitalism to thrive, there has to be a steady increase of consumerism. Which is why so many things these days are considered disposable, even when they are not intended to be, like electronics. Almost nobody gets a DVD player repaired when it's cheaper and easier to just go buy a new one.
The same goes for things like pumpkins: we all throw out our jack-o-lanterns after Samhain/Halloween, and then buy canned pumpkin puree in the supermarket come Thanksgiving. Seems kind of silly when you think about it. I do realize that there is a lot of time and labor saved if you buy canned puree, but what about all the waste? I got my Cinderella pumpkins for free because it was the first week of Novemember and they were on their way to the dumpster. Now they are being turned into food instead! And really just about any pumpkin is edible, including Howden pumpkins, the kind that are the most commonly used for carving. The only bummer about cooking a jack-o-lantern is that you have to do it literally the next day. Pumpkins will keep for months if kept whole (as I'm discovering with mine) but once you slice into one, it won't be good to eat for more than a day or two, tops. So this is something to consider.
However, gathering the pine needles and rose petals is not just about keeping these things from going to waste. Consider the magical connection I will have to whatever will be made from them! As a Pagan and a Witch, this is the best reason of all to recycle: the things we have used have been invested with our energies, and some pretty powerful magic can be made this way. Besides, I just love the idea of knowing that the incense burning on my altar used to be my Yule tree, or that the handmade paper I'm writing a note to my boyfriend on contains bits of rose petal from the bouquet he bought for me. This kind of transfiguration is surely magical all by itself.