Woman Feeding on Mountain Gourd

“Boy, did you know these are what we use for the sitars?” The woman says, pointing at the large gourd. “Here,” she picks it up, “and you can eat it, too.” She cracks into the hourglass shaped gourd with her knife, pulls it apart, and puts a small piece of flesh into the child’s mouth.

The child frowns. “Bitter, isn’t it?” she asks, nodding as permission for him to spit it out. “But it’s good to know you can eat it when you need to, and in good years you might use it to add flavor to a meal.”

She hands half of the gourd shell to the boy, “This is the important part. We dry it out, and use the chamber for the sitar.” She thumps her middle finger onto the gourd’s thick skin, “Do you hear that? It amplifies the sound.”

The boy fumbles with the gourd for a bit while the woman chews on the flesh. The sky opens up slightly, and snow starts to fall.

“Y’know,” she says, nudging the boy, with a smirk on her face, “when I was your age, we didn’t have snow. This entire area was a desert. The mountain we’re sitting on? Mostly short trees, the majority of which were blackened from all the fires.” The boys eyes widen as he looks around, trying to picture what the snow covered mountain looked like without the snow.

The woman gestures outward, biting into another piece of the gourd’s meat, “There are still places where it doesn’t snow like this,” she says. The boy’s face replies with a crinkle of confusion.

“It’s true,” she exclaims, “I’ve been to places where it’s so hot sometimes the crops die, and other places where the seasons seem to change on a whim.” She waits as the child works out the details. Coming as close as he’ll get to comprehension, he nods back with a sadness in his eyes.

“It’s silly, but,” she waits a few beats, deciding if she’s really go to say what she’s thinking. “Sometimes it’s nice to know it’s hard everywhere, not just for us.”

She smiles at the boy, thumps the gourd again, and stands up. The boy follows suit, and they continue up the mountain, packing the gourds into their bags as they go.