October 22, 2020


Clossie young 2Lottie

When first we met in summer
it seemed as though that fall would be her last,
one final Christmas if by strength.

But she from tough Kentucky stock
and hills that had withstood the mines and stills and feuds,
determined, spoke of other plans:

I’ll plant my flowers in spring,
outlast the winter and get out on my porch to sit
and see them bloom again.

I smiled and said I’d pray;
it couldn’t hurt to ask for such a simple thing.
And so I did

though folks like her quite seldom
get what they ask, for death sits at their shoulders
soon to drag them off.

Death did not know her well enough!
He took her husband, dog, and others too
but every spring she smiled.

For seven springs in fact
the flowers bloomed in beds and pots around her porch
and she, determined, carried on

While I kept praying year by year,
shaking my head to see that life could be so strong
and she so constant.

When death took her this winter
I’d like to think she finally just gave him permission,
determined to the end.

Perhaps she’d had a dream:
some Gardener calling out for help in spring
to tend his beds

and bring new color to his porch,
where he finds pleasure visiting with those
whose help comes from the hills.


  1. Hauntingly beautiful poem. Thank you.

  2. Usually I skip by poetry not being of such a mind, but this one caught me and drew me in. Wonderful!

  3. Made me think of my dad.

  4. thanks for sharing

  5. Beautiful! Thank you.

  6. Christiane says

    thank you, Chaplain Mike

  7. According to the story, Adam’s job was basically to tend the Garden, not for profit or his own pleasure so much as to provide a pleasant place for the Lord to come and walk in the cool of the evening. I have come to think of that as my own job, as best I am able at the tail end of my stay on the planet. My part of the Garden tends more toward trails cut thru field and back woods, so the walking part is covered. Come knock on my door and I’ll take you around.

    If it’s flowers the Lord wants to look at, other than those growing in the fields and meadows, He can sit on the back patio and enjoy the flower garden in front of him that came with the place. The woman who planted and took care of it brought flower seeds with her out of war torn Germany as a girl, and they are still doing their thing on their own, if a bit wild and bedraggled, much like me. She got too old to be able to take care of it any longer, but she still comes by from time to time to pick a bouquet and enjoy the view.

    • Christiane says

      our first house was the worst house in a better part of town . . . it had been a pre-fab made of metal with double outer walls between which there was some kind of filler for insulation, no dry wall . . . just wall paper over the metal interior . . . primitive? oh . . . but we were young, then . . .

      It was the garden that was memorable . . . two old ladies, sisters, had lived there originally and they had collected many varieties of camellias and azaleas which they planted around tall lob-lolly pine trees . . . I can’t tell you how beautiful it was, but not in the ‘neat’ cultured way of an immaculate yard . . . more in the way of a park with paths amidst the beauty of the place, with the occasional wooden bench, and one of those double-seated swings with a little roof overhead where my little ones were always happy to be

      I spent a lot of time in that garden with my two young children . . . good memories, those

  8. I write poetry. I wish I could write like that. Beautiful phrasing and crafting.

    • “I’d like to think she finally just gave him permission.”

      LOVE that line.

      • Christiane says

        sometimes the words of others resonate within us as though with a strange kind of recognition . . . I’ve always loved how Emerson explained this phenomenon:

        “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”
        (Ralph W. Emerson, ‘Self-Reliance’)

        • Nice.

          I was in a poetry group for years. Some of the phrasing and word combinations my friends used was a marvel.

  9. Here’s a paragraph from “Grace” by Peter Marty in the Recommended Reading links above:

    “Every effort to define grace runs the risk of missing the mark, although adding our oblique attempts together may hint at the oddity and wonder of grace. How inconvenient that Jesus never used the word himself. Had he so much as put the word grace into even a few sentences, we might be able to arrive at a more exact definition. But frustratingly, we have no record of him uttering the word. All we have are the events and actions of his life that, strangely enough, communicate grace as something better lived than talked or written about.”

    Marty is an ELCA pastor who writes a column monthly for the official ELCA Lutheran magazine. From his picture you might guess him to be your uncle the shoe salesman who lives alone and drives a twenty year old car. This essay on grace is the first I can remember that recognizes the concept of grace is slippery and not easily grasped, especially by that facile Evangelical definition of unmerited favor, which always irks me. A lot of the Lutheran explanations of grace irk me too. This guy pushes the boundaries of conventional Lutheranism right up front in their magazine every month. Not a radical, but apparently a thinker. From his picture, certainly in no danger of being taken for a hipster, but maybe . . . .

  10. Thank you, Mike.

  11. Beautiful and heartbreaking, Chaplain Mike. Thank you.

  12. Beautiful, Chaplain Mike. Thanks for honoring Lottie. It sounds like she was a remarkable woman.

  13. Thank you