young girl in front of saucer Magnolia Tree

A Letter From A Poor Old Widow In Her Weeds

This was actually a no-no, but remember once I went to work with ol’Rodger the Dodger, on the train, from London to central Detroit. The trains go through the scary tunnel that runs underneath the river.

So, here I am on this freight train barrelling down the track towards an opening that as we quickly approach does not look like we’ll fit… he laughed and smugly grabbed me in a hug at the centre of the train so the sensor cameras wouldn’t pick up an extra person.

Like I said, I wasn’t supposed to be there. The border has these sensors trained at the edge of the locomotive, to pick up those either sneaking over to the U.S., or the other way illegally. The cameras didn’t reach as far as the centre, so you could stand there in the middle of the engine and not be seen.

Anywho, once on the other side, in the U.S., coming in to the rail yard, right at the outer edges of the worst parts of Detroit, garbage lined the chain-link fence in a huge swath along the tracks. Backing on to the tracks where burnt husks and ragged shacks, still standing amongst the obvious life going on around them, for I could see out on the street cars going by, people walking down the sidewalk, going about their day. Some houses would have been condemned in Canada, but stills signs of life revealed in fact someone, or someones, lived in some of the worst places I have ever seen.

Burnt husk, burnt husk, decrepit shack, burnt husk, decrepit shack, burnt husk, yet then almost by magic there would appear this lovely garden, with flowers everywhere, and you could see that someone took great pride in their plot of land, such as it was, it was their oasis from the very real storm ‘out there’.

These rare homes seemed as gems, like fine rubies, emeralds amongst the abject poverty that lined the railroad tracks in Detroit, Michigan, right there at the northern edge of America. This would have been the late years of the 90s.

Yet, still, the divine spirit some have to grow, to plant, to seed, to feel the dirt underneath their fingernails. That desire to create something up from bare earth with your own hands is beautiful, refreshing, and lovely to sit amongst on a sunny day, ignoring all that which lies outside their garden gate, outside our domain of influence… this place they have, to re-energize our soul.

Maybe coming from a long line of gardeners, mom, maybe that’s why it resonated, etched a memory, and that fragile sense of hope, that even amongst the ashes we may thrive.

Mid-Victorian c1850s Farmhouse
Homestead in late 40s, maybe early 50s.

I’ve seen photos grandma took, of the homestead, of the remnants from Great Great Aunt Jens creations, of teasing rambling roses up those tall trellis’ that once mirrored one another on the front lawn. That mound out the side door with the Snow-on-the-mountain you used to call “The Elephant Poop” was one of the last remains of her garden. And you can just see some of those trellis that she’d had all around the front of the house in that photo she took.

Oh, how I would love to go back in time and walk amongst that garden back in her day… to walk underneath those fragrant rambling old Victorian Roses, drinking tea with her on the terrace.

I have some ferns from the homestead, alas those fragile Victorian Ladies struggle here in my shady North facing nook, without the benefit of the outhouse with a century of our ancestral shite to grow in.

Yes mom, truth is, that is the only answer I have for why those ferns thrive underneath those old Norway Spruce on the North side of the house, spreading out in a huge swirl around where the outhouse used to stand.

I guess they are called Ostrich Ferns, and they need to have their feet wet always. In the spring they are beautiful, the plummy fronds swaying in the spring shade. Yet, by summers heat they wither and begin to fade, and I have to make sure they stay wet and cozy here in my little garden between.

I have faith though, once they get established they may just thrive, and with every year more and more of the Creeping Jenny creeps farther, and soon they will scramble over and around, and their roots will be more shaded.

You, Great Aunt Jen and I were the perennial flower gardeners, grandma was the practical one, and she had instead her veggie garden. I never really have had the place for quite sometime for a veggie garden, and there is little to no sun where I am now.

I do have Oregano out front, with some Chives. Had some of the new chives actually on my potatoes the other night.

And I have a Basil plant here inside in my nook I kept over from last year, I chop it up and use it fresh in pasta. I have a grow light on it, or otherwise it would be all spindly from lack of sunshine.

This spring I’m going to get a couple other pots of something, maybe bring in a piece of the Oregano and Chives, and grow some Parsley to winter over for an instead herb garden.

That is probably something good that may come from this, I think it may encourage people to work on that green thumb… grow that veggie garden they always planned on, and enjoy the fruits of ones own labour.

Anywho, guess I’m just a poor old Widow in her weeds… and joyfully so… a wonderful inheritance from ya’ll.

Thank you. I am blessed.


“A poor old Widow in her weeds
Sowed her garden with wild-flower seeds;
Not too shallow, and not too deep,
And down came April — drip — drip — drip.
Up shone May, like gold, and soon
Green as an arbour grew leafy June.
And now all summer she sits and sews
Where willow herb, comfrey, bugloss blows,
Teasle and pansy, meadowsweet,
Campion, toadflax, and rough hawksbit;
Brown bee orchis, and Peals of Bells;
Clover, burnet, and thyme she smells;
Like Oberon’s meadows her garden is
Drowsy from dawn to dusk with bees.
Weeps she never, but sometimes sighs,
And peeps at her garden with bright brown eyes;
And all she has is all she needs —
A poor Old Widow in her weeds.”
― Walter de la Mare, Peacock Pie

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