Monday, April 14, 2008



“What is that she has tucked in her sock?” I wondered.

She was a big woman. She was sitting in an armchair in the café at Border’s, reading a Rick Steve’s travel guide of London. If she got out of the chair, she probably stood 5’ 8”. She wasn’t fat, she was what I’d call sturdy.

She was probably closer to my age – in her sixties. Her face was lined along the jowl, belying the short, curly brown hair that didn’t have a single streak of gray in it. Dyed, maybe.

She had the look of a woman who was self contained, forceful, knew what she was about. She was unconcerned that she was in public, often looked out the window on the other side of the room and commented with her companion on whatever it was they were seeing, the two of them observing as though unobserved themselves. If they knew I was taking notes on what I saw in them, they didn’t show it. The woman had the bearing of someone who would have a small dagger tucked in the top of her no-nonsense sock.

She wore a pea soup green wool jacket over a v necked red wool sweater, black jeans, black boot shoes, the kind of boot that ends at the ankle, and ankle socks in wide bands of black and gray.

As she sat with her feet planted on the floor, there was a gap between the hem of her jeans and the top of her sock. There, poking out of the outside of her right sock, nearest me, was something with a thin, silver metal edge. What was it? A change purse? A tiny dagger? There was no way to know. I could only guess.

But wait – what was that peeking out from under the hem of her jeans? A tattoo! Not one of those really old ones that has faded to shades of washed out blue. This one still had some vibrancy left to the reds in the design. So, not a remnant of college from forty years ago. One more bit of evidence of a woman who made her own choices based on what she wanted for herself. I could not make out the design. It was only the end of a decorative curve.

There she sat in Borders, reading a tour guide, comfortably resting one hand on her thigh, the other with a finger marking her place in the drooping book, while she and her friend, gazed purposefully out the window, making occasional observations. A woman not to be messed with, who sported a tattoo, and a secret of silver tucked in her sock.


Man and woman each
created in the image and likeness of God.
The creation found by God to be good
becomes, to man, something spoiled,
something soiled.
The belief becomes law.
The fall is required.
The Demon owns our souls.
Only blood, the blood of the spotless one,
will satisfy Him.
The belief is required.
The atonement becomes law.
The man who loved
beyond law
beyond requirement
becomes divine.
The Deity/Man becomes law.
The belief is required.

What if –
God still sees creation good,
man unsoiled,
even by our worst sins
against God, and creation, and
one another.
What if –
there is, really, nothing that
can separate us from the love
of God.
Not tough love.
Suffering love,
that will not punish
but instead, raise us from the dead,
from the death we wish on ourselves,
on one another.
What if –
there is no vengeance
there is no judgment
there is only justice,
and mercy,
and their Name is Love.

But no –
that can’t be.
The evil must suffer
for the suffering they cause.
But who of us has not caused suffering?
Who, then, can escape this justice,
an eye for an eye?

Even the spotless one
was held accountable by the law,
to the law,
and he broke it to pieces,
shattered the gates of Hell,
set everyone free,
made that place uninhabitable,
even for the Demon,
who now has no home,
no place to hold our souls in thrall.
We are set free even before we are born.

And still we are afraid –
what if it is not true?
(Thursday, February 21, 2008)


The gardens are no longer fallow, at least two of them aren’t. In the front garden, in a corner of the yard, against the fence, I planted a hydrangea.

This hydrangea is a homage to one I left behind in Pennsylvania. We had gone to Pennsylvania to help Jesus raise a dying congregation from the dead. We arrived on Easter weekend. I bought a potted white hydrangea from a garden stand near the church. I was very happy to be in that place, called to serve that tiny congregation.

I placed the hydrangea on the front porch of the rectory, which itself stood in the front yard of the church, to the left of it, down a little hill, under a tall maple tree. I remembered to water the hydrangea a few times. But I soon forgot. The next time I remembered the plant, it had dried up. I watered it again, hoping maybe it was still alive under the dirt, but no, it was well and truly dead.

I’ve never been able to throw dead plants in the garbage. This one I dropped, pot and all, into a shallow well made in front of one of the backyard basement windows, and I forgot it.

May was rainy. I think it rained every day in May that year. Eventually the weather broke. I was in the back yard on a sunny day when something green caught the corner of my eye, in a place where there should be nothing growing. I looked, and it was the hydrangea. Its leaves were big, and green, and lush, and I’ll be damned, that plant was alive!

When the ground was able to be dug up, I planted that hydrangea in the center of the garden. The next spring, it bloomed, big white blooms. I left it behind, when the church closed and Newlin and I moved to Connecticut to serve another church. For all I know, it’s still there in the middle of what was once my garden. A white hydrangea.

The hydrangea in our current front yard is blue. I planted pansies around it, and I sowed larkspur seeds to take over when the pansies are gone.

In the back yard, where last year there were zinnias, I planted out two kinds of lettuce seedlings, and seeded in rocket (arugula) and radishes. I have herb plants to go in that patch when it gets warmer – thyme, and two rosemary plants to replace the one that died over the winter. There will also be a compact bush cucumber, a jalapeno plant or two, maybe some other peppers, and some big, Italian borlotto beans – yum! But no tomatoes this year. I still can’t stand tomatoes, post chemo. (If IT reads this, maybe she can explain?)

Against the fence, there will be nasturtiums. In the cracks of the walk, I'll tuck in creeping thyme.

Lest you think I have forgotten the zinnias, they will be in the garden along the driveway. Just zinnias. Nothing else. A narrow, long plot that will make it easier for me to get to the blooms for cutting.

Before things start to take off in the gardens, I hope to find out how to post photos so you can see for yourself. But maybe, just maybe you can let your imagination paint pictures of gardens on the walls of your mind. Maybe that will be better than any photos I might post in the weeks to come.

Christ is risen; Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Jeffri Harre said...

I have been thinking about my own "garden" this Spring. Last year's container garden in my back window didn't fare very well, especially when I had to travel. And we're not allowed to put plants in containers outside. However, at work, one of my new colleagues has filled her cubicle with plants, and the colleague between the two of us has a growing number of plants. I have one. But I've been thinking. I could take in a three or four pots of herbs and put them in my cubicle. I'll spend more time with them at work, and my colleagues will watch them and take care of them when I travel. More than that, we are creating an oasis of green in our workplace.

Lois Keen said...

Oh great idea, Jeffri! Gives a whole new definition to "going green". Now let me see - where can I start a "greenery" in the church, which is where I spend most of my time?

Carole said...

I am reminded of a plant I had many years ago. I have a black thumb, plants that thrive for others drop dead for me. My husband has the green thumb in the family. Anyway, this little philodendron withered away and there the empty pot sat on my window sill. I couldn't bear to throw it out and a year later I noticed the plant re-emerging. It was such a miracle to me.
Your story of the hawk comes to mind and I have to say they are most beautiful. However, the eagle has it beat. The Bible says we will be lifted up on eagle's wings and after seeing one in flight I can see that happening. We had some eagles nesting near where we lived in MD, we have 2 pairs of bald eagles nesting in our community. They are so beautiful. It is like God is reminding me of that Bible passage each time I see them.

LoisKeen said...

Just for Carole, Newlin, my life partner, has just returned from a photo shoot at Pocono Raceway, where he got a whole bunch of photos of two bald eagles - really good photos! Now, Jeffri, all we have to do is figure out how to get one or two of them onto this blog. I think I'll leave that to you and Newlin.