In search of story

July 25.22: Coping, but barely


A garden in a kettle,

what enticement to know more;

no ordinary flowerpot

hints so of family lore.

Kettles are like aprons,

remnants, scraps and shreds

of kitchens gone to dust

except inside our heads.

Replaced by kitchen jewelry

gleaming, digitized,

its plump and stolid air

is yet unbowdlerized.

Something in its roundness

brings noodle dough to mind,

vegetable soup with barley,

doughnuts cinnamon-brined,

children up on tip-toe

to watch and sniff, content,

the world in proper order

as it was surely meant.

Today its storied depths

give rise to happy greenery,

rooted, like our memories,

in distant kitchen scenery.



More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to gardener and family preservationist D.J. Berg.


19 thoughts on “July 25.22: Coping, but barely

  1. Ahhhh, repurposing at its finest! My grandma and my mom had many old iron kettles, assorted pots and frying pans. They were well used too. As a kid it took all my strength to pick one up! These non-stick pots today have nothing on these old beauties, except for the weight.

    Over the years the “kettles” became unique flower pots. Especially for geraniums! And were the first ‘hanging’ planters I ever saw…but I was smart enough to never stand directly under one…just in case!

    Great poem Maureen. Happy Monday. Hope the heat there isn’t unbearable. It’s supposed to let up a little here starting tomorrow.

    • An iron kettle? Yikes. My mom had a cast iron frying pan (the official pan for corn bread), and that was the only one that needed two hands to lift. An iron kettle would require a whole football team to lift it! But you had many in your growing up years? The women in your family must have been forces to be reckoned with! And their kettles became flower pots too — hanging, no less. Yes, I’d agree that standing under one of those would be too risky. So I guess many kettles have been repurposed like this. I like it!

  2. Retirement for the kettle. Still sustaining life, but removed from the high heat and allowed to bask in the sun. My grandmother had so many retired pots and pans in and near her garden. I don’t think the woman owned a flower pot. I remember one pot that she used to fill her watering can from the barrel where she collected rain water.

    Thanks for your beautiful poem, Maureen and for making me think of long-ago days and the simple chore of gardening.

    I hope you have a wonderful week.

    • A wonderful week to you, too, Dan, with some respite from the heat. What a broiler we’re in! I like your way of putting it: removed from high heat and allowed to bask in the sun. Yes, a well-earned retirement. That’s a great image of your grandmother’s garden: no flowerpots but lots of pots and pans. Garden art most personal!

  3. You brought simpler but beautiful times to mind, and I thank you for those memories. My grandmother was such a good cook and baker that I don’t remember one thing I didn’t like. I slept in a small bedroom upstairs in the farm house, and there was a grate on the floor to allow heat to rise from the wood stove. That grate also allowed the smell of donuts being fried in lard to rise as well. No one had to call me to get up on the days, she made donuts. 🙂 I have a couple of odd plant containers outside, and I love them all. Thank you for getting my day off to a good start with a smile and a memory. Happy Monday, Maureen.

    • Oh, I love that image: the child you in the bed waking to the smell of doughnuts frying. What a moment of comfort and security. Don’t you wish we could go back just for one morning and wake up in our grandmas’ houses? Just one morning. It must have been wonderful, and I don’t doubt that no one had to call you to come down! Some plant containers tell great stories, don’t they?

      • I’ve gone through my attic a couple of times this spring, and one of my finds was a coal bucket that I used to store tools for the pellet stove. I spray painted it silver to match my stock tanks, drilled holes in the bottom for drainage, and it makes a good container for annuals.

      • Brilliant! I love the whole idea of using things with a story, especially a family story. And, as we’ve touched on before, there’s always a story in a garden. We sure grow memories there.

  4. This is so lovely, Maureen. I make our donuts now. Baked in a donut pan. Our ancestors would be horrified, I am sure. Dan’s phrase caught me, too– removed from the high heat and allowed to bask in the sun. That is such a wonderful thought. A pot in its retirement. It’s living the good life now.

    • Isn’t it interesting that kettles figure into our memories as they do! But allow me to express my shock and awe: you bake doughnuts? I had never heard of a doughnut pan, so I had to google it, of course. As I breathe and live! I don’t know if our ancestors would be horrified, but I do think they’d be stymied. No doughnut cutters? No doughnut holes to fight over? I agree about the good life for the kettle — it’s a cheery kind of thought.

  5. Lovely! Upcycling is imaginative and fun. I hope for a future photo once the blooms arrive.

    • Thanks! I do have a photo of the blooms, but it doesn’t show the kettle enough. The geraniums bloomed nicely and there was even a daylily, as I recall, that shot up!

  6. Maureen, this is simply lovely. Well done. Hugs on the wing.

  7. Dear, dear friend. What a treasure you have given me. I still picture the soup being made in this pot. Thank you.

    • You were so smart to give it a second life as a planter. The memories in it make the plants happy, I’m quite sure, besides which, it’s a very handsome piece of kitchen. (I bet that soup was good!)

  8. For awhile when people were locked down, I imagined more of the children helping in the kitchen. I hope it continued!

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