Tag Archives: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Rotting Fish and Sweaty Socks

These three pictures were taken at the Denver Botanical Gardens ~ Fox News

All pictures of the Corpse Flower in bloom and the visitor drawing the flower were taken at the Denver Botanical Gardens by Fox News photographers and shown on Fox 21 News.  They did a great job!

corpse flower #2


corpse flower #3

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s long “Hamatreya” isn’t his best known poem, but four of the words within it are very well known and often quoted: “Earth laughs in flowers.” It was one of my mother’s favorite phrases. Before her dementia, gardening was her much-loved early morning activity, and flowers were a joy to her.

It wouldn’t be Mom’s dementia, or the long drive between Kansas and Colorado, that would prevent me from taking her to the Denver Botanical Gardens this week. It would be the smell. And the long lines, with waits as long as five hours to get in.

The Amorphophallus titanum was in bloom for less than forty-eight hours, and it will be another 7-10 years before the “corpse flower” blooms again. The plant earned this nickname for a reason, and at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens, barf bags were available for the visitors. To give you a general idea, I’ll share two popular descriptions of the smell of the “corpse flower”: 1) a combination of limburger cheese, rotting fish, sweaty socks, and mothballs; and 2) the carcass of a chicken in a trash bag inside a metal trash can, left outside for a few days.

I think it’s safe to say that the Amorphophallus titanum isn’t on the top ten list of most popular flowers for wedding bouquets and Mother’s Day corsages.

Maybe Edna St. Vincent Millay had “corpse flower” in mind when she wrote these lines: “I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.” Or maybe touching the “corpse flower” wouldn’t be a good idea either.

Flowers—like art, movies, books, politics and religion, etc.—are open to interpretation and valuable for personal reasons. The typical appeal of most flowers is usually the beauty, colors, scents and symbolism. But maybe the infrequency of the bloom of the “corpse flower” and the short life of the blossoms are popular considerations. Or maybe the novelty of the startling, staggering smell is also a draw. Mom always said that every thing God created has a purpose and fits somehow into the scheme of things, even if we don’t quite understand what it is.

I think she’s right. I just don’t know about the purpose of the “corpse flower,” except maybe as the prompt for writing a horror story. It does seem to be a possible flower of choice for zombies, tied with a wire and presented in a barf bag.  But I’m certainly open to other possibilities.                                 corpse flower artist

corpse flower art up close

corpse flower--earth laughs



Filed under Uncategorized



Kansas church window... look into the window, and out the "other side" (These two photographs by Marylin Warner)

Kansas church window… look into the window, and out the “other side” (These two photographs by Marylin Warner)






Stone bridge in winter, Brown's Park, Abilene, KS. The journey is not finished.

Stone bridge in winter, Brown’s Park, Abilene, KS.
The road may be less traveled, but the journey is not finished.


Unfinished Business is more than just the title of numerous published fiction and nonfiction books.  It’s also more than what actress Elizabeth Taylor left behind when she died before learning how to cook a hard-boiled egg. (Supposedly, that’s one of the things she wanted to learn to do but never did.)

Here are some other examples of unfinished business:

~ the one thing you always planned to do but never did;

~ the “last words” a person wanted to say before someone died…but waited too long to say them;

~ decades-old unsolved crimes that still gnaw at law enforcement;

~ something you deserved and expected an apology for but didn’t receive…or something you should have apologized or made restitution for, but didn’t;

~ a painful event you never learned the truth about or the reason why it happened: the business that failed; the betrayal by a spouse or a friend; the person who died too young or who took his/her own life;

~ a crime you committed or a wrong you did against someone else…that has never been revealed.

Writer, poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote: “Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night…”  She was writing about a person who is gone, but if you replace the “you” with trust, resolution, justice, or whatever your unfinished business is, her description is still valid.  Unfinished business has a way of continuing to gnaw at us for a very long time.

When I was in junior high school, a man in our town died suddenly in a compromised situation. I heard the expression “he left a lot of unfinished business” and asked my mother what that meant. She said (paraphrased but true to context) that when you die you want to have lived your life without leaving unfinished business, so the people who love and trust you will be left with happy, loving memories instead of bad or hurtful memories.

This post is not about the unfinished business of politicians, countries, world leaders, or missing airplanes in unknown waters.  It’s about us, people who haven’t kept all the promises we’ve made to ourselves and others.  It’s about misplaced dreams and hopes and plans.

The good news is that Tuesday, March 25th, is “Old New Year’s Day” based on the old Orthodox new year. Anyone who missed a chance to make (or keep) a New Year’s Resolution that might finish some unfinished business has a do-over, a second chance.

And if that’s too heavy to consider, Wednesday, March 26th is “Make Up Your Own Holiday.”  It’s up to you how you use it.  As American songwriter and actor Eminem said, “The truth is, you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed.”


Norman Rockwell's "Secrets"--if you decide to write about your unfinished business, don't leave it where your brother might find it.  Just saying...

Norman Rockwell’s “Secrets”–if you decide to write about your unfinished business, don’t leave it where your brother might find it. Just saying…

Norman Rockwell's "Feeding Time"--unfinished business can sneak up on you if you're not paying attention.

Norman Rockwell’s “Feeding Time”–unfinished business can sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention.



Filed under Abilene Kansas, Colorado Springs, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, special quotations


"Ginger"--a 10" painted china vase by Ganz@ Susan Paley--my favorite gift vase from Jim.

“Ginger”–a 10″ painted china vase by Ganz@ Susan Paley–my favorite gift vase from Jim.

A "flower girl" vase from Kress Store, 1950, $1.99 (all photos by Marylin Warner)

A “flower girl” vase from Kress Store, 1950, $1.99
(all photos by Marylin Warner)

A Napco vase, 1958, another of our "flower girl" favorites, only 6" high.

A Napco vase, 1958, another of our “flower girl” favorites, only 6″ high.

Dear Mom,

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The earth laughs in flowers.”  While I was growing up, you always planted our back yard with vegetable gardens, fruit trees and grape arbors. You also kept the front and back yards colorfully bright and happy by planting flowering bushes and assorted perennial flowers, and bulbs for tulips, lilies and gladiolas.  From the time I was seven, I got to choose packets of seeds and plant new colors throughout the flower beds.

After I moved you to Presbyterian Village, I  emptied the house you and Dad had lived in for fifty-two years. Among your big kitchen cupboards filled with spices, plates, glasses, canisters and pots and pans,  two top cupboards were filled with colorful gift vases, pottery and cut crystal vases, and my favorites: two porcelain “fancy lady” vases. We called them the “flower girls.”  I remember picking summer flowers from all around the yard, filling jelly glasses and many of these vases, and setting them on tables and window ledges throughout the house.

You, on the other hand, were more like Edna St. Vincent Millay: “I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.”  Early in the morning, before you went to work with Dad at the dealership, you spent a contented hour working in your gardens.  You carefully weeded around the vegetables and flowers,  but instead of bringing in cut flowers, you often brought in huge Beefeater tomatoes, fresh green onions, and zucchini.

When I drive to Ft. Scott to visit you each month, I always stop by Woods’ Market to choose tempting foods from their deli. I also check their flowers and plants for something special that might make you touch the blossoms or sniff and smile. And sometimes, for a just a moment, I think you remember…

The #1 Flower Girl!

The #1 Flower Girl!


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations