The Last Rose of Summer

Rose - 1618 Kingsway Dr 10-20-2015I’ve been struggling with what to post about Mother’s Birthday Season when she’s not here to celebrate it. I’ve made a dozen false starts, but none of them worked. Then, two things hit me today.

  • I got an email from Curator Jessica that read, “We had our first killing frost last night and my poor basil didn’t make it. This afternoon, while I was lamenting my basil, I turned around and saw one of my rosebushes had a bud that seemed to have weathered the frost. I sang the Grateful Dead to it and thought of you.”
  • I woke up to a flat tire (a nail nailed me). When I got back from having it patched, I opened the car door and was confronted with the rosebush on the light pole in front of the house. I took that as a sign I should visit Mother and Wife Lila’s Mother.

She was referring to Dark Muddy River

Miz Jessica heard Dark Muddy River because I told her I was considering it for a video about people and places along the Mississippi River that are no longer there.

When the last rose of summer pricks my finger
And the hot sun chills me to the bone
When I can’t hear the song for the singer
And I can’t tell my pillow from a stone

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own

Mary Steinhoff tombstone 10-20-2015When the last bolt of sunshine hits the mountain
And the stars start to splatter in the sky
When the moon splits the southwest horizon
With the scream of an eagle on the fly

Tower Rock whirlpool full moon 07-22-2013_7338I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And listen to the ripples as they moan
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own

Black muddy river
Roll on forever
I don’t care how deep or wide
If you got another side
Roll muddy river
Roll muddy river
Black muddy river roll

Lucille Perry tombstone 10-20-2015When it seems like the night will last forever
And there’s nothing left to do but count the years
When the strings of my heart start to sever
And stones fall from my eyes instead of tears

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And dream me a dream of my own
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own
And sing me a song of my own

The song

I’ve listened to that song while riding my bike around Lake Okeechobee on nights that are pitch-dark except for bolts of heat lightning cutting across the sky, and I’ve played it while watching the whirlpool swirl around Tower Rock in the Mississippi. It hits me differently every time, particularly in this context. I’m still going to have to come up with a Birthday Season story, but this will have to do as a space filler.

Click on the photo above to hear it on YouTube.

16 Replies to “The Last Rose of Summer”

  1. Ken,
    I’m sorry this is a difficult “season” for you. I’ve enjoyed your posts about your family. Your Mother must have been one special lady.
    Ruth Ellen

  2. Ken, do you mind if I ask, what is the meaning of the symbol of the Indian Chief surrounded by three arrows on your Mother’s headstone?

    Grieving the loss of a parent with you …

  3. As I read your beautiful words and gaze at the wonderful photos on this dark, Georgia morning, I am returned to memories of my own Mother in the land of her birth. Thank you, Ken.

  4. such a moving and beautiful post–thanks to you and Curator Jessica–
    I especially love the imagery you’ve included of your
    soulful nightly rides along Okeechobee
    I do hope you go forward with your video and possibly a book?

    Wishing you sweet peace and serenity as you navigate through this birthday season.

  5. Dad would have been 87 today, October 21. He has been gone 6 months. It is difficult to get my heart to accept what my brain says is true. I wish you well. I wish you peace.

  6. Your Mother was a sweet lady and was always so active ! My Mother has been gone since Feb.13th. 1980 and I still miss her and think about her all the time!It is always a little sad going to Cape Girardeau now! Bless you Ken !

  7. Thank you, Ken, for sharing the meaning of the symbols on your parents mutual headstone. I am very proud of the dedication from your Dad, now realizing what selfless gestures he gave of himself. There’s no doubt he was an exceptional, very strong man, same as your beautiful Mother. May they both rest in peace.

  8. Obviously, I’m scrolling back, and came across this lovely remembrance of your remarkable mother. I thought I’d share something that has a great deal of emotional resonance with me: this version of the classic “Black Muddy River”, by the woman who has been called by many (including Yours Truly) England’s Finest Singer, the folk legend, Norma Waterson.

    The other players and singers on this track are all remarkably talented artists, whose Wikipedia pages are filled with a jaw-dropping list of accomplishments.

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