There's a house nearby that I keep a casual passerby-eye on, the way you do when you drive past the same house on the same road nearly every day. All last summer, I watched as a little potted garden formed near its front door.

First came dirt-filled clay pots of all sizes, and then, gradually, tiny green growing things began to fill them. Each time I went by, the green was bigger and leafier, until finally the plants were decorated with beautiful blooms.

By the summer's end, dense flowering foliage completely covered the pots, and I looked forward to driving by their blur of color. Once or twice, I even caught sight of the woman who planted them. She was tending to them nurturingly; watering, staking, and pinching off spent blossoms.

Hard frost came a little early this year--in the first week of October instead of the more typical middle or end of the month. Soon after that first morning of frozen silver grass, I passed by the pot-garden house. The bright flowers had vanished, and the plants were leafless, black, and twisted. The pot flower garden had been reduced again to just pots.

I too grow some plants in pots. In summer, flowering baskets swing from the rafters of my front porch, and there's always a pot or two of pansies next to the steps.

But long weeks past frost, my potted plants are still alive. That's because as soon as the wind begins to rattle the leaves from the trees, I gather my potted flock and drag them indoors to roost for the winter. I put them on dusty radiators, the fireplace mantel, and bookshelves; anywhere a little trickle of sunlight can find them in my dark old house.

Unfortunately, the plants don't exactly thrive inside. Many of them barely make it to spring (and until I realized that some must be watered daily, most didn't). The plants go through great changes to cling to life inside, dropping extra leaves and sending out long twisty shoots in their efforts to reach for the light.

After 15 years of living here, bringing all the pots indoors every winter has become a Big Job. I think twice about planting anything in a container because I know, come fall, it will be just another living thing vying desperately for window space. But still, this is the choice I make year after year. I'd rather kill them with attempted kindness or well-intentioned neglect than leave them to the cold final hand of winter.

And though her choices are not the same as mine, I really admire that pot-garden lady. It takes a kind of courage I don't have to plant such a big glorious bunch of extremely temporary life--and then allow it, when the time comes, to simply and naturally go.

When I passed the pot-garden house after that first frosty morning, the woman was outside. She was in front of the dead flowers, and it surprised me that she really didn't look the least bit sad. In fact, she wasn't even looking at them--she was standing there in the chilly morning sunshine, drinking something steaming from a blue mug, with her face turned to the sky.

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