So as if my own yard and garden weren’t enough, I interfere with others in my spare time. My parish is responsible for two different churches and their property, including old St. Peter’s in Harpers Ferry:
First built in 1833 and then extensively remodeled in 1896, it’s open with docent-led tours on Saturdays and Sundays and Mass is celebrated there at 11 am on Sunday. If you walk through the narrow area between the church and wall/road, you come to the old rectory, now used as a retreat house. Look to the right, and there is Mary’s Garden in the grotto:
All are welcome to come for a bit of peace and quiet and prayer, but many people stop at the front, not realizing she’s down here.
About three years ago I was joshing our Deacon via e-mail – our roads are so bad up here in places that his wife had told me that she’d never come up here. I commented that she was missing my flowers blooming, the hummingbirds at the feeder…In five minutes the phone rang. It was Deacon Dave. “You like to garden?” “I love to garden. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I love doing it.” “Um, I was just praying for help when I got your e-mail. We have a problem at St. Peter’s, could you meet me over there?” Well, OK. So off I went. Like many others, while I had been in and out of the front (although I usually go to Mass in the Big Church over in Charles Town), I had never gone back to the grotto. And it was a mess. Somebody had tried years ago, but the whole thing was out of control, unordered, untended. Shade plants were somehow making it in the blistering sun that gets focused like a lens into the grotto in the morning, and they were taking over everything else where it was actually shady. I don’t like green-flowering hellebore and it was everywhere. And if you reached down into the plants what you hit was rot caused by the plants being too close together too long. Deacon arrives – “Can you help? The bishop is coming, he stays in the retreat-house apartment and I’d like for it to look nice for him. He works so hard, it would be nice if he could look out and see something beautiful in the morning.” And Deacon is looking at me with that beautiful, shining, open face of his and my brain is going “Oh no no no no no…” and out of my mouth came “Well, yes, I think. No guarantees, but I could at least get it cleaned up. How much time do I have?” “He’ll be here Father’s Day.” !!!!!! Father’s Day as in less than two weeks. And when Deacon left I’m standing there thinking “Oh. My. God. I just said I’d rip out and replant this disaster for our flower loving bishop. The one who was rector at the Basilica in D.C., with its lovely, ordered flower beds. What have I done?!” But there was nothing now but to get to it. Ten hours to rip everything out and amend the soil. Then ten hours of shuttling back and forth to the local nursery for recommendations and plants. A lot of prayer to Mary and St. Fiachra. Finally, weeding the slope, a difficult job because the shale slips and slides under your feet. I made it with a few days to spare, which gave me time to watch the plants and make sure none of them went toes up on me before Bishop Bransfield arrived.
And, of course, you know that when anything runs by volunteers, once you’ve touched it, it’s yours. So now Mary’s Garden is “mine”, and I happily tend it. I’ve got a bit of wild purslane starting there - I hope no one gets helpful and weeds it out before I get it transplanted to the house:
The bishop sent me a nice letter about it, which one of my cats, aka Destructo Kitty, immediately shredded – thanks, pal. And since I know the secret parking lot I take my bike with me and go from there to the towpath. Not a half bad way to spend one’s evening.