Mary Valle


This Is How My Garden Grows


From Mary Valle’s blog, Killing the Buddha

People have been asking me for years about my garden. Being a bit contrary, I refuse to answer. Frankly, I’ve been of the opinion that gardening is for jokers—but I was so wrong. Go ahead, ask me how my garden grows.

It grows like this:

1. Here’s a hell strip, bane of the urban gardener’s existence. Also known as the “parking strip” or “incredibly bad urban planning idea,” this shabby little plot of rocky soil is usually left to weed.


Nice one, planning masterminds.

2. This “bed” is also subject to dog presents, salt in the winter, and the occasional red Solo cup. Weeds truly are the broken windows on the sidewalks of life. A few months ago, I decided to do something about my hell strip.  I put in a bunch of plants, not knowing which were going to take. Turns out: they all did.


Welcome to the jungle, babies. We’ve got fun and games.

3. The microgarden needed a pinch of pizzazz in the form of a few miniscule tchotchkes. I like the idea of a St. Francis or Buddha, but neither of them in particular. Here’s what I did:

A. Acquired small plastic Joan of Arc.
B. Broke a takeout chopstick in half, and,
C. Hot-glued it to the bottom of the Maid.

This patch isn’t a mere curbside getaway. It’s the Joan of Arc Victory Garden. Greet my patroness:


La pucelle.

St. John’s Has Left the Building: Congregation Puts Church Up For Sale

St. John's Mt. Washington. Photo Courtesy Google Plus.
St. John’s Mt. Washington Episcopal Church is on the market for $1.8 million.

It’s 10:30 on Sunday, and a small gathering has convened upon the Wesley Chapel in Springwell Senior Living Community. There are about 40 people on hand, a goodly number of whom are elderly residents. Some are in wheelchairs. This is St. John’s Mt. Washington Episcopal Church, which used to be housed in a stately 1928 Romanesque Revival church on a prime corner of South Avenue in the heart of the neighborhood.

The Reverend Lori Hale Babcock, who is indeed hale, blonde and reassuring in her rope-tied robe, dog collar peeking out over the top, and pretty summer sandals down below. The size of the room gives the service an intimate feeling, as Babcock makes eye contact and lends a hand to the less able. The gathering’s singing is surprisingly loud and melodic. There’s a certain amount of brio in the room despite the lack of stained-glass windows, pews or Books of Common Prayer. Or maybe because of that: New spaces can revive the appetite. Think of the savor of common foods eaten around a campfire or even at a picnic.

Springwell Faith & Fellowship Chapel, where the congregation now meets for 10:30 service.
The congregation now meets in the Wesley Chapel at Springwell Senior Living Community, above. Photo courtesy of the St. John’s Mt. Washington website.

Springwell residents have been given a chance to attend a church service every Sunday without the use of a van or complicated logistics. It is a thing the attendees savor. “You ask yourself the question: is there church today?” says Springwell resident Virginia Burns. “It’s right up there with our wheelchair exercise classes.” Cindy Jones adds, “It gives us all a chance to see each other on Sunday afternoon, and Lori is such a great minister — she’s so spunky and fresh.” Of course, St. John’s in Mt. Washington at Springwell isn’t for everyone, due to “denominational differences,” one resident notes.

Like many congregations, St. John’s was faced with a gigantic, resource-eating building that swallowed more of its endowment every year. Senior Warden (that’s like being the chair of a board of directors) Sara Fawcett-Lee said that, when she took the job four years ago, the outgoing Warden told her that the church was going to have to be sold. The vestry (which is like a nonprofit board: members are nominated and elected, serve specific terms and follow bylaws) decided to offer the building for rent, and when no renters came, put it up for sale.