Monday, May 22, 2017

Sodbusting, Volume 2

In front of the double presbytery that adjoins Newman University Church lies a courtyard.  When we first arrived here, our Irish colleagues brought us out to the area, and with a somber demeanour, announced that the place has devolved  (insert brogue here) "into rack and ruin."

They were right.  Snuggled in the midst of Newman House and Iveagh Gardens (where Blessed Cardinal John Henry began his Catholic University of Dublin), it is a precious little oasis, a sonic and visual retreat sealed off from the noise of the city.  But it had become a pseudo-parking lot, overgrown with moss and weeds, filled with root-bound potted plants and broken crockery.

I saw it not as a parking lot – but as a gem of a place where friends and parishioners could eventually gather in the evenings.  The locust tree in the centre of the lot could serve a double purpose, both for summer shade, and as a maypole for strings of lights, creating a festive canopy over our congregants after Mass. Few places in downtown Dublin could boast such a gathering place, and here was one, smack dab on our front doorstep.

So week by week, we began the slow and careful task of attacking each square foot of crushed gravel, eliminating the moss and weeds by hand, using wire brushes on the pavement stones, repotting the root-bound geraniums and fuschias, and making a couple of treks out to the garden centre for ideas on native Irish plants.

In this picture, you can see how moss had invaded everything; the only really effective way to get rid of it was to do the job by hand, then maintain it.  Spraying nasty chemicals would kill a lot of things (including birds), but wouldn't necessarily clean things up.

It was a companion job to the choir gallery.  Inch by inch, week by week, as the sun started getting stronger and the days grew longer, we conquered the parking lot, with an eye to making it into a city garden.  If you're wondering size, think about an area that could hold maybe five or six compact cars.  It has been a long, slow haul.

We found surprises:  a whole exterior lighting system that had fallen into disuse.  Careful rewiring (by an electrical contractor) brought evening lustre to the walls surrounding the courtyard.  But not before the contractor found a crypt-like dungeon underneath our residence – which likewise held all the wiring connections for the garden lights, all of which needed to be replaced. But tons of money was saved by repurposing the lighting that was already there. And with a little bit of geometry, we were able to calculate how many strings of lights we would need to create the lighted canopy over the entire area; true to our hopes, a few weeks later our faithful electrician got up on a ladder and transformed the yard into an umbrella of light.

So here we are, on the doorstep of June, and we can look at this effort and be grateful.  We've already had several gatherings outside – once, for our entire "parish community" at the end of the Easter octave, and a second last weekend for the Irish Alliance for Catholic Education community.  It has been time well spent, as we see these gatherings as a place to build what we hope will be the foundations for a new Christian community here in Dublin city centre.

By the middle of June, we hope to have much more frequent gatherings – board members, choir evenings, teaching colleagues, Notre Dame supporters, journalists and parish folk.  Here, in this little oasis in the heart of Dublin, wedged in between St. Stephen's Green and the walled Iveagh Gardens, we will rebuild our community. Sodbusting.  It is what makes things grow.  

1 comment:

  1. Dorothy Frances Gurney wrote a poem with the lines
    "The kiss of sun for pardon,
    The song of the birds for mirth,
    One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
    Than anywhere else on earth."

    Great work Steve & Michelle
    From Mireille
    Wexford :)