So for those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), a grotto is defined as a cave or an artificial recess or structure made to resemble a natural cave (Italian grotta, grotto, from Latin crypta cavern, crypt). And at first I though that definition sounded a bit strange until I first visited the small damp space crammed inbetween the 2 buildings … it does feel very cave-like.
On the first Saturday we met, we didn’t even make it to the grotto itself….pretty much because you couldn’t get to the location without ducking under the railing from the walkway connecting the buildings. Clearly access needed to come from the side of the Columbarium (essentially the back) and when we arrived that morning the terrain along the far side of the building was not passage friendly – it was steep, covered with loose rock, and overgrown with everything from wild coffee to elephant grass. But a half dozen or so hard-core KDOC members gathered and swept up (or down) the natural clutter along that side of the building and created beautiful, gently sloping trail that zig-zags its way down to a more desirable flat spot.
Even though we didn’t make it to the grotto itself that first day, the progress was well worth it. By cleaning up that far side of the building it became not only easy to walk on, but a spot which could easily be planted out and made into a garden in its own right. We took something ugly and unused and made it usable, and with time and care it will grow more and more beautiful by the day.
After I came home from the first work party, I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up debris from underneath the mango tree in our backyard, where I’ve slowly cleared a large vertical section of natural rock and begun building Chanda’s orchid garden. (Basically I just take all of her orchids if find lying around in broken pots and stick them back there and hope she doesn’t ask about them). Anyway, the point I was getting at was that it had me motivated. It really felt good to see the way we transformed the land, and when I came home and sat at my desk (where I am sitting as I type this), I gaze out the office window and see at that crop of lava rocks rising underneath the canopy of this enormous mango tree and I can feel the potential …
So naturally at the next work party, Chanda and Sawyer wanted to come along. I figured we could use a few extra hands, but Sawyer kept trying to eat the rocks he picked up instead of passing them along into the wall. Luckily, our workparty had tripled from the first one, and progress was fast. Loose rocks from the side of the property were gathered and stacked, and most of the beautiful moss-covered rocks that were currently there inbetween the buildings were resituated, resulting in a wall approximately three feet in front of the Col.. building with a flat top with will ultimately allow for easy access for maintenance. We also began taking rocks out of the current wall in front of the windows, in order to try and give the whole space a more gentle slope. Currently when you look out the windows you just see the wall and it is hard to see upwards, but we are re-situating them so it’s more like the seating at an arena, and the windows are the stage. And with the way the big picture windows look out at it from Kannon Hall, it really will be something to see … like gazing into a breathing picture….truly a living work of art.
Always thinking ahead, Dick built an elaborate wooden frame which was used as a mold for a set of cement stairs leading down to the bottom side of Kannon Hall, below the windows. We dug a trench, set the frame in place and dumped six bags of QuickCrete in there. Again, this allows for easy maintenance. And of course there were plenty of delicious sweets to go around, as per all large KDOC gatherings.
Since Chanda, Sawyer and I had just returned home from a crazy trip to the mainland late Friday (stopping in Florida and then Oklahoma, then delayed an extra day), I was a little relieved when Sunday’s workparty was cancelled. But after several days of relaxing and recovering, we are eagerly looking forward to the next one.
– Clint Zavodny