Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Word play for the able

Every morning at around 5:00 am, sometimes earlier, John Carroll used to rise and put in several hours tending his gardens here at the site of the former Minton horse stable, then a city-owned vacant lot.  By the time the rest of the neighborhood passed by on their way to the subway, John had often already departed for one of his landscaping or other jobs, but not without leaving a few lines of verse on one of the blackboards nailed up at the two entrances.  In addition to his musings about nature and life, John was known for his love of words.  

The inspiration for a more permanent memorial to the first Minton Stable gardener came from some videotape shot on the day the old barn was razed, in which John contemplated the word "stable."  "Here was a stable," he started.  "Here is the table," he continued, then concluded his lexical dissection with "We are the able."  Each line has been etched into granite slabs that will form a sitting area between the gardens and the children's play area.

I interpret these words as an invitation for people to come together to "the table."  It is up to us to use our strength and unity to bring about positive changes, whether it be to to build a community garden for our neighborhood's enrichment or to elect new leaders who share our values and offer the best plans to address our country's many challenges.

About two months after they were ordered, the stones for the John Carroll memorial were finally delivered on Monday morning.  A group of us, including Jonathan Peet, a former Steering Committee member who worked with John's close friend Stephen McCarthy on the design, watched as a forklift operator lowered the three granite blocks to the ground near their designated spots.  Unfortunately, the operator did not have the appropriate straps that could be used to lower them into their permanent locations.  As he drove off, the people in our group scratched their heads over how best to maneuver the stones, the heaviest estimated to weigh nearly a ton, into the gravel-filled indentations.  One of the most popular ideas involved creating a system of rollers; to my knowledge no attempts have been made yet.

It was one year ago today that we lost a dear friend whose love of peace and gardening changed the landscape of this neighborhood and others in Jamaica Plain for the better.  It is a shame that he was not with us to witness the historic election that has just taken place in our country.  But I am comforted that his words have found a permanent home in the Minton Stable Garden, and will remain there to remind us what we can achieve when we all come to the table.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Beautiful post, sounds like John has left quite a legacy.