Visitors to New Skete today who enter our Holy Wisdom Temple walk through a garden, either along a level path from a parking area behind the east end of the church or up a gentle ramp that rises from the road around our original Transfiguration Temple. This garden space is adorned with flowers, shrubs, and trees that are native to our region. Stones and boulders of varying sizes that were moved into this place from other parts of our property form the walls and terraces. The east end of the garden features two ponds with fish and frogs. In early spring the trees burst forth in bloom, and the ponds’ inhabitants serenade us with the songs of the croakers.
When the Holy Wisdom Temple was built in the early 1980s, access to the main entrance was via a bank of over 30 steps.
Our local village of Cambridge was beginning the process of establishing a sister city arrangement with the town of Scontrone, Italy. At one of the planning sessions Brother Stavros attended as our representative, he met a man whom we ultimately decided to hire to draw up a plan for our new entrance with a ramp and garden. Hence the Italian connection!
Of course we ran into the usual bumps in the road, including rising costs and differing perspectives between architect and contractor on placement of the wall stones.
After a particularly hard winter a few years after the project was completed, a couple of the large stones were dislodged from their location. Jerome and his crew returned and reset the stones, slightly revising the arrangement, and we have had no further problems with the walls. While they were dealing with the stones, they also made an adjustment in the ponds to solve a leak that had sprung up between the two ponds. Accomplishing projects such as this one is never simple, but each one teaches us new lessons, sometimes about management, but also about how to persevere in the face of trials. For us, that always brings us back to our faith and our commitment to our common life. Engaging in this project was a community decision, and it is now an integral part of our life.