Betsy Robinson, author of funny literary stories about flawed people, is a perpetual seeker of truth.

From books to music to theater and fine art, from online TV to DVDs, this blog takes a look at current culture through a spiritual perspective — with a touch of humor.

Materials under the "review" tag are a mix of free review copies (books, DVDs, etc.) in exchange for a review, to library copies, to materials and tickets I've paid for.


A Really Bad Hair Day (Feb. 13 blog)

The Art of Collapsing (Feb. 6 blog)

Life is only temporary says Evan Handler (Jan. 28 blog)

The New World of Finance (Jan. 28 blog)

All about growing up in a cult (April 16 blog)

Fierce Giving (Jan. 8 blog)

(Copyright © 2008-2014 Betsy Robinson. All rights reserved)

Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Church in a Greenhouse

March 8, 2009

Tags: Cost Cutting, Unemployment, healing

I eat a lot of lettuce. I just love the stuff. And even before the recession and getting laid off, I had a lust for homegrown salad. Since I live in an indoor jungle, it seems natural to extend it into my fifth-floor apartment window boxes, and to learn the art of lettuce growing from seeds, I recently joined my local community garden. An unexpected benefit was that the garden’s greenhouse is located behind the world famous Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. The Cathedral is not only a breathtaking work of architecture, but it has a long history of supporting progressive causes and a mission to be “a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership.” Technically what’s happening in the greenhouse is not one of the Cathedral’s many service programs, but, for me, it has become church in a greenhouse — a weekly dose of horticultural therapy.

There is nothing like planting seeds to counterbalance the resounding silence that meets most job queries. And in fact, windowsill and small space vegetable gardens in city apartments seem to be in vogue. This week, Leonard Lopate did an interview on the topic on WNYC radio. Sustainable publishing’s Chelsea Green has put out an excellent new book on the topic: Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R.J. Ruppenthal.
And as the directive to practice local sustainability reaches a roar, websites to help are popping up all over. (Mentioned on the WNYC show were and

But back to the greenhouse. Saturdays, I go to church. My minister is a slow-talking Buddhist named Tom Thies who, with his wife Jean, imports gorgeous Tibetan art and implements through their company Sharchen Imports. Tom has instructed me on the art of germinating lettuce and tomato and all kinds of flower seeds in the little greenhouse behind the grand Episcopal cathedral where peacocks stroll.

The greenhouse is church with no religion. It’s a place where people literally bump into one another and get dirty. And as the weather gets warmer, we will move to the garden. There, the plants will grow and bloom. And people will come and admire them. There will be music and theater in the garden (on West 89th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, if you’re in the city). People will harvest their vegetable plots. They will cook their food. They will have conversations and arguments across their dining tables. And in the winter, the plants will die ... then rise again in the spring.


  1. April 22, 2010 12:51 PM EDT
    I got more peaceful just reading this piece. I am a fan of gardens. My stepfather, who grew up on a farm, used to turn the whole back yard into a thriving garden (in Missouri & Nebr.) He produced such a wealth of vegetables, he would give armfuls away to the neighbors every harvest. My job was to pinch out/prune the tomato branches so that they would continue blossoming & producing fruit. My brother used to cut the tomato worms in half with his blunt scissors. Everybody had a job.
    - Melodie
  2. April 22, 2010 1:01 PM EDT
    Aaaah. Thanks, Melodie. That gave me a wave of peace.
    - Betsy Robinson

Selected Works

Big Moose Prize-winning novel
a funny, sometimes sad, story of negotiating life without a clue

New on Kindle--a funny book for foodies who are committed to self-change through self-awareness
an epistolary memoir ... sort of
A funny and moving little book for anyone who's had a mother or struggled with being human.
anthology of stories and plays
includes Darleen Dances and stories below

1-act play

short story
the problem with worrying about the future

true story
Why I don't believe in death.

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