Sunday, March 23, 2008

A couple of new things

I think I already mentioned that I'm now considered a tenzo-in-training (Tenzo is the word we use for the head cook). I think it will take some years before I'm confident in that role, but for the time being a practical result is that I'm spending more time in the kitchen on the cooking end, not just on the cleaning end. I'm assisting with dinner at least a couple of times a week. Often it just means chopping these vegetables or making that salad or stirring that sauce, but that's okay with me. I'm paying attention to my own reactions to things, what I like and what I don't like, and going ahead and doing what I'm told anyway. It's interesting.

The other thing has just come out of the blue. Kyogen (my teacher) called me into his office to talk for a few minutes. This doesn't happen often, but I wasn't worried about it. What he told me was that the people who are working in the prisons are looking for another woman and they had asked whether I could be considered to do that work with them. He had thought about it a lot, because he feels that the monks already have a lot on our plates and are being asked to do a lot. But he decided to ask whether I was interested in the work. I said, of course I am. He said he thought it could be good -- it will give me a chance to get some pastoral experience, some experience in counseling and teaching.

So I haven't yet started, but here's what I know so far. They want me for Coffee Creek (a women's prison near Wilsonville) minimum security on Saturday mornings. I have four more seminary classes on Saturday mornings left, but I am not worried about them. It means that I have to make sure I do the reading ahead and then listen to the recordings of the class afterwards, but it's quite possible to do the class without attending these last four sessions. And I'm not sure that the prison thing will be every Saturday morning anyway. I will go three times as a guest before I get my security clearance, and then I will get a badge and be able to go as a (what is the official title, I wonder???), anyway, someone who regularly works with inmates.

I'm kind of jazzed by this. For several reasons. I've had an interest in prison work (of course, I have an interest in all sorts of work, so that's not unusual) for quite some time. I know the need is huge. It will give me a place to do some actual teaching, which I can't really do here at the moment given my status as a novice monk. It tells me that my teacher thinks I may be ready for something like this. It also means I will be working closely with the folks who are already working in the prison from Dharma Rain, and I like and respect all of those folks a lot. And, of course, it means that I may be able to be part of making a positive difference in someone's life, as well as my own. I'm always up for that.

It's been a busy week here at Dharma Rain Zen Center, my home temple (not quite Garrison Keillor, but oh well). There have been at least a couple of days where I came in thinking I was going to do this or that on my list, and didn't even get to the list until 4pm. It took a couple of days to get to helping my younger sister postulant get measured for her koromo. She's sewing, which will take her some months yet before she can ordain. So Friday morning we finally got to spend time looking over our inadequate instructions and diagrams, and Kyogen was kind enough to bring his and Gyokuko's koromos in for comparison. They both have koromos that were made in Japan, and are quite nice. It was helpful to have a real live example to compare these diagrams to, in several cases.

In the process, I discovered several places in Kyogen's koromo that were coming apart, so I spent a few hours repairing it for him. That was satisfying, and also then gave me the impetus to do the same to my own kimono the next day. I keep thinking I will get to the sewing room to get these things done, but decided just to take the kimono to seminary class yesterday morning with needle and thread, and got it all mended nicely in order to wear today.

In any case, I finally did get to almost everything on my list, and several other things besides, of course. Quite satisfying. I'm tired, as always on a Sunday afternoon, and ready for a little break. My house-mates are all gone at the moment, and I'm taking care of the resident cat. So far, that's only consisted of giving him a scoop of food twice a day -- I haven't seen him around at all, though the food disappeared overnight. He has a cat door, and is probably more outdoors than inside since his people are both gone. All of them are at different places. The one next door to me is in Hawaii for 10 days. MrK is out at the monastery on an 8-day retreat. And his wife took the opportunity to go visit her mom. So I can maybe get a jump start on my laundry, unimpeded by anyone else. And maybe a trip to the library ... possibilities are endless.


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