Friday, September 18, 2009

money matters

It happened again. There have been times in my life when it has just clearly happened that the universe responded to my need. In this case, I made my best effort to take care of my own finances, drew money out of a retirement account in order to have what I need to do this trip to Tassajara and pay the tuition, and when I sat down at some point, I realized I had miscalculated and wasn't going to have enough.

On top of that, last week when the abbots were away on vacation, we ran out of checks. I knew we had more, but one of the abbots had them somewhere in his office, and I didn't know where. So I started writing checks out of my personal account to cover necessary Center expenses. I didn't worry about that, because I knew I would be reimbursed when they got back (which of course happened).

Out of the blue, I got some unexpected money from one friend, and then from another. And this time when I sat down and calculated, I realized I had more money than I needed.

Money is so slippery. It seems like we can calculate and record and figure and analyze and budget, and that's all fine, probably important, but there is another aspect to it that is more fluid, more difficult to pin down. A friend recently commented about trying to get "those wily duckies" in a row, and it feels like that sometimes. I go along feeling just fine, and then suddenly I start to worry that I won't have enough. And then something like this happens and suddenly I have plenty. How much of this is objectively true and how much of it is my own internal feeling about it all?

As a monk, I'm dependent on the community for my living -- well, mostly, because in fact I do have some small retirement accounts as well, and in a couple more years I'll qualify to begin receiving Social Security. But even there, one could argue that I'm dependent on the community around me. As much as we all say that we make our own living, do we really? Even as a lay person, when I was working and being paid, I found that there were aspects to it that were sometimes a little mysterious.

I find myself filled with gratitude, and keep tentatively trusting the bounty of the universe that somehow keeps taking care of me.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Those of Head Start vintage (and others possibly) will remember the lovely job of picking lice nits out of children's hair. Yesterday I ended up with a similar task. It all started ...

I was going to mop the kitchen floor. But there was still food from a shopping trip the day before that hadn't been put away. So I took some downstairs to the pantry, and was reminded that there was a 50-lb bag of flour still sitting on the floor, which has bothered me since it was put there a couple of weeks ago. We do sometimes spot a mouse, and it's better to keep that stuff in the plastic tubs in the pantry. But the tubs were still too full for this bag. So I figured I could at least rearrange the pantry to make some room to put the bag up on a shelf. So I did that. At the end I moved an almost-full 50-lb bag of rice off the shelf, figuring that I could find another spot for it, as it didn't take up quite as much room as the other. I noticed that the rice bag had been opened, and the clip securing it wasn't all that secure. So I took the clip off and figured to roll up the opening tighter. But as I did so I noticed that it was invested with pantry moth larvae. Yuk! All that brown rice. This would never do.

So I took it back upstairs to the kitchen, and spent pretty much the rest of the day (with a few breaks, like lunch, but not much else), putting 1/3 cup of rice on a plate, shaking it gently to spread it out, and picking out moth larvae, putting the sorted rice into a ziplock bag to put into the freezer. It was a different way to spend a day, but oddly relaxing.

My back began to protest, and I got a chair to sit in, though I was continually getting back up and then sitting back down, etc. Got through the entire bag, though, just a bit after 5pm, after I had put on a big pot of brown rice to cook for dinner.

Interestingly enough, I got varied reactions to my task. One monk said, I can't believe you're doing that, I'd just put it all in the freezer as is. Another monk said, I can't believe you're doing that, I'd just compost it all. Gyokuko, the executive tenzo, head cook and co-abbot, said thanks for doing that. She's the one who counts. A couple of other people said the same thing.

So now we have a lot of brown rice in the freezer, where it will stay for a while. The kitchen floor never did get mopped. Maybe today? or ...tomorrow?