Domestic Dharma adventures

by Norman Fischer | February 14, 2005 at 7:42 PM

February 2, 2005 Muir Beach (from Zen Abbot's Journal Vol. 47)

Domestic Dharma adventures today. 

Had to get the garbage ready to go out and this meant binding up with masking tape the many cardboard boxes left over from the office move. And the wind was blowing quite fiercely, as it does up here, almost storm gale power, so that it was difficult to manage the boxes that were so much flapping in the wind and not wanting to stay together when being bound, forcing themselves always apart, and so breaking the masking tape, that is quite flimsy and easily broken. At the same time there were various problems with my body — my knee is painful, so squatting down to pick up boxes was painful in every instance, and getting up more painful, so that when the boxes blew out of my hands and I had to squat to pick them up I was much in pain, then binding them, the tape flipping over in the wind so the sticky side was up instead of down, so wouldn't stick, except to itself, twisting, and wouldn't untwist in the wind, so that I would always need more tape, and was running out of tape, also my back quite stiff and painful, and my finger now somehow cut in the process, bleeding, over onto my pants leg a little bit, just enough to be annoying, new pants, and the constant powerful loud exciting force of the wind somehow making all this effort to tie up the boxes seem futile and at the same time all the more urgent. When with all this I did manage to get a bundle of cardboard secured and to bring it over to the garbage area it would of course blow around, the large flat cardboard surfaces acting as perfect sails, so that I had to find ways to wedge the bundles between garbage cans and a tree stump though the cans themselves were also always threatening not to hold their places. 

This all seemed a perfect metaphor for life- that, in a tremendous wind storm, in which nothing is ever secure, one tries to bind together something that resists binding, the binds continually break, you keep on binding them finally managing passably enough, temporarily, as your body wears down little by little with the process. In the end the purpose of all this is simply to recycle the materials so they can be used over again, possibly with no better effect.

The gas was out all day too and I had been playing phone tag with the gas company office, wondering when someone was going to show up. Finally near the end of the day gas guy comes in big truck, difficult to back up in driveway up hill, and he's in a very hostile mood, won't even talk or look at me, I'm sure because office has caused him to have to make this end-of-the-day call to so remote and troublesome a place, when he ought to be by now on his way home. A rough-looking fellow, sullen, sturdy in big rubber boots and a baseball cap pulled low over his eyes, gray hair fluffing out around its edges. I stick to him like glue because I am sure he'll bust something with his anger and frustration and impatience so strong within him, also I feel genuinely sorry for him and for the trouble this is doubtlessly causing him, as well as wanting to make sure he doesn't run away without lighting all the pilot lights. He fills the tank up, big heavy rubber hose, rushes around to light some pilot lights, in a fury stomping in and out of the house grumbling and grunting but it doesn't work, doesn't hold gas, gas is escaping somewhere somehow, there is certainly a leak somewhere along the line, he doesn't know where, he is a truck driver, not a repairman, I ought to call a repairman because he doesn't know, it is not his job to know, he is after all a truck driver and not a repair expert, and there are ten minutes more that the office is open and I ought to call right now to get a repair person out here. Though I'd called the office starting at 8 a.m. the driver, as he told me, was not informed of this call till 4 p.m., the people in the office having assured me that I couldn't be out of gas though I knew that I was. Out of gas is not that hard to determine when all gas appliances do not work and all pilot lights have gone out. But again I call the office — no repair person available and no advice to be had, must call tomorrow when there will be such a person available - possibly — but then the phone rings again and it is the gas company boss who has words with the disgruntled gas guy requiring him to (as the gas guy repeats the words out loud) "start over and try it again?" "I'm going to start over and try it again," is the first complete sentence gas guy now says to me. Which he does do. 

Meanwhile, all this while I'm following him around everywhere he goes, expressing my sympathy and apology sometimes with words, sometimes with soft grunts or groans, holding flashlight for him, going and fetching tools he needs, doing it all eagerly and energetically, like I used to do for Katagiri Roshi when I acted as his attendant years ago. Gas guy softening a little bit as we go along. He lights all the pilot lights, which now are working, but the one for hot water heater in house won't light. It is newer and complicated. Instructions and safety information too long to read. Gas guy getting again impatient. I tell him, look, you been here a long time, almost everything is working, we can figure this one out, don't worry, thanks, thanks, it's fine, and ok he runs back out the door to the truck (he's been running from place to place this whole time, eager to get this over with) to get ready to finally be getting out of here and going home. Just as he does this though the hot water heater pilot light decides to kick in — so the job is complete and successful! — and I run out to tell him this so he'll know before he takes off, and he, for the first time, breaks into a wide smile, tells me his name, asks for mine, and says, as he leaves and waves, "thanks!" in an ebullient tone of voice. 

Proving again the transformative power of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity that we've been studying about in the Dharma Seminar this month.


Norman Fischer