Monday, September 24, 2012

Anger: Rage is Blinding

I was in the kitchen garden, the 2nd field, sowing purple vetch into a bed I had cleaned out for the season's end. Half way through, the farm manager asks me to run a set of irrigation; I'm annoyed; this is my life as an irrigator, on call plumber, always interrupted to manage water.

I head down to line 46 in the 4th field, a line that I have a history with. This line is an archaic dog eared type, so there's no real latch on each section of pipe to keep it together. It relies on pressure and water and gravity. And immediately, there is a blowout at the head.

Water spews like an angry wave, it's hard to get close to. I shut it down, open another line to relieve pressure, and see that we have a cluster fuck, despite the beautiful day. The beautiful blue sky, the rolling coastal hills, and our crops decorating the valley in dark green and red brocade.

I see that the dog ears have slipped, as usual, and this whole 200 ft line needs to be disconnected and reconnected if there is any hope of not letting thousands of gallons just flood the weeds and grass that grow on the main line.

The work is wet and heavy; pipe that's full of water doesn't want to move. I curse my way through. I notice I'm officially angry. I smile and relax into it for a moment. I finish, and turn the line back on. It's better, but not perfect, and of course I like perfect.

I start to fiddle with a converter piece that allows us to use this old archaic piece of shit. This transition piece has a pressure release sprinkler on it, followed quickly by another sprinkler, so it's two sprinkler heads within six inches of each other and it's difficult to turn them away from spraying me while I adjust the line.

Anger comes with failure again and I start trying to muscle the line into place. I forget about the sprinkler in my face, until one blasts me so hard I think I'm drowning, and my prescription sunglasses fly off into the 5 foot tall weeds. I think I actually grunt/scream. I'm fucking blind.

I'm so blind, it's hard to make out the rows. I see a farmer, which one I don't know, walking down the road. I call to her for help, because there's no way I'm going to find my glasses alone. She comes, we can't find them, so she leads me back to the tidy shed ( our main shed, the one with the alter, where we chant every morning ).

I'm devastated. I've gone from angry to sad. I feel loss. Those glasses were 200 dollars and on a 20 dollar a month stipend, there will be no replacing them. I'm doomed to squint with my fragile eye glasses until the spring, when I get a raise.

I walk blindly to lunch, trying to let go. It's not working.

Then, on the engawa of our Zendo, I see Grace, who is practicing walking, 5 years after a paralyzing accident on the golden gate. I start to cry. I'm such an asshole.

In these tears, the glasses vanish, line 46 is a distant memory, and I'm confronted with impermanence and the truth that we have no idea what's going on in any given moment.

And there is just 3 weeks left of the season, and soon, we'll fade into noble silence, the practice period, and the crew I have grown close to will transform.

This morning, doing prostrations in the dark, in front of Manjusri, I pray a little. I try and make my heart fresh, to just go down and come up with little commentary. It reminds me of swimming, it feels that good.

50 bells ring and off to work. Just show up, pay attention, tell the truth, and be open again.


  1. Beautiful. Wise. Honest. I cried just a little and you're not an asshole, just a human trying to improve an already perfect buddha.

  2. I moved irrigation pipes in the local hayfields with I was a kid. Come to think of it , it was a pretty monastic job: up at 0400, done at 0800, then back at 1600 and working till 2000. Day in, day out. It was hard, wet work, cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon. I remember the bit about shoving the pipe in and getting it just right with a single smart snap... or you're screwed. (No dog-ears, at least; swing catches, like a small D-handle). Once the pipes fill with water that's coming at a gallon a second, you're done doing anything with them. So you've got one second to do it, hundreds of times a day.

    I also remember the psychic power I developed that told me, most times, when one of those fire-hose sprinkler heads was coming around my way.... and catching the ice-cold blast from a hundred feet below ground those times it didn't. Mild annoyance in 30-degree heat; freaking life-threatening in the 8-degree dark of 0400.

    Your article brought it all back to me. I wasn't a Zenner in those days, but it is a bit karmic, isn't it?

    Thanks for the post!

    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit