Monday, June 8, 2015

Saturday Dishes

The trusty dish machine
This being the first blog after Pentecost, I felt that I ought to write about the feast or at least about the Holy Spirit. But I just don't seem to be inspired in that direction. What keeps coming into my mind is that, before I entered the monastery in 2007, I really couldn't imagine what life as nun would be like: Did they pray all the time? Were they ever irritated? Did they do ordinary things, like laundry? So, today, I'm going to talk about being me (a regular human being and a nun) and my experience of doing things like getting up and doing dishes.

Take a typical Saturday, when nothing special is going on. The day starts with the alarm ringing at a blessed twenty-three minutes past seven. I am not a morning person, but sadly monastery schedules generally seem to be set around those who are. From being a person who would happily stay in bed till 10 or 11 o'clock at the weekend, I now have to be content with the fact that Morning Prayer on Saturdays and Sundays starts at 8:15 a.m.. On Sunday, I can laze around till 8:02 a.m., but on Saturday I have to get up at 7:23 a.m. because I have a breakfast dishes charge - running the dish machine.

You'll note these times, 7:23 and 8:02, are very precise. Several years of experiment have demonstrated that these are the latest possible times to get to my dish machine on a Saturday and to the oratory on a Sunday without being late, but not a minute too early. Non-morning people will instantly recognize that these extra few minutes in the warm haven of bed are very significant and must be treasured.

Once I've made the break with bed, I really enjoy my Saturdays. I work as part of a team of four sisters who do the breakfast dishes. I have a "machine assist" who has to make sure all the dishes are to hand, clean (ground flaxseed sticks like you wouldn't believe and bakes on in the machine) and ship-shape before they go into the machine and then there are two "unwrackers" who take the clean dishes off the conveyor belt and put them away. I am jokingly referred to as the "CEO" of our dish crew because, if there is any alteration to our schedule, I am the one who coordinates the change. In return, I have dubbed my dish-washing colleagues "The Dream Team."

Well, we chug along with our task till about 8:10 when we go to prayer. Half an hour later we return to our task. There is always a frisson of anticipation at this point because sometimes the "angels" (our food service staff) will have finished up the dishes for us and all we have to do is clean up.

And what once it's all done? Well, the morning stretches out ahead until Mass at 11:30. Go for a walk? Read a book? Make a cup of tea (I'm English)? E-mail some friends? Or even ... go back to bed? Believe me, on occasion that's exactly what I've done!

Karen Rose, OSB

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