Since I've come home for the summer, our sub-prioress has been helping me find odd jobs around the monastery. I'm glad to be giving back to the sisters in all these little (and big) ways and thankfully they usually involve working with some of our elders.
My favorite work so far has been the 'apples'. Our monastery has a large garden and orchard in our backyard. One of the trees is a summer apple that is called a Transparent Yellow even though is shines a pretty light green when ripe for the picking. The one tree was overflowing with the crisp, tart fruit this year; our gardener sisters came in with 10-12 boxes of apples from just the one tree! This abundance has provided the sisters who prepare the fresh produce with much to do in the mornings. The sub-prioress asked that I help work with the produce as well.
I LOVE my morning work. There are four of our elders that gather regularly to prepare the community's produce for the table. Each of the sisters has her own 'job' for each type of vegetable or fruit. Considering the apples: one of the sisters uses the peeler, two core & quarter the apples, and another empties the buckets of trimmings/peelings and transfers the apples from table to table. All of this work is done with the quiet, easy efficiency of a family who has served together for years. However, they joyfully welcomed the addition of this 'young sister' who is home for the summer. Tucked between those who were coring and quartering the apples, I've been trying to keep up with their able hands while listening to the stories and tales of a combined total of over 200 years of religious life. It has helped me remember that I need to keep aware of trust in God in the midst of my current search for a teaching position. So many of their stories hold twists of difficult times bringing them back to an awareness of Christ or surprise of how God lead them to their ministry. So much to learn...
But the lessons from morning work weren't over! Yesterday, I was borrowed by the community baker
to help make pies! The apples we had been preparing are perfect balance of crisp tartness for sauces, crisps, and pies. She had filled dozens of pie pans with her flaky crusts in anticipation of an apple day. I filled the pans with heaping piles of sliced apples all dusted with a sweet-cinnimony seasoning and three dabs of butter. The baker would then roll out the cover, set it, and crimp the edges...beautiful. The bakery was quiet except the rhythmic sounds of our work. The space was warm and scented with the peanut butter, oatmeal, and snicker doodle cookies being baked by another assistant in the bakery that day. A wonderful place to contemplate while working.
I decided community is little like one of our summer apple pies. There might be one tree of apples, but not one of them looks the same! Each one needs the individual attention to be picked, peeled, and cored. Some need to be trimmed of bruised spots or worm bites, but once they're cleaned; all the apples are tossed in together to be washed. After being sliced for the pies, the apples are mixed together, a combination of odd sizes and pieces. It is the final preparation that brings them together. Piled into a crust to hold them all together, generously dusted with spices to counter the tartness, dabbed with butter to mellow them, and sealed with a lid of more flaky dough; the apples are now a pie. One does not resemble the other in appearance or taste, being together and responding to the tender loving care of the baker makes all the difference.