July 24, 2011 by Yugen
Our new resident, Kate
As I was walking to the office yesterday morning at about 8:50am I noticed a light haze in the sky around the peaks of the mountains. I figured it must be some kind of seasonal weather, as we don't (thankfully) get any of the Inland Empire smog creeping our way. Ten minutes later there was a definite smokey smell in the air and 10 minutes after that, there was no doubt that the air was thick with smoke from a nearby forest fire. I called the number which has recorded updates on local fires and there was nothing. I checked on the web and saw there was an active fire in San Diego county, at Warner Springs, which is about 25 miles as the crow flies from Yokoji. After confirming with the local fire station, it turned out to be the cause of our smoke-filled air. The fire was spread over 4,000 acres when I checked yesterday morning, and as of 9:30am this morning, it is covering 10,800 acres with 35% contained. It is a reminder of the importance of doing good forestry and brush work around the Yokoji grounds. If a fire starts it can spread so easily and quickly, it doesn't bear thinking about. We have our Care For Your Temple day this Saturday, and brush thinning will be one of the jobs for the work crews. Every year we have to cut down the brush and grasses and the duff and if we don't, then the consequences can be grave. Unfortunately, the stuff grows back just as quickly and we have to do it over and over. Fortunately, in terms of practice, the stuff grows back just as quickly and we have to do it over and over - although that's easy for me to say from my office chair!
We have a new resident in our midst, Kate from Canada. Kate will be with us for around 6 months with a view to applying for a visa for a longer stay. I was pleased to hear her say, when talking about accommodations, that she couldn't abide grime so was dubious about sharing with others who may not feel the same way. We have been in desperate need of someone who is really good at cleaning. Everyone can pick up a vacuum cleaner and a dustpan and brush and wave them in the general right direction, but few people it seems can actually really see dirt. That is where the skill comes in - not just ticking off the usual jobs but actually looking and seeing what needs to be done (as Tenshin Roshi was saying this morning in a different context) and already it is clear that Kate is a natural-born dust-buster!
The board meeting went well last week. We are reconvening in two weeks time as we only got through the strategy and 5-year plan , both of which were passed with amendments. We still have the one-year plan to go through which is where the bulk of the work is. The board seemed energized and I sincerely hope we can maintain the energy and move forward together to make Yokoji financially sustainable. Our operating budget is almost $200,000 a year, and as previously stated, that is a very lean budget. Taking care of this amount of land (160 acres) and this number of buildings and running a year-round training program, simply put, costs a lot. One of the objectives of the 5-year plan is to operate in the black with a possible budget surplus rather than the deficit which is more common for us, of which the surplus would then be channeled into new projects. I know this is achievable and I hope we can meet that goal over the next five years. The details of the one-year plan will start to materialize as and when they are passed by the board (and then I can be less elusive as to what they may be), and assigned to people to work with. I am currently doing some structural improvements on the website as well as adding more content and making it easier to add more content in the future. This work is happening offline while I develop it, so you won't see any changes until it goes live when I'm done. I will add a web survey on there soon (I hope) for feedback on the Center, so in the meantime, if any one has comments or suggestions, you know where we are.