Finding & Gleaning

I’m always finding useful things when I’m walking around. Usually it’s something inadvertently dropped or forgotten. By the time I find it, there isn’t anyone around who looks they are the ones who dropped it whom I can return it to. I bring it home, wash it and use it myself or donate it to Goodwill. This weekend, I found a pair of black Isotoner gloves (that fit me) at Marin Headlands.

Other finds
– Goat Rock State Beach: Orange fleece pullover. It had been there a while, soggy half-buried under a driftwood log and sand. Actually, it was just what I needed, since a similar orange fleece pullover Grandma gave me 5 Christmases ago was getting worn out.
– Shoreline Park: Black scarf
– California Avenue Bike Lane (Mountain View): Car windshield shade (Must have fallen out of a car, but there weren’t any cars parked around there when I saw it.) Currently deployed in our car.
– Local swimming pool: Hair clips and hair ties. Never have to buy new ones again.
– Ginkakuji and Kiyomizu, Kyoto: three face towels. Japanese people always seem to carry a hanky or towel in the summer, to dab the sweat from their face and necks. One of them was a Mister Donut 50th anniversary commemorative (probably a gift with purchase of a dozen donuts.) Cheapest souvenirs to be had from Japan.
– Burning Man (the Mother Lode): Bouncy rubber ball (like the ones played with jacks), two bracelets, white bandana, white T shirt, black fleece jacket, lavender acrylic duster. That was just 2 hours of pick-up-litter duty in 2001 that every BM participant is supposed to perform.

But the most dramatic find was at Ocean Beach: a set of Honda car keys. I was wandering on the beach alone, and spotted them on the sand. I was racked with indecision: what to do with the keys? I couldn’t just leave them on the sand. No one else, especially the owner, might see them again. Ocean Beach covers a wide area. (I’ve lost my car in its parking lot before.)

Should I try to find a police station and turn them in? But what if the owner comes looking for them while I’m going to the police station? I didn’t know where the closest police station was anyway. So I stood there, holding up the keys, arm outstretched, feeling twice as foolish as I looked. I remember thinking “With my luck, I’ll be standing here all day, because the owner probably won’t realize they’re missing until they’re ready to leave when the sun goes down. Great . . .”

It felt like half an hour, but was probably only 15 minutes before a shaggy-bearded man bounded towards me, and caught me up in a bear hug. “Thank you for finding my car keys!”

Some people may be grossed out by the idea of using something that belonged to a stranger, “Ugh, it’s dirty, you don’t know where it’s been or how it’s been used.” But in most cases, things were dropped, not abandoned, by their owners who were still using them. In picking them up, I’m helping to keep the environment clean. They can be washed and reused safely. Besides, it’s an original Buddhist concept, to make use of the discards of others, or gleaning.

The robes monks wear in Thailand that look like a patchwork of saffron, today they are manufactured. But traditionally, needle and thread were one of the few material possessions that a monk is allowed to own, so that he could sew his own robes. Originally, Buddha clothed himself by assembling rags from shrouds left after funeral ceremonies.

Thai monks go begging for alms (food) early in the morning, and it’s still a common sight to see them on their rounds, even in Bangkok. Since they are begging for food, they are dependant on what laypersons donate to them (which is almost never leftovers from dinner last night!). They can’t decline food because “It’s meat”, or “Oh no, not green chicken curry again.” It’s a Theravada Buddhist concept: thus mainstream Thai monks are allowed to eat meat, whereas Chinese (Mahayana) Buddhist monks are vegetarian.

In fact, Thai laypersons take great pains in preparing food for monks, sometimes choosing specific dishes that were the favourites of their deceased relatives, because there’s a belief that the spirits of the deceased will receive the merit and enjoyment of the food through the monks’ consumption of those dishes.


2 thoughts on “Finding & Gleaning

  1. hi Celia,
    while gleaning might not be 100% kosher in the US, it occupies a very important and interesting niche in the French culture. THE GLEANERS AND I, an extremely amusing and fascinating movie/documentary by a 70 year-old French lady, discusses the phenomenon in a charming way. you should check it out when you have a chance:)

  2. While it may or may not be kosher in the US, I find that most things i lose get taken: even things that people probably can’t or don’t know how to use. I believe that most people will tell you that they don’t “glean” but they will take things anyways. Perhaps I’m just cynical or maybe thay just don’t want to admit it to me…

    Despite not having lived in Tokyo, I usually just leave things where I find them unless it seems better to move it out of traffic or something (lost pet maybe): a mixture of sympathy and the fact that i have way too much crap as it is… I do “gleam” cold hard cash $10 and above. I found a twenty once, but I don’t remember where it was I saw it. Still waiting for that $1000 bill find(yes… joke) or M$50 lotto ticket (no joke)…



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