Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Update from Tassajara from David Zimmerman

It’s been a week since the fire passed through Tassajara. Four of the Tassajara five remain secluded at the monastery. (Abbot Steve Stücky was able to leave early Wednesday morning.) We are doing fine, with more than enough food and water, and finally also catching up on rest. Most of us haven’t had a day off in the last month, what with the numerous evacuations, fire preparations, staffing logistics, and then the fire itself. We’re now focusing on a number of projects, including documenting the events of the fire, reviewing the damages, considering what and how to begin repairs, replacing the burnt piping to the spring box, restoring the Stone Office to its pre-bunker state, and planning for the work period days prior to the (hopeful) reopening of the Tassajara 2008 summer guest season. We are also looking forward to welcoming back the displaced sangha members and to together reestablishing the rhythms of practice and community that are the heart of Tassajara.

A haze still hovers in the valley, despite what seems like a fairly constant breeze. Without the foliage on the mountains, it seems to be windier down in Tassajara. There’s a hint of fall to the trees remaining on the hillsides, as many of their leaves are turning brown since being scorched. Ash continues to accumulate on the grounds and buildings. The sound of rock slides is heard frequently throughout the day and night. Already the lesions marking the fire’s entry into Tassajara are being slowly veiled by falling oak leaves, suggesting that nature’s healing process has begun. Deer are continually spotted on the grounds enjoying the green vegetation, and the squirrels only seem to grow fatter on the spoils of the compost shed treasure.

I’ve been able to write up an account of the events of July 9th, the day of the third evacuation and leading up to the morning of the fire. I hope it will help to clarify the many questions people have had about how it came to be that only five people remained at Tassajara. The exercise of writing this account has helped me to better understand—and to allow a new found spaciousness for—how we all respond to the ever-changing conditions of each moment with the best effort we are able to make at the time. The decisions we make may not be the “right” ones, but they are simply the best decisions we can make in the moment before us. And we are never alone in our choices, for the whole universe co-creates with us the myriad dharmas and our responses to them.

On behalf of the Tassajara five, thank you all for your tremendous outpouring of support, concern and love. It nourishes us greatly to know how much everyone cares about Tassajara and the wilderness around it, the well-being of the residents of this valley, the vitality of San Francisco Zen Center, and the continued flourishing of the dharma.

Bows of gratitude,

David Zimmerman, Director


Anonymous said...

Awesome, David. All of us who have sat at Tassajara form one Buddha body which covers the earth and sky. The vows of countless monks throughout the years were no doubt present to meet the fire. So were our doubts, fears, false starts, and long tired soaks in the bath. Although it took the effort of many, I hope you and your cohorts get some rest. Be gentle on yourselves for a while!

Roberta Werdinger
Tangaryo '95
Shuso '06

Anonymous said...

Chris, i know I'm only one person in so many,but you have no idea ,how I have held unto this information out of Jamesburg night after night , knowing they are safe and coping, all of you.
Thank You,
Susan in Florida

elizabeth said...


never before has darkness held
such tender possibility ...

never before has your collusion with
the infinite produced

such quiet vast
illumination ...

never before has your embrace
satisfied me so

completely ...

Jane said...

David, it is wonderful to have you speaking to us directly again.

It will be so wonderful when the scattered Tassajara sangha is rejoined in the zendo together again, sitting, as the birds begin to announce the dawn. Just an ordinary period of zazen, all together, some a little sleepy perhaps, some with ordinarily hurting shoulders or knees perhaps, some entirely become birdsong and breath.

I am so grateful to be here with you all, on the other side of these weeks. It's clear that many are now in the mood of the question Ted asked Steve last night at Green Gulch, "What can we learn from this, and how it went?" Questioning in open wonderment.

Twice saved, once shattered, that Bocce Court Buddha, back in place again now, is half-smiling still.

Glad you are all able to rest now. (No chance of rolling yucca root balls anymore?) Stay out of the way of those rock falls, and thank you so much for finding the time to write, and I hope you get some company in there very soon.


pendoodles said...

I am glad the land is healing and very proud of the five of you. Rest, you deserve it.

Tim said...

The account of July 9th that David mentions is now up.

Anonymous said...

Oddly, I will miss this blog when it's no longer necessary! It has been such a blessing to all of us who love Tassajara but were far away, to be able to check in, multiple times a day, to see how everyone was faring down there. Thank you to all who contributed to it and kept it running.

I too am so proud of everyone who worked to protect Tassajara, and very grateful for the sharing of what happened as events unfolded and decisions were made. You've done such a tremendous job reporting, David. I look forward to hearing more, and to seeing Tassajara again soon.


Nan said...

Reading day after day of Tassajara's preparations to greet this fire, the bowing to the fire and appreciation of it in spite of fearing Tassajara's physical demise... and speaking of impermance of all 'things'.
What a wonderful job you all did!
What wonderful lessons for us all.
Thank you!
Nan in Florida

Frank Tettsu Woods said...


Thank you so much to everyone involved in taking care of Tassajara - from the heroic 5 to the professional firefighters. Expressing the dharma directly by doing what needed to be done. Wonderful practice.
Wishing you all well with the clear-up - with the renewing.

Frank Tettsu Woods
Tassajara 1969/70 - 1974 - 1988