The final days at Tassajara came quickly and as a bit of a blur to me. The season of Fall Work Period was upon us, and although I was not the same kind of participant as I was during my first Tassajara work period, I could not help but appreciate the feeling of it all: Scores of eager hearts and hands all coming together to take care of the practice, the grounds, the cooking, the infrastructure, the students, and each other. This was the Tassajara I first entered and the one I was honored to depart from over 11 years later.
Work Period is fundamentally a time of transition, either from Practice Period to Guest Season or vice versa. This one began with the usual mass exodus of students going away for vacation or to the next thing in their lives, leaving behind a discombobulated few to keep the daily practice together.
One of the first events to happen in the Fall WP at Tassajara is a meeting of the Four-Winds, which includes representatives from New Camaldoli Hermitage, Esalen Institute, Esselen Tribe, and Tassajara. Gathering four times a year at each our centers, we discuss stewardship of the Ventana land we occupy, the particularities of our community practice, the various trials and tribulations of our individual spiritual center’s community events, infrastructure, and life of ceremony and ritual. We share our stories and practice together, eat delicious food, and sometimes hold special ceremonies. For example, this fall Betsy MacGowan of the Ventana Trail Crew brought us a Santa Lucia Fir to plant at Tassajara, which we did with a ceremony officiated by the Esselen elder Tihikpas. The Santa Lucia fir is the most rare conifer in North America, growing solely in the Santa Lucia mountains that make up part of the Ventana Wilderness. The only known Santa Lucia firs in the immediate area were completely burned in the Basin Complex fire of 2008. Long-time benefactor of Tassajara and ecologist Diane Renshaw wrote an article about this auspicious event on the San Francisco Zen Center Sangha News.
We were also able to welcome another new being who appeared at Tassajara for the first time: work period volunteers Amanda West and Peter Coates brought their 3 month old baby boy Solas. What an amazing place to experience at such a young age. While I can only speculate about the impact of being at Tassajara on him, I can say that my hope is for Amanda and Peter to bring him back year after year, until he is old enough to decide to return on his own! A member of the next generation to join the present one.
Each year so many of the people who come for work period return, many for 5, 10, 20, and some even for 40 years and counting! Tassajara seems to belong to everyone and to no one at the same time, and it is truly a different place at each of the various times of the season. It was my very first Tassajara, and my last (or at least most recent), and even though I had the intention and hope of being able to enjoy some spacious time with so many old friends, I had to let go of that as I packed up a decade of accumulated items (what happened to one robe, one bowl?!), wrapped up the last bits from my directorship over the past three years (which included all the preparations for the upcoming practice period in which I would not be present for), and even went up to the city for a few last meetings. I apologize to all those dear friends who have nurtured and sustained Tassajara and my own being over the many years. At the risk of being cliche, I wish to say: Thank you, I’m sorry, and I love you! Here are a precious few photos:
Signs of an upcoming practice period… Thank you to Susan Sprenger for taking care of the monk’s apparel! With 24 new Tangaryo students entering the monastery on September 24th, your work will be appreciated by more than just the Ino.
Our delightful Ron Adams, who comes all the way from Albuquerque year after year to administer to the Age-of-Decline Fleet of Tassajara vehicles: all eleven of them! His patience, fortitude, good humor and charm are beyond measure!
And Jonathan Toste, who first came for work period around the same time as Graham and I. You are like a brother to us. Your big bright heart has touched ours along with so many others!
Tim Kroll, also in life transition: from SFZC payroll and back to school to study Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Our friendship has nurtured and sustained me over our years of practice together!
Adra Ross, whose love, kindness and generosity seem to transcend space and time! Sharing stories and photos from her time at Thiruvanamalai so many years ago was taken by me as a sign – both of the rightness of our going there and of our personal bond. It will be an honor to walk where you walked!
And what can be done about this wayward Scottish rascal? Pictured here with incoming Tangaryo student Erik Irvin, Barnyard-o Bernie Bernard McPhillips, THANK YOU for taking such good care of the work period projects and practice in the Tassajara Shop. If you have never heard one of Bernard’s Work-as-Practice shop sermons and you are skilled in any field of construction, you simply MUST come to the Fall or Spring Work Period at Tassajara! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org in mid-March or mid-August and let them know of your intention to contribute to and perhaps find a home in the vibrant, beautiful, and ever-expanding community of Tassajara Work Period!
My deepest regrets to the all-too-many people I do not have pictured here on this post: Marty Demare, Judith Keenan, Gayle Matusak, Bruce and Margie, John and Roseanne, Mike and Beth, Chris and Monica, Desmond, Lisa, Holly and Hummux, Sandy, John Bermel, Dan and Jenny, Dan Landy, Bernie R, Peter and Katie, Ted, Taiyo, John L, Linda H, Fran B, Kim and countless others… thank you for your love and support and incredible presence over the many years! Wishing you all the very best in all things, we hope to see you again someday!
Lastly, a photo of Jing Guan Joanne Pirie, Susan Sprenger, Graham, and myself, dropping Susan off at her hotel in Monterey on our drive up to the city together. Jingguan, Graham and I fresh from our own departing monks ceremony that morning… the last one of five this work period (after Jeff Miller, Brendan Crowe, Judtih Randall, and Dan Belsky). Only six hours until Graham and I board a plane to Taipei and then Bangkok and beyond…
Auf Wiedersehen! พบกันไหม่! Poitu Vaaran! Itsu made mo ogenki de!