Friday, July 30, 2010

Tassajara and Lessons in Impermanence

Going back to Tassajara was a wonderful experience this time. There were so many moments when I just relished the practice life that can be lived there: a hot low-lit zendo as we bow during the Full Moon Ceremony, and coming out afterwards to see dazzling moonlight on the hillsides; the slightly damp fresh morning air going to the zendo before the sun is up; the growing warmth as sun hits the valley, and the waves of heat in soporific afternoons; the unhurried pace and gentle smiles of the residents and guests, acknowledging that we all share this beautiful place for these moments; the refreshing dips in the creek, and the barely tamed trails.
I was asked to be doshi for evening service one day, which was a great pleasure, my debut as doshi at Tassajara, getting to stand in front of that ineffable Buddha surrounded by the strong chanting of the sangha. And there was also a morning when I got up, put on my kimono, and decided that since I had slept so lightly - possibly due to the full moon - that I would rather go back to bed. I don't really have that option here in the city as ino, and I had to allow myself to do it and try not to feel guilty, which I managed to do successfully enough to not feel bad when I didn't go to sit that evening either.
This was the first time that I have been out on the trails since the weeks immediately after the fire. Since my reason for being there this week was to take photographs, I had my camera out at almost all times, especially as Jim and I hiked around. I ended up with some similar views, partly by design, to those I took two years ago, and they made for interesting comparisons. The Horse Pasture trail particularly was a revelation to me - I had run it any number of times, and yet now it was completely transformed in places: where the tree cover had burnt away, what had been sparse undergrowth had been allowed to flourish, so the trail now cut through thick vegetation, and was quite unrecognisable on occasion. In other places rocks had fallen and altered the path as well. The one thing that hardly seemed to have changed is the poison oak, and I came back with several patches on my arms and legs, as itchy as it ever was.


ksellman said...

Wow! I love these pairings - great idea and beautiful work.

Sierra said...

I liked the description in the first paragraph. The low-lit zendo sounds nice, the heat maybe not. If you end up living up there again you might like to take a lunch break by the stream and read John Muir's book: "My First Summer in the Sierra". Tassajara is a different local, but Muir gives some nice descriptions of the natural world in that one.

Shundo said...

Thanks Sierra.