Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Dip In The Archives

The video recently posted on the Tassajara Facebook page got me going. In fact my first reaction was definitely ego-centered: call that a storm? I've been at Tassajara in bigger storms than that....
In my first winter we had a memorable series of storms in December, including back-to-back ones during rohatsu - I spent the last afternoon of the sesshin with the rest of the shop crew driving up the road to clear rocks and fallen trees. Blanche was leading her last practice period as Abbess, and as I recall, we did a shosan where we used microphones to be heard above Cabarga Creek, which was roaring alongside the zendo, but then for the shuso ceremony a few days later, when it was raining so hard we had to take the traditional practice period group photo in the zendo, we were encouraged simply to pitch our voices above the noise of the water.
I was, however, particularly thinking of what I call the tangaryo storm of January 2008, where we had about ten inches of rain in thirty six hours. The day that most of the rain fell, I drove myself up the road to check for damage, and worried that I would be blown off the ridge by the force of the wind.  I thought I might have also taken a video of the creek at its highest and noisiest, but a trawl through my hard drive revealed nothing in the realm of moving pictures, so here are some stills. The blurriness is more due to the lack of light at the end of a winter afternoon than the speed of the water:

Cabarga Creek joining Tassajara Creek beside the dining room, taken from the bridge
At the bathhouse
From the bridge to the old bathhouse
 By way of comparison, here is a picture taken two months later, from the right bank of the photo above, to the wall I was building on the left bank; the creek is at least three feet lower.

More often, the creek looks like this during the winter:

This picture is a little deceptive, as the steam is not coming directly from the hot springs that seep into the creek in other places; rather it is the warm water (which is hot springs water after it has heated parts of Tassajara on the way through) flowing out of the pool back into the creek - the advantage of this spot is that it catches the morning winter sun.

I made a practice of going in the creek every day I was at Tassajara. In the winter it was much easier to do so having got thoroughly warmed up in the steam room first, and then heading down the steps as quickly as possible for a brief immersion, followed by a reheating in the indoor hot plunge. When the creek was really running high, and you could hear the boulders rumbling along the bed, like on the day of the tangaryo storm, I would hold onto the handrail and just dip myself in from the steps. The swollen creek could push you around easily, and occasionally Bryan and I would get swept off our feet as we crossed it on our runs.

The creek at the men's side of the bathhouse in winter
In the summer, of course, getting into the creek is much more pleasurable, indeed almost a necessity when it gets hotter. I used to enjoy spending my days off hiking up and down the creek, which involves a trail for the first while in each direction, but then becomes a case of wading in the water. This is a picture that has been used a lot, and is one of my favourites, taken about twenty minutes' hike below the Narrows:

 We just had the Tassajara brochure launch party here, and we are going to be seeing more of this picture:

If you get your hands on the brochure, you will notice how much work Jim did to balance out the light and shadow and the colours - the strength of the light is something that it took me several years to adapt to in my photo taking.

Further up and down the creek, there are lovely places to be found:

 In 2007, the first summer I was back at Tassajara, the creek dried out for large stretches by the end of the season. This swimming hole round the back of the Hogsback disappeared.

 This is the same spot last summer, where I spent a very peaceful hour. The deeper part, on the right above, was about shoulder deep, and a good place to spot turtles.

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