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8-04-05 - Sabbatical Update #4 - Tassajara continued

Below is a view of the mountain called flag rock from the common area in front of the office at Tassajara - from the SFZC website.

And for more photos, check out this NY Times slide show on Tassajara.

I remember that Peter Schneider's research indicated that the name Tassajara came from an Indian root meaning "a place where meat is hung in strips to dry." I could never accept that. I've no time for it now, but it would be interesting to see if there's anything on the root of other uses of the name such as Tassajara Road near Altamont and Tassajara bikes. It's such a beautiful word.

Yesterday's update mentioned the memorial service for musician and Zennie Richie Domingue of the Pacific Zen Institute. I failed to mention that Richie was a long time student of Jakusho Bill Kwong and was for a time the director of Genjoji just a ridge away from where I live now. There was another memorial service I participated in while at Tassajara.

My stay there luckily happened to coincide with a workshop on "The One Who Isn't Busy" being conducted by Darlene Cohen with the assistance of Daya Goldschlag. These are two dear old friends and one of them, Daya, is a dear ex-wife and mother of our son Kelly who spent many summers at Tassajara and who is now 31 and living in Spokane. There were so many talks already scheduled at this time that Darlene and Daya didn't give their usual one that's open to all guests and students so I missed that, but I didn't escape the annual drenching by water pistol which is how they usually end their talk - the only time I've heard of where weapons other than the kyosaku (stick) were used in the zendo. This year they ended their workshop with a talk in the zendo to the workshop participants and opened water on them and then upon departing, found me sitting at a table outside the dining room. Thus was I baptized by these hooligans.

The other memorial service I participated in was with Daya whose mother had died not long before. Daya had gone to Florida to be with her mother and had just ordered food in a restaurant with a relative when she said they had to go back to the hospital immediately. Sitting by her mother's side she called her new husband Ted in Spokane. His lawnmower had just stopped when he heard the phone ringing. He got to it while she was leaving a message and picked up. At that moment she told him to just sit there and watched her mother stop breathing. She and I went at sunrise to Tassajara's ashes site where Suzuki, Katagiri, Trungpa, and Trudy Dixon are remembered. We offered incense and chanted the Dai Hi Shin Dharani. Then we walked up the few steps to the crest from where we could look over marked and unmarked ashes of other Zen friends to see the waterfall still flowing in this wet year. Daya spread most of her mother's ashes, I a little, and she spoke to her and called out into the valley for her mother to find peace and then we walked back down into Tassajara.

I have heard many people say they want all or some of their ashes spread at Tassajara at that spot. Bob Beck who sold us Tassajara wants his ashes spread in the Horse Pasture with his daughter Kate's ashes which were spread there about a decade ago. Sumser, Clay, and I took the horse pasture trail on our day off, carefully calculating to pass through that rugged country when the sun was at its zenith and the temperature over 100. Like Tassajara it's 160 acres and their corners touch. It takes a few hours to do the jaunt and I was struck by the volume of the flow in the steep cascade by the trail on the way back down to the Tassajara creek.

The Horse Pasture, the Pines, and Tassajara were three separate in-holdings that had always been sold together until the Becks sold just the Tassajara part to the Zen Center. Twenty years ago or so the ZC bought the Pines. I see Bob now and then and he's always talked about the Horse Pasture as his son Adam's. That's why I was surprised by what a woman told me at Tassajara. I was sitting at an outdoor table (not far from the one where I got water-gunned) when Diane, the director, introduced me to a woman whom she said had some questions about Tassajara history. Her name is Bettina and she said she was with a land trust looking to help secure the Horse Pasture for the Forrest Service as it was on the market. I doubted her until she explained that Adam was involved in selling it. That made me sit up. Two weeks ago tomorrow I got her together with Bob and Adam at Bob's antique and fine are gallery near the Hub in San Anselmo. There have been other calls and connections made and I'm not involved with it but if you, dear reader, are interested, please email me at dchad2[at] and of course substitute the @ symbol for the [at]. Everyone so far just wants the Forrest Service to get it but they don't have enough money for it as we have to divert as much as possible to the super-rich and weapons.

Now let's see this transaction turn out well and not see that quiet remote spot end up in the wrong hands. The ZC establishment isn't worried and probably rightly so, but I got a little pinch on the behind to nudge this along in any way I could.

The Horse Pasture, incidentally, is behind Flag Rock in the photo up top. When we at the ZC raised money for a remote retreat in 1966, it was not for Tassajara but for the Horse Pasture. At the last moment Beck said he'd sell Tassajara so the twenty grand we'd raised went toward that and then we were committed to coming up with something like twice what we'd initially gone for. Thanks to Bob Beck and Dick Baker and a lot of hard work by a lot of people, it all turned out well.

More on the Tassajara trip tomorrow.

Maybe I'll make the margins narrower like this from now on and even go back and change back stuff too. Whatcha think?

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