Perhaps the most surprising thing about my week at Tassajara is that the temperature in San Francisco when I returned on Monday was as hot as anything we had down in the mountains. It adds to my theory that our weather has been running a month late for a while – this feels like a typical May heatwave, rather as the last similar spike in temperatures, eighteen months ago, was a September heatwave in October.
Of course it was delightful to be back at Tassajara, even if a week never seems like enough. We talked about intentions at the beginning of the retreat with Ann, and mine was to be in my body, and to share my love of Tassajara to the retreatants, which are fairly closely related as far as I see it. As I said to the guests, I always feel completely in my element when I am there. Certainly a week of yoga made a huge difference to the mid-spine issues I have been having this year, which also affect my shoulder, and after getting the area warmed up with Ann, Lirio’s careful structuring of her poses helped me get more strength back to the area, and a much greater sense of mobility.
A few people in the group understandably struggled with hiking the Horse Pasture when it was ninety degrees, and several took it a little easier for the remainder of the retreat. I took a group up the Overlook the following day, and then around to the waterfall, which, like the other creeks, was still running strongly. One brave soul even agreed to keep me company up the Tony Trail that afternoon, which we fairly raced up, despite the heat. A larger group came up to the Wind Caves, aided by a drop in temperature and being able to drive just about everyone up to the trail head, which made it feel like a comparatively short hike. I was trying to remember when I last hiked the three big trails on consecutive days – it may have been after the fire in 2008, when I was keen to document the transformed landscape…
After waving goodbye to that retreat, there was a slightly smaller number for Lirio’s retreat, but it felt like possibly the most good-natured group I can remember, with much connection and laughter – not least at Lirio’s notorious patter during the poses.
I was a little sad not to have the chance to offer a dharma talk while I was there, but Hakusho was kind enough to invite me to be morning doshi on a couple of occasions. Since this is now the only time to get to do it during the year, I was a little rusty the first go round – and rather mortified that I did not unfold my okesa correctly after the Robe Chant, which never happens, and which slowed me down getting to the bowing mat. The second time felt much smoother, and I enjoyed digging the chants and names of the ancestors out of the recesses of my brain.
There were reports of rattlesnakes, and I was almost disappointed not to see one. There was a wonderful profusion of tortoiseshells, from cocoon-shaken bushes on the trails to morning flocks on the watered Stone Office lawn in the morning (if not quite the super-bloom of last year); a turtle sunning itself by the old bathhouse on the last morning I was there; I thought I might perhaps have seen an eagle over Flag Rock, since the silhouette did not seem to be that of a turkey vulture; there was a Stellar’s Jay nest right outside the dining room, with four fledglings starting to shake their wings, and being fed regularly, as we were (no other bird would dare to build a nest so openly around Tassajara as the jays would undoubtedly sabotage it); and frogs in Cabarga Creek, which was also flowing well, croaking during evening zazen, something I don’t ever remember hearing before.
Odys is getting to be middle-aged now, and a little slower about the place, but still enjoying the morning sun, as any cat would.
Seeing this out of my cabin window one morning caused me a surprising amount of joy.
People making the climb to the Wind Caves where we ate lunch out of the sun.
I visited the waterfall several times over the week – this picture turned out rather old-fashioned looking, and I rather like it.
A longing-inducing image, as Zachary opined when I sent this to him – the view north from the top of the Tony Trail.