The temperature dropped, quite considerably, on Wednesday. As much as I usually grumble about the fog, I was glad of it on this occasion, as the coolness and humidity would ease the work of the firefighters all over the state. Maybe some relief is at hand. The air had been hard to breathe on occasion – I went out on my bike on Sunday morning, when the index seemed okay, and discovered that this did not apply everywhere. The better air correlated entirely with where the fog normally lives – no doubt due to the movement of the marine layer, and elsewhere it was desperately smoky.

Up by Skyline at Millbrae
I thought the air might be better along Skyline, but it was not

Last week it felt like we were stretched even tighter than we had been already, between the pandemic, the heat, the smoke, with no sense of relief in sight. Fragility was the watchword. The friends who had just moved down to Boulder Creek had to evacuate; luckily they could stay with family nearby. It seemed touch and go as to whether Tassajara would be completely evacuated. Seeing pictures of the statues being buried in the bocce court brought back vivid memories of 2008.

Joseph and Bryan carrying the Buddha from the zendo to the bocce court

On Tuesday night we talked about refuge in my student group; one of them works in land conservation in the Santa Cruz area, and mourned the loss of the redwoods, where he was used to going for refuge. Remembering the maps that the Forest Service fire crews had brought to Tassajara in 2008, I knew that all of that wilderness had burned just in the hundred or so years of record keeping. And that redwoods know how to endure fires. I thought that rather than thinking of us saving the redwoods, we could be wondering about the redwoods saving us.

Devin, Captain Jack and David Z consulting the maps

In the midst of all this, I am planning to move into a new place – and thankful that I can take my time packing, rather than being forced to gather my most precious possessions in minutes as many people have been. I hope for this place to be a refuge, through what will most likely be a long and bleak winter, and it was chosen with that perspective in mind – enough space for my love and I to be on separate video calls when necessary.

I talked about all these things on Wednesday with the Hebden group, the last of the talks I am scheduled to give in this series that began in April. If you want to hear how the conversation has evolved, with themes reflecting the times we have been living through, they are all up on the audio page. I have been very grateful for that ongoing connection, and the sense of extended sangha that came with it; I always trust that this sangha feeling never dissipates. Connections endure, the practice endures. We all support each other to do our best and to guide others along the path.

My notes for the Hebden Bridge talk

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