Chuck is a long-time acquaintance from Zen Center, and earlier this year, he started proposing having a little retreat over the summer at his place in Humboldt. Zachary and I put our calendars together, and came up with the last weekend in June as a good time; I suggested it to my little student group and everyone was enthusiastic, though one person had to drop out at the last from over-exertion.
So on Friday, a couple of cars left the city and headed north. I was familiar with the terrain as far as Ukiah, but the rest was new for me, as we crossed valleys and headed over passes, with steep slopes more or less filled with trees on every side. At Chuck’s suggestion, we headed through a fair chunk of redwood forest on the way, before climbing a ways, and dropping down to the Mattole Valley, with its large collection of weed growing operations, and along to his place beside the river. It was quite the drive, but once we had arrived, it all seemed to melt away as we gathered in the little guest house and ate together as the sun set over the grazing cows and horses.
I was awake pretty early, and started sitting in the dark, getting up every half hour or so to stretch and take a photo of the day starting. People joined one by one, and we sat until 7:30, then cooked a great breakfast together.
Most of us planned to try to hike to the ocean. We needed to cross the broad shallow river first, then scramble up to the dirt road that dead-ended – a little further along than we had anticipated – at the beach, which was vast and empty but for driftwood. We sat, and ate, and looked at the waves and the mountains to the north and south, the temperature perfect and the wind almost non-existent.
In the evening we ate, had long discussions, and then sat again, before starting Sunday morning the same as Saturday – though this time we did kinhin, and there was a dense fog hanging over the valley which meant we couldn’t see the new moon.
Thankfully it had burned off after breakfast, as we wandered down to the river again, stopped in at the local community farmers’ market, then hit the road for a six-hour drive back south, where the weather was typically cool and grey. We all agreed that it had been well worth the hours of driving, though next year we will aim for a three-day weekend.