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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Memories of Tassajara, old and new…

Good evening, Netizens...

This picture shows the wildfire, as it appeared just above the Tassajara Zen Center, moving down the canyon, cutting off the access road and from there into the heart of the Zen Center near Big Sur, California. Despite being told to leave the center before the fire severed all communications and emergency routes leading out of the remote area, four men and one woman stayed behind to face the fire in a remarkable display of dedication and courage.

The five who stayed behind, Abbot Steve Stucky, Director David Zimmerman, Mako Voelkel, Graham Ross and Colin Gipson, are Zen Center priests and among the most senior residents of Tassajara. These five priests, untrained in how to fight wildfires, armed with only bare essentials including several water pumps, were in the Zen Center as the fire eventually swept through the area, burning several smaller outbuildings, but sparing all the main buildings. They fought valiantly against the odds as the fire raged completely around Tassajara during the worst part of the fire storm. They had essentially been abandoned by the firemen from the State and Federal task force assigned to the fire that, for a time, also endangered Big Sur's tourist areas.

The Tassajara Five:

As of several days ago, the threat has abated, and once more the road to Tassajara is open. Most of those who originally were relocated during the original evacuation order have returned to the Zen Center and are working with the members of what the news media are now calling The Tassajara Five to make repairs to the damage done during the fire.

Originally tonight I was going to complete a piece about living next to the ocean near Big Sur those many years ago, and my short-term relationships with the folks at Esalen and Tassajara forged in those days. I was going to write about the healing properties of not only those places, but of living next to the ocean itself, and healing the hurts that had accumulated in my life back then.

As fate would have it, I received a phone call from friends who still live above Tassajara on 40 acres of land, and from them I learned the remarkable tale of courage of the Tassajara 5. Of course if you want the absolutely latest information, you can browse thusly:

News from Tassajara

I stand in awe of the fact that no one at Tassajara was injured, and only a few outbuildings caught fire and burned as the firestorm swept through the entire area.


Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.