Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Fire Monks? Me?



We live in the Ventana. Ventana means window. So you could say we live in the window. Right now the window is open and fire is moving toward it. In someways it feels slow moving, like it's creeping, decimals of a mile on a map everyday. But the news and intel and rumors make it feel a little faster moving. Refraining from reactions becomes a challenge, while knowing what's appropriate and timely looms on your conscience.

 Big Sur Kate can tell you the details of the fire. Basically, it's a big a fire and it's fairly certain to come to Tassajara from the north west end of our temple grounds. It might arrive in 5 days, or 10 days, or even 2 weeks. In 2008 there was The Basin Fire, and a similarly placed head of fire took 2 weeks to descend on Tassajara. Back then, only 5 monks stayed to fight the fire, which was a bit more complicated. It had three heads approaching from different directions, and each head arrived on the same day. It passed in about 30 minutes. We lost one, or maybe two buildings and there were no injuries. You can read about that fire in this book: Fire Monks.

So the odds are in our favor this year. We have 25 monks who have had wildland fire fighting training. One of those monks is Joe, who is a retired Cal Fire Captain and he's been training us all summer on hose lays and fire theory. In addition to the fire brigade, we still have about 50 monks who are doing prep work. About 50 people were evacuated due to health, age (my baby girl!), or a "This is not what I signed up for" status.

I feel very alive. I was talking with my friend Aaron and said do you think our lack of fear means we might die first if it gets to dying? And he remarked that he wished we could always feel this sensitive to the beings and situations of our lives that need attention. Essentially, there are these opportunities everyday, all day. I could feel very alive all the time. Wouldn't that be nice?

After a long day in town buying pumps, chainsaws, and fuel, I'm heading home. Much love to everyone. Zazen in the morning. (We have kept the schedule completely. Bells and chanting can be heard, and the hammer striking emptiness resounds in ten directions.)