Tassajara monks practice Zen of firefighting
Thursday, July 10, 2008
(07-09) 19:24 PDT -- Fires snaked through ravines Wednesday in the Ventana Wilderness to within 3 miles of the oldest Soto Zen monastery outside of Asia, forcing the evacuation of firefighters and threatening the only access road.
The historic Tassajara Zen Mountain Center was left in the care of a handful of monks and practitioners who have refused to leave and have been rigorously preparing for nearly three weeks for the oncoming fire.
Some Tassajara staff also decided they could do no more and left, said Capt. Chuck Dickson, an information officer for the Basin Complex Fire.
"They decided that they'd done all they could," Dickson said. "It was time to go."
The flight came as remaining Tassajara staff prepared themselves physically and mentally for fighting the fire directly. They were calm in the face of the latest evacuation order.
"We'll be moving more vigorously than usual," said the abbot, Myôgen Steve Stücky, as he watched staff practice rolling out new hose lines moments after firefighters fled. "And we'll be watching those tendencies to get overexcited. We'll stay calm and alert. We'll be ready."
Even as they stood at the fulcrum of two of California's largest wildfires - the Basin Complex and Indians fires - the staff at Tassajara saw the approaching blaze enriching their practice of Zen.