Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tassajara Guest Practice

My friend Rossana and I like to participate in a Guest Practice at Tassajara Zen Mountain Retreat Center during early summer. An earlier blog posting for a previous trip has more information about visiting Tassajara. This posting is more about my experience of Tassajara, besides I've just read a book about natural light in photography and want to try some things out.

We start out by driving east on Carmel Valley Road from the coast and then turn right onto Tassajara Road.
Carmel Valley Road

Tassajara Road.

Tassajara Road is paved until Jamesburg, then becomes a gravel/dirt surface which gets narrower and rockier the closer to Tassajara. Sure glad Rossana's driving a AWD. Actually, with the drought year and a recent grading the road is in good shape. We make the trip in a record 45 minutes... but make no mistake about Tassajara Road. It's basically a Forest Service road which can be impassable.
Hey - it's not too bad - yet

No guard rail and steep drop offs

The road snakes through the  Saint Lucia Mountains

It's always a treat to finally arrive at Tassajara. After checking in at the Registration Office we use one of the work carts to gather our things out of the car and set up our cabin for the next few days. This year we are staying in the Courtyard. The temperature is hovering in the low 90's by the time we finish lunch so we decide to rest in our cabin.
Work cart

Our home for the next few days

Nap time

After a refreshing nap, we head to the pool to cool off.
Pool entrance

Pool reflections on a shade umbrella

Ahhhh - this is more like it

Memorial Day weekend is a busy time at Tassajara and some of the weekend guests are still at the pool Monday afternoon before heading home. We get a kick out of watching the kids playing with a foam water gun that can shoot water clear across the pool.
Boy demos his foam water gun as his father and sister look on

As the afternoon cools off we wander through the grounds to the Bath House. Along the way, we pass the Registration Office and the Stone Rooms, where Steve Jobs liked to hang out when he visited. Staying in one is on my bucket list.
Garden by Registration area

Stone Rooms

Ahhh - the Bath House

Altar at Bath House

Entrance to Women's side

Inside the Women's Bath

Hot plunge

Weathered wooden door to steam room

Outside warm pool

Path to Tassajara Creek

Cool creek water

Fishes give a free pedicure

Reflections in Tassajara Creek

Good place to chill out

We call it an early evening because 5:30am Zazen is required as part of the Guest Practice.
New low voltage path lighting

Kerosene lamp at night in cabin

Steps to Temple for Zazen

It's common to hear various bells, chimes, and drums at Tassajara. Each sound has a special meaning. For example, the day starts with a runner ringing a cow bell for the 5am wake up call, then the steady "thock!" of the Han starts, slowly at first, then faster finishing with a final roll down which signifies students should now be sitting on a cushion in the Temple for Zazen. At morning work meetings, I get a giggle out of the fact the morning wake-up bell not a favorite task amongst Zen students. Still, volunteers are always recruited and it gets done. Other sounds summon students to meals, work meetings, Dharma talks, etc.
Alarm bell

Zazen drum


One evening, Rossana and I wander through the grounds and gardens as the golden hour approaches.

On this visit many of the local Century Plants are blooming. After a magnificent bloom, the plant has done it's job of producing seeds for the next generation, so it literally curls up and dies.

In full bloom

Roots of dead Century Plant

To capture Zen in a nutshell, below is what's written on the Han:
Wake up!
Life is Transient
Swiftly passing
Be aware the great matter
Don't waste Time

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014 Santa Cruz Blues Festival

The annual Santa Cruz Blues Festival is held on Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend. To kick off summer, we attend Saturday's show.
Jeeze - long line to get in. We need to get here earlier

Finally we find ourselves a good spot

Not too far back with a clear view of the stage

Good line up this year

The first to play is Nikki Hill from Durham, North Carolina. Like many musicians from the south, she grew up singing in church gospel choirs. She now specializes in American roots music.

The beer/wine stands are all open and doing a brisk business.

Humm - time to get a drink

Line at beer stand

These people stick close to their beer source

My favorite of the groups playing today is Dave and Phil Alvin. The brothers hail from Downey CA. They have just put out their first album - "Common Ground" - together in over 30 years and are on the road to give it a good kick off. It's working as all their CD's have sold out by the time I get to the booth to buy their new release. Oh well, there's always Amazon.

Lunch time! Let's go hit up the food booths.
At least some of the choices are healthy

Don't understand why so many people like this stuff

Our neighbors are having a good time

Tab Benoit is next up. He's a Cajun born and raised on a Louisiana bajou and brings rock and roll to the traditional Cajun sound.

Time for a restroom break. The organizers have provided enough johnny-on-the-spots to keep the lines short. Some of the guys in this area are firm believers of maximizing input and output.

Two fisted drinker

One fisted

Blues lady shows off her outfit

People watching is great at these kinds of outdoor concerts. Hawaiian shirts and tie dyes are common this crowd. Hey - this is Santa Cruz! What did you expect?

The tie dye people tell me they are refugees from the Strawberry Festival, which was cancelled last year due to the devastating Rim Fire in the Sierra foothills. They are trying to make up by attending the Blues Festival.

Peter is delighted when his favorite Trombone Shorty takes the stage.  A child protege, he got his name playing the trombone as a young boy when his instrument dwarfed him. Now he delivers a high energy show bridging music's past and future.  He's a well respected musician,  considered a virtuoso on trombone and generous with his time with young music students.

We pick out our own "virtuosos" from the crowd at the festival. Here's our prize winners as best of show:

Best tattoo

Best shirt

Best tee

Last up is the concert's headliner Greg Allman, a veteran rock and roll icon who recently announced he'll be retiring at the end of this season. A biopic entitled "Midnight Rider" was due out soon, but the production has been delayed due to a tragic accident on the set. Greg and his band give us a great show.

With the concert winding up, people are busy picking up their souvenirs. It's been a successful show and many of the CD's have sold out, but there's still tees, balloons and statues available.

Balloon guitar

Balloon hat

Very nice statue display

A good time is had by all...

Peter groove'n

Hula hoop dancer

Too much fun for this fan

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Retired and enjoying life to the max.