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Del Carlson

I stayed at Tassajara because of the sangha.

Photo Del on the left with Tommy Issan Dorsey. - thanks Dennis Myo Dennis Lahey


28-07-17 eve in the US - Another update: I talked to Del's niece Nancy Smith twice in the last eight hours. Just missed Del - he's gone to sleep. He is at her place and she says he's picked up and doesn't seem to be dying. She thinks he's okay so to speak. She said he'll be 94 in December.  A couple of days ago she wrote "He is comfortable. We do not know what next--either is is willing to leave us or he  will improve." - DC

Greg Fain wrote: I spoke to Del! So cool! He certainly sounded like someone who had had a stroke but he was lively! He was very happy to hear that the 4th of July parade is still happening and I sent them some pictures.

UPDATE: Just talked to his niece where Del is staying and our connection wasn't so good and I'm going to call back in eight hours but I think that saying he's dying is premature. He had a stroke on July 16th which can mean a lot of things but she said he's doing well so well. Leslie James called and he answered the phone. So suspend belief for now. - dc

28-07-17 - Just got the word from Zentatsu Richard Baker who got a message from John Renwick who wrote to Crestone Mt. ZC, "On social media are reports of Del Carlson being in transition to dying. I believe he valued his relationship with Baker-roshi who, Del told me, gave guidance to Issan on a Jukai name - something with 'gem.'"


If anyone knows more about Del especially contact info would be most grateful if you'd send it to dchad at cuke dot com. Thanks. - dc


Whenever Del came to Tassajara we had at least one get-together tea sitting by Suzuki's garden and cabin and later founder's hall.

He first came in the summer of 1969 as a guest of Yvonne Rand and came every summer after that until sometime in the nineties when he moved to Florida. He was an art teacher from somewhere south of San Francisco - Palo Alto possibly. He'd become eligible for a sabbatical that he could use to write or go to school so he decided to use that time to go to Tassajara.

He was raised Christian, had done Jungian psychoanalysis. Through that and painting tapped into the personal and universal unconscious. The personal was "washed out" and "Universal symbols of the Virgin Mary and the Old Man of the Sea came into my consciousness. I thought I'd go to a monastery." He had contacts in India and Thailand. Read a Zen center fundraising brochure and wrote the Zen Center. Yvonne was the secretary then. "We had been in a meditation group at Stanford together. She sent me to Tassajara and there I met Issan.

Del went as a seeker to Hawaii, Japan, Burma, Thailand, Ethiopia, and Europe. But he was "struck with Zen. It was okay to be gay at Zen Center and Tassajara. So when I came back to the US I intended to come to Tassajara.

Del: I fought and shot Japanese in the war in the South Pacific. I played the organ in a chapel at Saipan," the largest of the Marshall Islands where there was a big battle. "The Enola Gay left from across the pond. During the war the chapel was always packed but hardly anyone came to memorial Thanksgiving service after Hiroshima. That struck me and I decided that if I got home my major quest would be to look for my spiritual path. So I got into Jung and Zen.

photo from Blanch Hartman's installation as abbess from page 18 Summer 1996 Wind Bell

In my late thirties teaching art at a junior hi. I'd known the Beat scene. I'd had LSD and all at Stanford - in the psychiatry department. In late 1947 I was involved with a group at Stanford experimenting. It was a small group. We took with one another.

I remember little Suzuki Roshi walking with that big tall Dane Niels in 1971. He was ill. I never had a dokusan (interview). I was never introduced to him. He was very hard to understand because of lack of experience, contact. I didn't pick up any aura or anything from him - but he was so foreign. Mike Murphy at Stanford told me to look him up cause he's a true Zen master. I recall a quiet, diminutive person who seemed very exotic.

At Tassajara all I saw was these crazy people. In the second year I sat tangaryo. Yvonne said keep your back sraight. Only you and Diane made me feel comfortable. E and M were so uptight. No one smiled, were encouraged not to greet people and say hello. But I stayed at Tassajara because of the sangha. It seemed healthier than ten years of analysis. Facing a wall fit my feelings about spirituality. I liked the people the first summer.

I took classes in the city, was close to Issan. I saw folks in old folks homes. They were so unhappy. I feel needed and accepted here.

I was at Stanford from 1946 to 1952. Yvonne was there in the fifties when I was getting a masters and teaching credentials. Studied with Spielberg in the Asian Studies department. Another professor gave seminars in the summer on the teachings of Jesus. After 1952 we'd meet at his home once a week and sit quietly.

Tassajara has gotten much more lenient. It's too lenient. When I was teaching we'd call these kids the me-my-generation. They can't be told anything. Zazen attendance is loose. The older students hit on the younger students and no one talks about it. The first time I came here I was struck by all of the men coming out of the women's dorm in the morning. Zen Center was very woman oriented for a long time and some men resent that.

Zen Center was very exciting when Suzuki Roshi and Baker Roshi were here. There was always something going on. There's no sense of the thrill now.

From the Zen Aluminati page:

Del Carlson, in his eighties, spent three miserable weeks in a hospital without one visit. Del had spent every summer all summer at Tassajara being a hard working kitchen worker and regular zendo attendee. He's done a lot of hospice time for others too, especially Phil Whalen. It's not that no one knew where Del was - there was a wellness ceremony for him at Green Gulch. We were all just too busy. I wish I'd known or maybe I was not around then. Del was so mad. He told me when he got out the first thing he did was change his will from leaving everything to the SFZC to the WHO. Now he's living in Florida.

 

from page 32 1973 Wind Bell

 

from page 3 Winter 1996 Wind Bell

from page 7 Winter 1997 Wind Bell

 

from page 43 Spring Summer 1998 Wind Bell

 

 

from page 33 Summer 1995 Wind Bell

(L to R) David Bullock, Del Carlson, Angelique Farrow, Steve Allen, Issan Dorsey.

Letter from Del Carlson to Leslie James to pass on to DC too (H) - pending


Below - Del July 2017 was in the hospital where this rather angelic photo of him was shot.

 


 

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