- Shunryu Suzuki Index  - WHAT'S NEW - table of contents

Tassajara Stories
& ZC and Green Gulch Stories

Could be a lot go here. Not much yet. Tassajara Stories will be collected here, but also city and farm. Of course there are a lot all over cuke that can be linked to from here in time. - dc

There are of course ZC and Tass stories throughout this website - especially in people's interviews.

A history of fire at and around Tassajara

3-23-17 - Noah

1-10-17 - Walter - Audrey and Bob

Force - rape at Tassajara

5-02-16 - Fred Nason rip

5-01-16 - Tenken stories (just noticed this old post - dc)

4-07-16 - BOOK REVIEW/LETTER TO REED MAGAZINE from Rick Levine on Crowded by Beauty: the Life and Zen of Poet Philip Whalen by David Schneider - it's got some good stuff in it relevant to this page. - dc

1-04-16 - There's a saying never turn your back on the sea. Now and then I read about kids mainly being unexpectedly swept away by a rogue wave on a northern California beach. George Wheelwright who sold/gave the SFZC Green Gulch (for $300,000 as I recall), said that one day he was walking his dog on Muir Beach and a giant wave came in unexpectedly and swept them both out. They both got back in.

5-29-15 - Acquiring the Beginner's Mind Draft

4-18-15 - Bobcat Update

4-16-15 - Tassajara Bobcat

3-26-15 - DC Remembers Serial Killers Around the ZC

2-30-14 - One year memorial comments on Myogen Steve Stucky.

8-05-14 - About thirteen years ago was driving a friend named Judy around Marin and Sonoma. After Green Gulch Farm we dropped by Peter and Wendy's in Muir Beach. My friend said that I'd been introducing her to the Buddhist scene in the North Bay and asked Peter if he had any advice. "Yeah," he said. "Beware of teachers." - DC

Draft chapters for Tassajara Stories

Bob Walter


The Summer of 74 - Danny Parker

Cannabis Cookie Freak-out at Tassajara - by Loring Palmer

by Leland Smithson

          Zen Moires

          Spinoffs & Spin Backs

DC and fox at Tass

Dealing with Rowdy Guys at Tassajara

David Schneider Green Gulch Memories

Green Gulch First Visit - Barrie Mason remembers

A History of Green Gulch Farm by Mick Sopko

4-28-14 - Gomashio, sesame salt, at Tassajara

8-06-14 - Alan Marlow's Great Moment - Tassajara

11-05-14 - Bulgarian Salt Loaf

11-08-14 - Learning to Unplug

11-09-14 - One day at Tassajara Howie Klein was standing on the bridge by the dining room gazing out toward the creek. I walked up and said, "Nice view," we should take a picture of it. "Yeah," he replied, "Have to come back and see it sometime." - DC

11-14-14 - Halpern at the Door

11-24-14 - Strawberries and Soap

11-25-14 - Jays and Pigeons at Tassajara

11-27-14 - Craig's Oryoki Meal

11-28-14 - Niels and DC - Stealing Food

12-06-14 - Rape at Tassajara - a reminder from the cuke archives

2-28-15 - Hearding Flies

12-05-14 -

When Shunryu Suzuki arrived at Tassajara everyone was glad he'd arrived and when he'd leave people would want to say goodbye, so little by little a practice evolved of students gathering and standing near his cabin, on the bridge, and on the road, to greet him or say goodbye bowing with hands in gassho. I don't remember there being any bell or announcement, so not everyone would be there. Oh yes - there were three hits of the han when he'd arrive. It wasn't so formal. That practice continued when Richard Baker became abbot. It wasn't something he asked for. I recall Stewart Brand being turned off by it. It did look a little culty. Of course Suzuki was arriving in somebody's car, like Yvonne's VW Bug and what Stewart saw was Baker arriving in his albatrosic BMW. But also, I think that Suzuki was more comfortable with it than Baker. I remember noticing that he liked it. It would be hard not to like a bunch of people being so positive about you. And also he came from a culture which revered teachers and had all sorts of ways to show respect. But in both cases, everything would resume to normal quickly. Don't think that practice is done anymore. The whole abbot thing has come down a few notches. - dc

Not long after I started sitting at Sokoji, I recall a conversation with a long-haired, bead adorned truth seeker on the sidewalk around the corner from Sokoji on Laguna Street. The aroma of patchouli oil. This young guy said Suzuki Roshi can't be enlightened because he shaves his head. I asked why that is. He said that one who is enlightened is beyond thinking, in a constant state of bliss. To shave his head, he pointed out, Suzuki Roshi would have to have the thought of his head and then that there was hair growing there, and that he did now want to have hair there. He'd have to think of cutting it and so forth. He concluded that a truly enlightened person would just continue to bask in the clear light. He said he was more interested in finding a teacher from India. I wished him good luck. - DC - posted 1-08-15

12-03-14 - Brian Howlett artist and Zen guy wrote wonder who makes fat pants which the SFZC's then Karin Gjording's Alaya Stitchery used to make - maybe stopped before Karin got it. I think we were making them before Alaya even. Paul Reps turned us on to them and Richard Baker promoted the idea. The were popular in the early days of his abbotship. Here's how to make them!  - I know it's not a story but rather than put it in misc thought this was a bit of ZC history I didn't want buried.

11-05-14 - Bulgarian Salt Loaf

Mike Daft was cook for lunch, practice period, Tassajara early, 67 I think. He'd made the bread for lunch having come in before morning zazen to start the process. We cut some steaming slices straight out of the Wolf oven. Awful. He realized he'd put in cups of salt instead of tablespoons. The zazen period was just ending. Noon service would start in a minute. It was time to serve up and be ready to hit the lunch han and bring the serving pots and baskets out to the back table as black and grey-robed students took their seats, sat on their zafu in the zendo. Mike wondered if he should announce that lunch would be served without that course. There was no alternative. There were three bowls to fill. It had to be served. I was on the lunch crew that day. He had a suggestion. Mike thought then nodded. In the silence of the zendo, after the first part of the meal chant but before the servers walked down the isles, Mike bravely announced, "Today's lunch features Bulgarian Salt Loaf." Later there were no complaints. Bulgarian Salt Loaf was, however, never served again.

11-08-14 - Learning to Unplug - A Green Gulch Story - In 1973 I was living at Green Gulch and, when I wasn't needed as Richard Baker's jisha, attendant, was working on converting a bull pen into a home where Dianne Goldschlag and soon to come baby and I would move. Ken Sawyer was converting the adjoining bull pen into a home for him, Elizabeth, and their soon to arrive baby. We'd acquired a massive table saw with a 17" blade set in a thick steel plate, a powerful motor beneath. I think it might have come from Michael Sawyer (rip). When the switch was hit, in an instant that motor turned the blade from sitting zero to a high pitch whirring blur of fierce slicing spin. Periodically I'd sharpen a blade on the saw, filing the leading edge of each tooth. To do this the blade had to be held stationary. I'd do that by placing a short piece of scrap wood on the table that the lowest visible tooth would dig into and holding the blade firmly with my left hand. As a standard precaution, all power tools are to be unplugged while working on them. I usually did that, but sometimes I'd forget cause I was distracted or in a hurry. One day I was ripping some 12 by 12 posts into small dimensions to be used in constructing windows. I loved that dark purple old virgin redwood, much denser and stronger than the new growth available at lumberyards. I kept the blade extra sharp for that job and stopped periodically to touch it up, quickly filing each tooth with my right hand with the left holding the blade firmly, not slowing down the process by using the wood piece or by unplugging. I'd just sharpened the blade when Marc Alexander walked into the shop to ask me a question. While I was answering him, suddenly that table saw spontaneously turned on shaking the table with explosive force as the blade burst into its deafening high RPM whine. We jerked our heads to see that inanimate object acting autonomously. I tried to turn it off. The switch was off. Had to unplug it. Marc was perplexed then nodded. "A short," he said. I was ashen, struck with the image of my hand gripping that blade moments before and vowed never again to work on an electric contraption without unplugging it.

11-14-14 - Halpern at the Door - Sometimes it seemed as if how long a person stayed was in inverse proportion to how determined they were when they arrived.

Back in 70 I was visiting the City Center from Tassajara and was hanging out in the entranceway with Bob Halpern who'd been given the task of greeter, a role that didn't exist before or after his stint. I enjoyed watching him relate to those who came to knock on the door. Sometimes I'd marvel at his ability to make someone feel welcome and others I'd cringe at the way he'd toy with people's assumptions. One memory in particular sticks in mind. The doorbell rang. I answered it. A guy with a backpack and beard. "How can I help you," said Bob matter of factly from his chair behind a dark wood table.

The young man stood erect with his heavy back pack still on. He spoke with serious precision and resolve. "I left MIT shortly before finishing work on a PhD in astro-physics. I have hitchhiked from Big Sur where I've been camping for three months in the wilderness, living off the land, contemplating the course my life should take. Now I have arrived at this temple to end my wandering and devote my life to the study and practice of Zen."

Bob looked a him blankly. He tilted his head. "Oh yeah?" he uttered. An empty pause. Then Bob's mouth slowly opened, top iip going one way, bottom one other, his head went back, tongue protruded, slobber dripped out. He started moaning and shaking, gurgling, grunting, head wobbling. His eyes rolled. His arms began making spastic motions. He fell to one side, the chair overturned to the other. He lay on the floor vibrating violently, wild bug eyes open, writhing, flopping about with unintelligible movie monster sounds and frightening jerks. I took the arm of the poor perplexed guy and walked him down the hall. Loring came up the stairs. I asked him to please take our visitor to the courtyard and speak with him. Loring was a sympathetic listener. I went back to find Bob sitting at his desk looking at the morning paper as if nothing had happened. I took the section with the funnies and bridge column and sat in the chair next to him. Never saw that guy again.

11-24-14 - Strawberries and Soap

Richard Baker credits Silas Hoadley with the idea of having a guest season at Tassajara starting late spring our first year, 1967. We'd need the money and it would be good for us to have the grounding of interacting with the public and the public could know who we were in that way. It seemed like a healthy idea all the way around. There were of course people who came as guests because the SFZC had bought the place, but many former guests came. I think that the Zen Center or the prior owners, the Becks, or a combination, sent out a letter to the Becks mailing list. We did continue serving meat and fish to the guests at first, and continued for a couple of years, but did not serve or sell alcohol or tobacco. Some students smoked tobacco but they couldn't buy it there. The Becks had had a full bar. Still, guests were free to bring their own booze in same as today. Some of the very first guests that came were a group of farmers and businessmen from Watsonville a couple of hours away. We called them the Watsonville Domino Club. I think they called themselves that. They'd get the best Pine and Stone Rooms and drink whiskey and beer and, at least sometimes, charcoal broil steaks on the back porches. At first of course they were apprehensive about the new owners wondering how cultish and weird we'd be and so forth, but after a day or two of the first visit I could see they felt comfortable. The students were not nosy or judgmental, were busy working and too tired to whoop it up at night with all the zazen and other obligations. And we weren't proselytizers. Suzuki would occasionally chide us not to sell Buddhism as one interpretation of the precept not to sell alcohol. The Watsonville Domino Club came early in the guest season every year I was there, my last being 1975. I'd run the dinning room the first four years and had administrative jobs the others and would always visit with them, sometimes allowing them to bend my arm enough to sample their whiskey. They liked that but couldn't understand why I had no interest in their steaks. We liked them too. I remember Bud who owned Topless Vegetables and Burt whose family co-owned globally active Granite Construction with another family (he said they were one of the five biggest construction companies in the world and talked to me about the evils of the inheritance tax). And I remember Mr. Porter. He was the oldest, had a pot belly, spindly legs, and a reddish face. One year they had an 80th birthday dinner for him. He grew strawberries, lots of them. He'd always bring in a bunch of boxes for us when he came. At his birthday dinner we brought out a desert we'd made for them from his strawberries - there was enough to make that desert for all sixty guests that evening. There were about eight men at the Watsonville Domino Club table, all fairly plastered by the time the desert came out. Mr. Porter blew out the candles. There were calls of "Speech! Speech!" He stood up. The whole dining room crowd was quiet. The staff stood by politely.

Mr. Porter picked up a large red strawberry from off his desert. "This is one of my strawberries," he said. "I'm very grateful to these strawberries. We grow fields of them that are covered in plastic so they don't get dirty and are easy to harvest. Then we burn the plastic and prepare for the next planting. Safeway can't get enough of them. They ship all the way to the East Coast and are still big and red and firm when they hit the stores there. These strawberries have made me a rich man." He paused. "And they taste like cardboard!"

With that line Mr. Porter brought the house down. There was enough for the dinning room crew to share.

11-25-14 - Jays and Pigeons at Tassajara

If you go to Tassajara in the summer now you may notice the Steller's jays (also known as the long-crested jay, mountain jay, and pine jay - Wikipedia) closely related to blue jays. Mainly we called them blue jays or jays. Steller's jay is a bit of a tongue twister and sounds too academic. They're not a nice bird. They run off the song birds and mainly squawk instead of sing. Here are Steller's jay sounds. Third one down on the calls is the one I remember best.

Because of these aggressive birds it's not wise to eat outside anywhere near the center of Tassajara which is where they tend to congregate, perched on branches around the courtyard waiting for a careless student or guest. Often heard guests complain their lunch has been vandalized. I've seen the jays swoop down and snatch an apple slice out of someone's hand. A few years ago Edward Brown bout had a fit when one hit a sandwich he was eating, got off with some of it, the rest on the ground. They are the reason we eat in a screened in area in the summer - the flies too. We used to talk about how to get rid of them. A farmer from Greenfield said the thing to do is, when they first show up in the spring, shoot one and the rest will fly off and not return. We couldn't do that though some of us would have if allowed. So people have learned to live with them, and in some cases, appreciate them, or submit.

When we first got to Tassajara in 1967, the jays weren't dominant. I don't even remember them from then. Pigeons were. About twenty of them lived there. That was around the time Herb Caen dubbed them "rats with wings" in his famous daily column in the SF Chronicle. I don't know what type of pigeons they were. I bet if I called up Sterling Bunnell he'd remember - just found him on Facebook and sent a message. Yvonne Rand would probably know. She's a birder. They weren't aggressive in the same way as jays but they weren't afraid of us. They'd gather around our feet on the long gone old back deck and eat all the cat food and anything down there. We couldn't leave things out unattended but they wouldn't hop up on a picnic table rudely while we were sitting at it, so we ate outside then. They had a sort of creepy greediness to me.

I found them to be pests when I was running the dining room and decided to get rid of them. I don't think I had to ask anyone due to their general unpopularity but I always shared everything with everyone and always had a million ideas of what should be done so even if I did tell the director, Peter Schneider maybe, he probably just went sure sure hoping I'd go away and not have another bright idea. So one morning after guest breakfast was over and the dining room all clean, I put out a jumbo cardboard box propped up with a stick, holding a string tied to it, a plate of dried cat food inside, and waited. Not long. They were really stupid. One by one caught them all, put them in other large boxes, and before time to set up guest lunch the task was done. After guest lunch cleanup loaded the boxes with all of them in it in the back of the shopping truck and drove them out to Carmel Valley. They got back about the same time I did.

I talked to former Tassajara owner Bob Beck about it. He said they were carrier or homing pigeons and that they had been used to carry messages in and out of Tassajara years back. Or maybe that was other pigeons. I'll ask Sterling what he thinks.

Later in the summer I got the job of driving the six ton flat bed four hours to Dos Palos to Koda Brothers Farm to get a ton or maybe two tons of brown rice. some white, and some bags of gluton rice for baking and making mochi. I hope that the ZC still gets their rice from the Koda Bros. I brought some friends with me, the pigeons re-caught and boxed gingerly for the trip. Dos Palos is between I 5 and 99 north of Fresno and the road there through Los Banos has a famous windy as in wind blows stretch that was really acting up, making me fear a Volkswagon bus ahead would blow over. Big box trucks do that there. There are big warning signs. At the point that I was furthest away from Tassajara yet not too close to the Koda Brothers' organic fields, I pulled over, slid the back door up, brought the boxes down, and released the pigeons into a new wind-blown realm. I never saw them again.

Birds at Tassajara by William Sterling starts on p.13 of this Wind Bell - a much more positive approach to our avian friends.

I'll link to something of Sterling's later. - dc

11-27-14 - Craig's Oryoki Meal

To me the greatest of all Tassajara stories is already on cuke in two old interviews. It happened during the first practice period that Tatsugami Roshi came from Japan to lead. It was brought up in an officer's meeting that some students were stealing from the kitchen. Tatsugami said the solution to that is to put a lock on the door. The officers argued with him. No one wanted to do that but he couldn't understand why not so it happened. A number of people were upset by the new lock that appeared on the kitchen door. Niels and I didn't care. We understood. We liked to stay up late and now and then would go over to the kitchen and make a midnight snack. We might have been the main culprits. The new kitchen wasn't finished yet so we were still cooking out of that little shack on the back deck overlooking the creek.

Here's Daya Goldschlag's version. And here's Craig Boyan mentioning it in his interview.

But first, in case you don't know what oryoki is: oryoki - Ōryōki (応量器?, "Just enough") --  set of eating bowls and utensils, wrapped in a cloth, with which Zen monks eat their meals.  The procedure for unwrapping the bowls, eating from them, cleaning, and re-wrapping them has been formalized, and is performed in unison at mealtime.- wikipedia


The image of the wrapped oryoki from, the three bowls with food from, and the one with the seated person eating this way from Elephant Journal run by the cool Waylon Lewis. As you can see if you click that link, oryoki was picked up Trungpa Rinpoche and included in his sangha's practice.

12-10-14 - Got a couple of mango juices (manga) for Katrinka and me today to go with the bakso (meat and flour ball soup) at a stall by the beach in Sanur. That was our lunch. About two dollars each. Didn't have to pay the juice lady because a month ago I'd given her a fifty thousand Rupia bill (about $4) - enough to cover a few drinks. She didn't have change so I said I'd take it in future drinks. Didn't worry about her forgetting. I assumed she doesn't read or write much - though I don't run into people who can't. But I assumed that. A Muslim woman I know who teaches school said that Indonesians in general only read and write for school or if they have to for work. Back in the fall of '66 when I was new to the ZC, been around a couple of months, Silas Hoadley came to visit my little basement apartment around the corner from Sokoji. I remember he was shocked when in the middle of our conversation someone came to the door and I sold them some LSD from my fridge. But what I remember from his visit that relates to this post came from something he said about memory. He was telling me that early Buddhism was an oral tradition and that the teachings were recited at great length and passed down that way. He said that people from pre literate cultures have better memories. So when I left the fifty with that juice lady a month ago, I thought of Silas and was pretty sure she wouldn't forget.