July 1, 2016


I was up at five forty-five when the early alarm went off. We had a big day of travel and I was awake and couldn’t sleep. Once we had the car loaded, the kids fed and everyone ready to go- we were only twenty minutes behind schedule. A quick coffee and we were on the 580 headed toward the Oakland, Gilroy, Salinas and eventually Carmel Valley and Tassajara.

The city driving was boring and uneventful. Pockets of traffic kept the ride through the industrial wasteland and strip malls unimpressive. Things got a bit better after San Jose, but the real adventure started once we hit the dirt rode about ten miles outside of Carmel Valley, a quaint little village off the coast at the foot of the Los Pedros mountains and state park. I was expecting a rough but relatively short winding rode, but man! We were really in the middle of nowhere. nearly two hours later, we were about to turn back, certain that we had somehow taken a wrong turn. There was no way that the Tassajara Zen Center could actually be this remote. But after seeing the first car in nearly two hours, and asking directions, we realized that we were indeed on the right track.

It must have been nearly a hundred degrees when we arrived, but this was stunning country. Our car was blanketed with dust and we were a bit rough around the edges, but watching the girls run up and hug my mom made it all worth it. Kaia is nearly has tall as Mahin which is strange to say the least. We had a quick lunch of bread, corn chowder and kale salad before we headed up the creek to fund a nice swim hole.

Despite everyone being nearly baked alive all day, it took awhile to acclimate to the freezing water. After passing two deer, we found a nice spot that was deep enough to swim, so we enjoyed the setting early evening sun. All I could think about was how much Jenn would love this place.

Back at the center, we all took a bath at the communal, Japanese bath house. The girls on one side and me alone on the other. There is a natural spring plunge bath, a sauna, a cool bath and access down to the creek.

Clothing is optional. And while a few older gentlemen sat on the porch chatting away in front of the creek, I stripped down and had a great cold shower, a hot plunge and a cool off shower before we headed for dinner.

Dinner! Wow. Thai veggie curry, rice, some peanut sauce and BBQ tofu, cabbage and I think a rhubarb salad with onions. Finished off by a peach cobbler and a coffee. I ate so much that I had a hard time getting up.

After dinner, my mom showed us around- meditation hall, the woodshop, library and her tiny cute little room just off the creek. I can’t believe that she is finally here. She has been wanting to live here for years and to see her finish off her first year and be able to share that with her is amazing. The people here so far are so calm and kind. Lots of smiles and bows and introductions.

So that’s day one. It is nearly ten pm and it is still pretty warm. No fan. No AC. There was a mix up with our room, so we are all four crammed in a pretty tight space, but once I stop to think about the fact that we are about two hours in the heart of the California wilderness, everything feels okay.

Did I mention that Kaia was so impressed with the bath house that she and my mom are there as I type these words? I think back to the times I spent with my grandmother and how special they seem even now. The two of them must be so happy to be sitting along the creek, in a hot plunge pool whispering whatever it is that grandmothers and their granddaughters discuss. They have a lot to catch up on and to know that they are able to do it in this setting, on this night, fills be with unnameable joy.

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