PZI Events Calendar
W E L C O M E to the PZI Events Calendar! Here you will find all upcoming events and registration links for PZI Zen Online retreats, sesshins, and weekly meditations & talks. Search by individual event, day, or month. Save to your Google Calendar or iCal Calendar. No experience required to participate. Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
F E A T U R E D
Sundays with John Tarrant: Next on May 22nd
Weekly Meditation & Talks: Monday – Thursday, join us
Alternating Tuesdays: PZI Talk LIVE! with Gaffney & Hitchcock next on May 24th
Looking Ahead: Santa Sabina Summer Sesshin in June
Next: David Parks’ Dragon Series in May, Morten Schlutter on May 23rd
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Not Knowing Fire Is Most Intimate: Monday with Jon Joseph
May 16 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pmFree – $10
Put out the fire across the river.
—Pacific Zen Miscellaneous Koan
In this simple embodiment koan, we are asked to bring the fire from across the river into our own lives. However, this is just half the opportunity. Perhaps we should cross the river and go toward the flames. Once there, we may even light the fire ourselves.
The news of the Calf Canyon Fire (at this writing at 270,000 acres) in the mountains east of Santa Fe, has brought a now familiar and grim signal to us Californians: the fire season is coming. For me, for these past few years fire has been an annual and intimate experience. Our house was threatened by both the Pocket and Tubbs Fires (2017), the Paradise Camp Fire (2018) burned down my brother’s apartment, the Kincade Fire (2019) swept over our property and burned down the neighborhood, and last year’s Caldor Fire grazed my sister’s cabin on the American River. Don’t even ask about the Walbridge and Glass Fires.
With million-acre (1,500 square miles) wildland fires being a new reality, century-old firefighting techniques are hopelessly outdated. In this new era, the notion that small “hotshot” crews can jump into the wilderness and stop fires by digging an 18-inch wide fire line is laughable. The Kincade Fire was driven by 96 mph winds, with embers torching our property from a ridge one mile away. Increasingly, agencies are depending on heavy assets like dozers, helicopters, and planes to retard fire. Often, firefighting crews are deployed only to save structures, leaving the forest to burn. We need a change. Perhaps we must cross the river and go toward the fire.
Communities are spontaneously coming together to address these wildland fires. In recent years, Prescribed Burn Associations (PBAs) have popped up around California, created regionally by private landowners, Native American tribes, and local agencies to develop a kind of citizen corps of wildland firefighters. These groups oversee prescribed burns on mostly private land in an effort to reduce natural fuel loads. The movement is still small: In 2020, California’s prescribed burns amounted to less than 100,000 acres, compared to 4.4 million acres of wildland fire. But communities are on the move— crossing, fording.
This February, I lumbered north in my old F-150 pickup truck for six hours to Mt. Shasta City, to complete my wildland firefighter training with the Siskiyou PBA. About 25 of us met up at the local Cal Fire Station for lectures and videos. It was clear that two-thirds of us would not be running up a mountain with a Pulaski axe in hand any time soon. Even so, the group rapidly developed a strong sense of community purpose. Some talked of how in the old days, Native Americans set fire to control the underbrush. Others said neighboring ranchers were banding together to fight fires.
In the afternoon we drove out to a local ranch to learn how to use a firehose, build fire lines, and take atmospheric readings. We were then handed an arsonist’s dream: the drip torch, a one-gallon can that drips diesel gasoline fire from a lighted nozzle when held upside down.
Under an overcast sky, our motley bunch, in ill-fitting hard hats and brand-new gloves, gathered around two massive Himalayan blackberry stands that even the goats would not eat. Our instructor taught us how to start a burn, dripping fire with the torch on the upwind side of the brush. Skeptical, I asked him if he thought the blackberries would even catch fire. The 35-year fire veteran shrugged, “Honestly, I don’t know,” he said. “Each fire is different.” It took a few minutes for the fire to catch, and then the flames roared to 30 feet high. We stood around the conflagration and took in its size and power with awe and respect. It was magnificent and imposing, but not foreign—the fire was familiar.
Fire and how it behaves is not knowable. Our lives, and how they turn out, are also not knowable. At times, both may seem to creep painfully along. Or they may run in a bewildering and grand manner. Either way, we need not wait for the fire to come to us. We can, perhaps, make an unplanned move toward the flames, and toward our lives. And in doing that, we may kindle a new fire, a new life.
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