This journal focuses on the art, history, culture, and wildlands of the northern Big Sur coast. Periodic entries and documents appear at random here.



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The story of Christ's passion — told in the poetry of sacred text and music — has the power to open our hearts at their most existential depths.

Tonight on Good Friday, Debi and I attended a beautiful "Tenebrae" service at the Carmel Mission. And so the poem "Tenebrae" by our friend Denise Levertov came back into our hearts as well.


Heavy, heavy, heavy, hand and heart.
We are at war,
bitterly, bitterly at war.

And the buying and selling
buzzes at our heads, a swarm
of busy flies, a kind of innocence.

Gowns of gold sequins are fitted,
sharp-glinting. What harsh rustlings
of silver moiré there are,
to remind me of shrapnel splinters.

And weddings are held in full solemnity
not of desire but of etiquette,
the nuptial pomp of starched lace;
a grim innocence.

And picnic parties return from the beaches
burning with stored sun in the dusk;
children promised a TV show when they get home
fall asleep in the backs of a million station wagons,
sand in their hair, the sound of waves
quietly persistent at their ears.
They are not listening.

Their parents at night
dream and forget their dreams.
They wake in the dark
and make plans. Their sequin plans
glitter into tomorrow.
They buy, they sell.

They fill freezers with food.
Neon signs flash their intentions
into the years ahead.

And at their ears the sound
of the war. They are
not listening, not listening.

            — Denise Levertov, Fall 1967


Four Winds Council Letter on the Strategic Fuelbreaks Project

Editor's note: I've added three italicized passages into the Four Winds letter below to indicate how general points that the Four Winds Council makes might be related specifically to the Palo Colorado area.

You can still email or fax your own comment letter to the Forest Service as long as it's submitted by midnight February 12/13.


Fax: 831-385-0628



Re: Strategic Community Fuel break Improvement Project

Attn: Jeff Kwasny, Project Team Leader 

From: Four Winds Council of the Santa Lucia Mountains


Mr. Kwasny,

The Four Winds Council is a cooperative association of four spiritual centers located in the northern Santa Lucia Mountains. Each center is located either within or adjacent to the Ventana Wilderness and the Los Padres National Forest. The membership includes:

New Camaldoli Hermitage, Esalen Institute, Esselen Tribe of Monterey, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.

Our association of four spiritual centers in the Ventana Wilderness is in agreement in supporting a fundamental shift from fire suppression and fire “fighting” to responsible fire management. We recommend and support the following…

  • Simultaneous protection for human communities at-risk and for wilderness values.
  • The identification and mapping of culturally and environmentally sensitive areas in order to afford them particular protection. This would include the re-establishment of the site-stewardship program.
  • Reintroduction and implementation of indigenous cultural practices for fire management. This would include hand-pruning and clearing and the use of live control burns. These practices should be used in fuel reduction around sensitive cultural and environmental sites as well.
  • Adherence to minimal tool requirements in the wilderness in order to minimize the damage that heavy mechanized equipment can do to the land.
  • The creation of meandering shaded fuel breaks as per the new Forest Service landscape design & plan.
  • A trail-based approach that clears and maintains existing trail systems so that they can be used for recreation, for spiritual use, and also for access and as fuel breaks in an overall fire management plan. [In the Palo Colorado area, the Skinner Ridge Trail (north from the end of the intended fuelbreak at Devil’s Peak), Turner Creek Trail, Little Sur Trail, and Mt. Manuel Trail—at least from its junction with the Little Sur Trail to Launtz Camp—are particularly important.]
  • [The clarification of “(2b) Palo Colorado to Big Sur Vicinity—Wilderness.” Right now the first paragraph of this section reads that “a maximum 150 foot wide fuelbreak” should be established “on the historic fireline between Post Summit and the Little Sur River, a distance of 1.8 miles.” This paragraph should be corrected to read “…between Post Summit and the North Fork of the Little Sur River.” Omitting the North Fork creates unnecessary confusion and omits the question of how the fuelbreak would cross Launtz Ridge.]
  • The establishment of a permanent and local brush disposal crew. In addition to maintaining shaded fuel breaks this local work-force would work on hazard-reduction in forest service camps, on fuel-reduction around sensitive cultural and environmental sites, and on helping train local volunteer crews.
  • The development of dedicated local volunteer crews (perhaps organized through the agency of local fire-brigades) who would contribute to the maintenance of the fuel breaks that protect their own communities.
  • The completion of a fire-management atlas that documents past fire history and strategies, while also being topographically site-specific.
  • A shift in funding-allotment so that a significant percentage of funding currently dedicated only to emergency fire “fighting” can be transferred to pro-active fire management practices.
  • The utilization of other funding channels, such as the Healthy Forest Initiative, to help fund both a local brush disposal crew and the education and training of local volunteer support crews.
  • Continued emphasis upon an integrated “all-lands” approach to fire management. Dedication of significant educational resources to encourage private landowners to fully participate. [In the Palo Colorado area, this includes private landowners on Mescal Ridge, which was such an important fireline during the Basin Fire. In a wildfire, the terrain between Post Summit and the North Fork of the Little Sur is so difficult to defend that it seems equally important to have the Mescal Ridge fuelbreak simultaneously prepared as well.]
  • Continuance and even enhancement of the collaborative efforts already taking place among public and private agencies.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit our comments. Our view is that it isn’t a matter of whether a fuel break improvement project should be done, but rather of how it should be done. Let’s take the opportunity to do our best work — work that will last. 


Esselen Tribe of Monterey County

38655 Tassajara Rd

Carmel Valley, CA 93924


Tom Little Bear Nason


Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

38676 Tassajara Rd

Carmel Valley, CA 93924


Shinchi Linda Galijan, Director


Esalen Institute

55000 Highway 1

Big Sur, CA 93920


Gordon Wheeler, President


New Camaldoli Hermitage

62475 Highway 1

Big Sur, CA 93920


Fr. Robert Hale, OSB Cam., Prior




Four Winds Council — Statement of Purpose

"The Four Winds Council is a cooperative association of four centers located in or near the Ventana Wilderness and the Los Padres Forest. Our membership includes New Camaldoli Hermitage, Esalen Institute, the Esselen Tribe, and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. The Council is formed to develop cooperative initiatives among the four centers and to promote a deeper understanding and respect for the paths of personal and social transformation which each center represents. To that end ongoing exchanges and quarterly gatherings among the centers are taking place.

Four Winds at Pach-hepas."Although each of the member organizations has its unique mission, we have similar objectives and values. We were all drawn to this area to create places of learning for the larger culture; to provide places of retreat and spiritual renewal; to explore and deepen dimensions of what it means to be a human being; to learn and to teach respect for the Earth and to live in balance with her limited resources. We also share similar interests in the land that sustains and connects us, the Los Padres Forest and the Ventana Wilderness.

Esalen Institute. Photo:"The members of the Four Winds Council view wilderness as vulnerable and irreplaceable, a sacred trust not to be developed or exploited but to be appreciated and enjoyed for itself. For us, this land is a sanctuary, a holy place where we may meet ourselves and nature in a simple yet profound way. For that reason, we are taking an active role as advocates for this wilderness and will work with all appropriate agencies, public and private, to preserve its peace, solitude and integrity.

Tassajara"Each center has the wilderness in its prayer and meditation. We are learning from one another and from the wilderness itself to deepen our spiritual awareness."

New Camaldoli Hermitage. Photos: NY Times                                                     ____________________

Over twenty years ago at Tassajara, a group of us from the Four Winds Council sat together to write the beautiful "statement of purpose" above. It has supported us unfailingly well ever since — as have our friendships, our practice together, and the wilderness itself.


New Moon — "New Year Resolve"

New Year Resolve

The time has come
To stop allowing the clutter
To clutter my mind
Like dirty snow,
Shove it off and find
Clear time, clear water.

Time for a change,
Let silence in like a cat
Who has sat at my door
Neither wild nor strange
Hoping for food from my store
And shivering on the mat.

Let silence in.
She will rarely speak or mew,
She will sleep on my bed
And all I have ever been
Either false or true
Will live again in my head.

For it is now or not
As old age silts the stream,
To shove away the clutter,
To untie every knot,
To take the time to dream,
To come back to still water.

                 — May Sarton

New moon and Mars.

May Sarton, "New Year Resolve," from Collected Poems 1930-1993. © W.W. Norton & Co., 1993.

Photos, as almost always, by Debi.


Monterey County Gives!

We're in the final days of the Monterey County Weekly's "Monterey County Gives!" program.

If you and your family make end-of-the-year contributions to worthy non-profits, please consider doing so via the "Monterey County Gives!" program. If you make your contribution to any one of a number of valuable Monterey County non-profits by December 31, the "Monterey County Gives!" program will partially match your contribution.

One of the many worthy Monterey County non-profits is our own Henry Miller Memorial Library. As HMML director Magnus Toren writes,

"As you'll recall, about 12 months ago, the Library's future was in doubt: renovate our bathroom and water system or cease having the kinds of programs that you've come to know and love. What transpired in the subsequent 12-months was amazing...soon thirty years here in Big Sur and it rivals anything I've seen.

We had an incredible benefit show in SF; this summer concert series was perhaps the best yet; the films this year were better than ever; the outpouring of generosity from you, our supporters, was consistently and mind-blowingly unprecedented."

Magnus is too modest to mention that the Arts Council of Monterey has selected the HMML as this year's non-profit "Champion of the Arts."

To make a year-end contribution just click here. It's straightforward, quick, and easy. And if you're contributing to HMML, you are eligible for the following rewards.

And the benefits of supporting such valuable non-profits are inestimable.

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