The fall of 2004 was what was called my tangaryo practice period. Simply put, it was my first practice period, and I stayed in Tassajara from late September 2004 through early April 2005 without ever leaving. My teacher suggested it; it was common practice in Tassajara's early days, but I was the only person during that time period who never left. Thanksgiving wasn't quite the halfway point, but it was a much-needed break in the schedule.
Thanksgiving 2005 I was on the kitchen crew, and in the middle of a drama about when, where, and whether I was going to be ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest (I was, in January 2006). I was what they call the fukuten in the kitchen. The fukuten is what you might call the kitchen manager. I supervised the crew, made sure the food got out on time, and occasionally did some cooking myself. I had been on the crew in the spring practice period, and during the summer guest season I'd been a guest cook, so I knew the kitchen well. I had turned 50 in October, in some ways was as happy as I'd ever been. However, the drama around ordination and the drama in the kitchen made it a stressful time. This was easily one of my most difficult practice periods, and that was one Thanksgiving that I barely ate before bolting to the bathhouse.
It was to be seven years before my next Thanksgiving at Tassajara. In the interim, I'd left San Francisco Zen Center to get a Master of Divinity degree at Naropa University, and spent a few years with my dad while my mother was dying of Alzheimer's. I returned to City Center (the San Francisco practice center connected with Tassajara) as tenzo, and went to Tassajara in May of 2013. I was still there for Thanksgiving, not in the kitchen, and actually sat down and ate the whole Thanksgiving dinner. I did, however, still make it to the bathhouse for my traditional Thanksgiving pilgrimage.
Carol (Doc) Dougherty
An avid reader, writer, and student, with a penchant for horse racing, Shakespeare, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wake Up and Write Writer's Retreat Workshop