Tassajara Fall: Dust, Fire, and Rebirth

This spring, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Tassajara and hike in the Los Padres National Forest. Because there had been a fire in the forest surrounding Tassajara, the wildflowers were spectacular and the landscape much changed. I prepared three posts about the flowers and the fire, which you can find here.

Last week, I returned for the last few days of the guest season. Today, the monastery doors will close and, after a short work period, the monks will live in seclusion until they open the doors again in the spring.

A feeling of fall was in the air. Trees changing color, everything dusty, things breaking down, and the people a bit tired after a summer of working very hard preparing delicious meals and taking care of the guests, the baths, the gardens...

And while Tassajara Valley was green and inviting, we saw many trees that had not survived the fire.

Beautiful against the dark blue fall sky, but also a sign of great fire danger for the next few years to come.

And yet, a feeling of rebirth and growth was in the air. Many of trees that had looked dead in the spring were resprouting vigerously. It was quite a sight to see oak leaves come out of a piece of charcoal.

And in many places dry, black sticks were surrounded with fresh green. "The roots go very deep," one of the residents told us, "so the trees can come back."

And there was beauty in unexpected places. Goldenrod blooming, getting nourishment from the ash.

Epilobium (California fuchsia) adding color to the dry, dusty hillside.

A local buckwheat looking great in its brown fall display.

David, on his Montana Wildlife Gardener blog, had just done a post about the beauty of the shades of brown and tan, and Tassajara really brought that message home.

Agave were adding some muted green.

Many of the burnt branches of the bushes were offering support to a bindweed. I'm assuming it's the California native bindweed, Calystegia macrostegia, though it might be the invasive pest. I have to do more research to be sure.

Tarweeds, pretty as a picture.

And other small plants, faint reminders of the explosion of color I'd experienced in the spring.

After 4 days, I left refreshed by the quiet and the subtle beauty, and carrying in my heart all the monks who will stay for the difficult, dark winter period, dedicating their life to their practice until the doors open again in spring, for another guest season.


Scott & Liz said…
Leaves from Charcoal... Very true and nicely phrased.
Barbara said…
Still in shock from the Station Fire, it is so nice to be reminded of life after the fire. Your pictures and words suggest acceptance of this California phenomenon (even when caused by people).
It's nice to see the recovery. Maybe I'm a tad perverse but I do enjoy the structure of burned shrubbery--the beautiful lines of the trunks or stems contrasting against the new growth coming up all around. It seems to make me appreciate the living things even more.
Country Mouse said…
Funny thing - I was in Los Padres National Forest too this weekend, and other parks on the Big Sur coast, and saw evidence of fire and rebirth too, and took many photos of stump-sprouting trees - just amazing. I took too many photos so it'll be a while before I post - and I'll probably focus on the coastal wild flowers and plants I saw. I love the tarweed picture - that would be a lovely small framed photo to brighten up a dark wall.