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




Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


Big Sur Film: Gala Finale, Saturday, September 7 at the Golden Gate Theatre

If you missed the Gala Finale of the Big Sur Short Film series last Sunday, September 1, at the Henry Miller Memorial Library sweat. The Grand Finale is re-materializing in an even bigger theatrical (and in-town) setting this coming Saturday night—at the Golden State Theatre in Monterey.

The four finalist films are whimsical, heartbreaking, outlandish, thoughtful, beautiful. In short, exactly the kind of diverse, energizing selections we've come to expect from the series as a whole.

And the venue at the Golden Gate Theatre promises a host of other delightful accompaniments.

Here's the skinny:

The "Town" Event of the Year!

 Join us for the first-ever Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series "Gala" Finale in Monterey*, Saturday, September 7th, at the Golden State Theater!
Food from Happy Girl Kitchen, Wine from Heller Estates, Chocolates from Trader Joe's, Beer from Peter B's Brew Pub, live Music from Songs Hotbox Harry Taught Us, the five finalists of our 2013 as chosen by our Jury, and of course, the Grand Prize Winner! 

All of this for only $10! 
Tickets HERE; Facebook event HERE; and please tell all your friends - be a part of history while celebrating all that is good about Monterey County!


Why I'm an oblate...

When I first learned of the Camaldolese, I thought of the three-fold good as an actual map of an actual landscape. And I still think of it that way.

What also interested me from the beginning was the idea of a trail that would lead back and forth between the cloister and the wild.

(That's me in the forest hiking up towards the crest of the Apennines from beyond the open back gate of the Eremo.)

And so at Romuald Duscher's prompting, my friend Steve Chambers and I found the original homestead trail between the Hermitage and Twitchell Flat and then with Romuald and others we cleared and opened that trail again. This meant a direct and open connection between the Hermitage and the Ventana wilderness — such as there had always been for the Salinan people of this coast.

Raimundo Panikaar has said that...

"The salvation of humankind depends upon well-worn paths between huts."

And that has been my own conviction, too — a conviction that's also reflected in the spirit of the Four Winds Council.

Nor have I missed the irony in Dante having his St. Benedict praise Romuald for being a monk who "kept his feet within the cloister" since Dante knew that Romuald wandered everywhere and that when he did settle in a place he generally made sure to establish his own hermitage somewhere outside the monastery's walls.

That was Thomas Merton's intention later in his life, too — to create a "hermitage outside the walls," perhaps even on the Lost Coast of Northern California. It would've been a life that maintained his relationship with his monastery without being physically enclosed within it.

There are moments when I feel as if I'm living part of the life Merton might've lived had he returned from Asia.

And I've also been learning from the Chinese mountain poets that being a mountain poet doesn't mean a quietist withdrawal, but rather that it can be an act of political resistance.

In the mountains I don't feel like I'm getting away from anything (except from some of my own obsessions). Rather I feel that I'm connecting.



It does seem strange that someone who had managed to slip out of this canyon (in favor of the open road) would choose to return to it — if, in fact, that's what this guy has done.

Wynn Bullock, "Stark Tree," 1956.In terms of driving access (as we ourselves know all too well when considering fire emergencies) there's only one distinct way in and out. It would be one thing if the guy was thinking of lighting out into the mountains, but that hasn't been his modus operandi so far. Rather his m.o. has been to flip over stolen cars and license plates so adroitly that he's stayed one step ahead of the vehicle the police are looking for.

Maybe, like Aaron wonders, he knows someone here, or else like Fred suggests, he's found a "hidey hole."

Wynn Bullock, "Worn Floor," 1952.Either way, if indeed (as I type) he has returned, the canyon must seem more capacious, more full of possibilities, than it would to a typical stranger. Another distinct mark of the suspect's m.o. is the way he's staked out remote and sometimes vacant homes (in Sonoma, Ben Lomond, the Soquel hills). If he has returned, maybe that's what's felt more comforting and familiar to this fugitive than a "box canyon" otherwise should feel.

It would be interesting to re-trace the pace of his flight. The brief news accounts read like one fast burn — breaking into remote homes and flipping over stolen cars at a breakneck pace from Sonoma (at least) until here. But does he hole up in a place for awhile when he can? Does he need to catch his breath once in awhile? How much speed is involved?

As I type, maybe he's already barreling down the coast road in another stolen vehicle with flipped license plates that the police don't quite recognize. Or maybe he's hunkered down for a breathing spell and a case of beer in someone's empty cabin.


Boulder Creek Robbery, Burglary Suspect on the Lam After Big Sur Chase

Dimitri Storm Strikes Again; Big Sur on High Alert

"Suspect" — Big Sur Kate.



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