Where We Stand Today
July 31, 2013 by Yugen
Tenshin Roshi and Kaigen Roshi working together during the clean-up
As of today, we have resumed the summer interim schedule at Yokoji. The Sunday Schedule will be going ahead as usual this weekend. We have canceled the August sesshin and Day of Zen Practice as we do not want to host anyone beyond the residents right now. Read on for the reasons why.
Over the weekend, we received a visit from two soil scientists who are part of a team working for the Forest Service surveying the damage caused by the Mountain Fire. This visit has opened us up to a bigger picture; the canyon is full of debris, burned top soil and loose rocks which will wash down through the valley over the next few years when rain or snow hit and cause mud to form. Most of the buildings that form Yokoji are in, or are very close to, the main watershed for the canyon. Depending on the weather that hits, the buildings and anyone in them could be at risk. When there is no rain forecast (which there isn't over the next week), we are fine, but in the winter, especially in a wet winter, stormy weather can be almost constant for extended periods of time.
The mudslides that caused all the damage to the center over the past week and filled the shop with one foot of heavy mud were caused by heavy summer rain. It turns out that this could just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of mudflow and possible rock falls that could occur in the future. However, until we get the report, we have no idea of the extent of the risk. The Forest Service team will produce computer models of the area to try and figure out what will happen in various circumstances. Based on their findings, we will have to make some important decisions as to how to proceed. The report is being finalized over the next few days and there will be a public meeting, possibly as early as this Friday, where the experts will be on hand to answer questions and the report will be made public.
The upshot to all this is even more uncertainty than we faced immediately after the fire. Once we realized the center hadn't burned, we poured a lot of energy into getting Yokoji back on its feet, and we received amazing support from so many different people with donations of both money and time. The shop is now cleaned out, the power back on, the gas is back on in certain buildings (although not on the mainline where the kitchen is). The water is back on but we are having to use bottled water, or treat the water with disinfectant at the tanks, in order to use it for cooking or drinking. A massive amount has already been taken care of. However, until we get the results of the report, we are going to work smart and do the things that need taking care of immediately, but not use up the good will of the volunteers or the energy of the residents with some of the larger projects that will occur if we can stay in the valley.
Our hope is that we will be able to stay in the valley; that with the support of the sangha and federal and state bodies that assist with disaster relief, we will be able to put things in place to protect the buildings and those who use them. The worry is that we may not have the means to do this, or it may not be a realistic proposition, based on the risk involved from the mud and rocks. The chaparral that was burned off in the fire that holds the soil in place through the valley will take at least a year to grow back and maybe longer. If we are unable to inhabit the center during this time, we will face a stark decision.
The fact is that we barely meet our overheads of around $200,000 per year. A huge chunk of our income is from guest groups, who rent the facility for a weekend or longer. If we are unable to host these groups, our income will drop to a point where it would be extremely hard to sustain the training here. Even if we could wait out a year or two, the guest groups who make the operating of Yokoji possible may not return, having been forced to find alternative venues in the interim. There is no clear option, no single path that seems to make full sense right now. We are waiting for the report which may or may not make the decision for us. The impermanence of all things could not be more clear right now, and Yokoji is about as vulnerable as it has ever been. We desperately hope that measures can be taken that will allow Yokoji to continue on this site for years to come, but for the first time, we are facing the possibility that this may not be the case.
As soon as we have more news, we will post it here on the blog. In there mean time, thank you for your continued support. For all those who have volunteered their time in the next few weeks or months, we'll be in touch once we know what is going on.