“Care is a vital aspect of our journey through life, sustaining goodness and rightness and supporting ways of life rich in satisfaction and positivity. When we care, we find meaning in all that we do, and we act in un-contrived ways. ” – Excerpt from Caring by Tarthang Tulku

Icy droplets streaming over my nose and cheeks mix in a seamless river of rain as we stand next to another fallen sentinel which once lined Hauser Bridge Road. The beam of light from our headlamps illuminates each tiny shard of water, piercing the night into billions of particles.

Waves of wind billow and crash around us; an ominous crack and groan leads to another enormous redwood falling not far from where we’re working to clear the road. Once we’re able to drag the tire-sized logs into the ditch, with the help of a hefty pickup truck and tow hitch of course, a short venture farther south reveals multiple downed power lines draped and tangled, blocking any traffic in either direction…

Every one of us has a collection of crazy stories about the stormy weeks of January 2023 when an atmospheric river cascaded through Timber Cove, and the resulting clean-up seemed to last forever after. A steady chorus of chainsaws can be heard during daylight hours in between scattered showers. An entire local mountainside of volunteer efforts combine to clear storm debris, which ranges from small branches and limbs eight to twelve inches in diameter all the way up to massive trees and root balls overwhelmingly large and impossible to maneuver without heavy machinery, whose grinding gears and motors roaring also adds to the music of the moment. Co-director of Ratna Ling Retreat Center, Linda Copenhagen, reports, “The main impact for us has been trees being blown down and fortunately they didn’t destroy very much here on the property. We’ve really come together as a group to support each other and have kept things really going well here. And we were also able to actually help people who were stranded during the storm! We put them up for the night because emergency personnel physically weren’t able to get here.” In the days and weeks immediately after, a steady thrum of energy began at Ratna Ling Retreat Center.

Partnering with multiple volunteers from Yeshe De, Dharma Publishing and Odiyan Retreat Center, our staff has worked safely and steadfastly to restore the property to the physical beauty that attracts many retreat guests year-round. “We’ve been able to sit in our morning meetings and plan, both how we’re going to take care of ourselves and how to take care of our guests, making them feel comfortable. Our goal with our retreats is to make people feel cared for and not worried. And we’re all rallying together to do that,” Linda emphasizes. The conscientious efforts of preparation and maintenance by our very own Lee Brown and Dan Albers have been beyond crucial. The calming atmosphere and serenity of Ratna Ling are in large part supported by Lee’s dedicated work to the IT infrastructure of our organization as well as Dan’s eager attention to water systems management certifications and our diesel-powered generator operations, not to mention innumerable circumstances that require his expertise as our valued “maker and fixer.” Our team of volunteers, with a wide variety of integral skills and expertise, continue immediate recovery efforts while also sustaining other lengthy ongoing projects.

Although initially facing the predicament of trees leaning precariously on one another and a scarce few hours before another predicted thunderstorm, our volunteers and coordinators have managed to protect and conserve a massive amount of natural debris to be repurposed for future projects: firewood, Hügelkultur (a raised garden bed method strongly advocated in the permaculture field), and natural outdoor seating as well as mulching walkways and landscaping flower beds. The natural beauty and quiet atmosphere in our little corner of Northern California makes Ratna Ling the perfect destination for yoga, meditation and retreats of all kinds. Sadly, in an effort to maintain our standard of excellence and peaceful security for our retreat guests, we made the decision to cancel two weekend sessions. By prioritizing the comfort and safety of our scheduled attendees, we have been able to avoid any potential transportation concerns as well as unpredictable power restoration by PG&E across the area.

Efforts to restore the retreat center and surrounding natural areas, however, would not be possible without the tireless work of Timber Cove’s volunteer fire department! On Thursday, January 5th, Yesha De and Dharma Publishing’s pressman, George Wiegand, alongside Ratna Ling’s co-director, Linda Copenhagen, once again banded together in the warmth of cooking and baking to show appreciation and support. “Our local fire department is staffed by volunteers and we have a long standing relationship with them… Heidi Horvitz, who’s the EMS squad captain, has facilitated EMT trainings here on the Ratna Ling property for our staff and volunteers,” says Linda. “So when we knew how hard they were working, clearing trees and helping people who were hurt, putting themselves in danger trying to reach others in need… they are just amazing and they’re volunteers, so that’s why we like to do whatever we can.” With boxes full of fixin’s for fresh salad, piping hot and cheesy lasagna, “everything but the kitchen sink” cookies and George’s famously perfected homemade bread still fragrant from the oven, a much-needed warm meal was swiftly delivered.

According to the Timber Cove Fire Protection District website, this staff of seventeen individuals is on-call 24/7 to assist and support area residents. Being responsible for covering 48 square miles of steep terrain is no small job, especially when 45% is public land used for recreation, preservation and conservation of natural resources. “The fire department is shorthanded right now and they still worked around the clock… it’s a volunteer station, we’re part of the community they serve and we just want to be supportive. I’m from Missouri and we always helped our neighbors and it’s the same here. We try to be good neighbors,” George confirms.

Timber Cove Fire Protection District volunteers, Mike Hedlund and Heidi Horvitz
preparing to enjoy George’s lasagna.

Central to Buddhist spiritual practice is the development of wisdom and compassion; sharing a reciprocal relationship, these qualities work to magnify one another. The more wisdom is established through inner awareness of one’s heart and internal energies, compassion blossoms further. These processes encourage a natural inclination for reaching out and helping others. In offering her personal experiences, Linda shares, “It’s a premise of Buddhism to help ourselves and others and the Bodhisattva path…is really about caring for others. So the Bodhisattva’s vow is they will return lifetime after lifetime until all beings are enlightened, until even the blades of grass are enlightened… And that selflessness is what we practice and we study to get equanimity in our own being and then as we get through our emotional obscurations and learn to see different parts of our mind, then we have this natural inclination to help others, it’s rewarding to help others. You just naturally reach out.”

This process is supported through meditation, study of text and daily practice encompassing mind, body and feeling energies. In an effort to engage, empower and encourage the community further, Ratna Ling is excited to invite neighbors, friends and all interested to join us for new half-day micro-retreat programs, the first of which is Saturday, February 11th from 9:30am to 12:30pm with lunch to follow. This unique opportunity provides an affordable ($55), one day group session for anyone interested in participating in the retreat experience, but who are unable to attend a full weekend. Particularly special for our February gathering is free admission for all volunteers of Timber Cove Fire Department who have been essential to recovery from storm damage. Please visit us and attend this session for a chance to commune and meditate together; recover, rejuvenate and be grateful for Timber Cove’s ability to bounce back thanks in large part to neighbors willing to help one another. Inspiration is the theme for February 11th, which will focus on awakening to the benefits of developing a daily meditation practice.

The beautiful thing about practicing meditation is that it’s all-inclusive; the ability to meditate knows no limitations of age, religion or physical capacity. There is no particular place or time constraint required. “When you see a picture of a Buddha, they’re always in this pose of quiet meditation,” Linda explains further. “If you see a picture of a Bodhisattva, very often one of their feet is not on the cushion but on the ground and that is symbolic of them being ready to come to the aid of beings always.” The selfless ability to volunteer their time, energy and in some cases sacrifice their own personal health and wellness, places Timber Cove’s firefighters and EMT responders in a uniquely special and invaluable category. Without their assistance and support over the past few weeks, our communal efforts to restore a sense of normalcy could not have been achieved.

“Caring naturally spreads out in ripples that affect the lives of others. When I care for you, you are more likely to care for me. When we care as a community, our caring affects our environment, the steps we take to assure the well-being of future generations, the welfare of those with whom we interact, and the dynamics through which we pass on our best values and understanding to posterity.” – Excerpt from Caring by Tarthang Tulku