After the Fire

In the 28 days since our journey with the Soberanes Fire began, our hearts have been broken open again and again. At first it was the shock and loss of Sweetwater Sanctuary in her previous form, but maybe even more potently since then it has been by the compassion, resiliency, and generosity of our beloved community from Dharmata, to Big Sur, and beyond.

Fire – her discriminating and magnetizing qualities are definitely working magic and melting our hearts when they might want to go cold. Who knows what else this force will bring? We already feel blessed beyond measure by the opportunity to be a part of this beautiful sangha and Sweetwater Sanctuary. As Anam Thubten has said, “soon we’ll see her new face”.


Little did we know when we embraced this project just a few months ago that it might lead to this form of challenge. We recently again read Anam Thubten’s “A Poem for the year of the Fire Monkey” and “we’re ready to face your fire” sent a shiver through our beings. Had we been asked if we were ready for this a few months ago, we might have doubted it with our conceptual minds. But here we are – feeling our connection as a community and our true potential as human beings in more and more powerful ways.

Palo Colorado Canyon gradually reopened last week to its residents. Many of the structures and landscape that we enjoyed for those few months at Sweetwater Sanctuary have been destroyed, but amazing things remain. In the midst of all that burned, the yurt   – our meditation hall (Sunyata) still stands. Embers that had accumulated and just extinguished themselves rest on top of the roof. Buddha still sits peacefully inside with a bouquet of lavender cradled in his arms on the shrine.


Quan Yin stands tall in the midst of the ashes of what was once the sauna.


Our beloved deer family (a doe and her two fawns that had visited everyday for breakfast before the fire) munched away on apples remaining in the orchard that they now have full access to as fences have burned 🙂

Many of our neighbors have lost their homes and most of their belongings. Even in the midst of profound loss, the sense of community and connection is palpable. Calls for help are quickly and enthusiastically met on our neighborhood email chain. Words of inspiration (including Anam Thubten’s poem) have been continuously circulating. Heavy hearts are met with the buoy of love and support. When tempers sometimes flare, patience and compassion prevails.

Our deepest gratitude goes out to all of you who have offered to help in the aftermath of the fire. We are currently navigating the insurance process to assess the extent of our damage and coverage. When we receive the go ahead, we will be coordinating debris removal and clean-up efforts (stay tuned here). We’re carefully considering our options for safe cleanup, repairing damaged structures and water/waste infrastructure, and shoring the mountainside to prepare for the rainy season. The best use of your very generous monetary donations is being carefully considered by the hermitage committee with the long-term vision for Sweetwater Sanctuary in mind.

Much love and gratitude,

Kay & Cory

A Poem for the Year of the Fire Monkey
from Anam Thubten:

This year fire monkey returns.
It happened sixty year ago before I touched this beloved earth,
The world was in a much darker place then.
Let’s be happy that we’re living in this time of history.
Let’s wait to see all the good things that may arise in this coming year.
Each year is a start of a new era,
May this be a golden era for everyone.

Oh Great fire monkey,
We salute you.
You’re the divine mischief.
What challenges have you for us?
Don’t play too many pranks on us.
We empower ourselves with courage,
We pour the nectar of compassion to soften our hearts.
We’re ready to face your fire.

Some people are afraid of you,
The rumor says that you’re dangerous,
love to destroy things,

How strange it is,
The more I hear these things,
The more I am in love with you,
You just remind me of my beloved kharoti kali,
The goddess of destruction.

I’ll go around,
And tell people that you’re funny,

Never forget the part of you that is playfulness.
This year might be time for us to have some fun,
Oh mighty monkey,
May you listen to my New Year’s resolution,
I vow to dance
and more.

Shower me with your divine fire,
Burn this thick veil inside,
Along with many old habits
So my true nature may shine through.

Oh fire monkey,
Before you depart this earth,
Spread some good energy,
Give more peace to this troubled world.
Be kind to those who are less fortunate.

Tonight’s dinner at my home is simple,
A pile of Asian dumplings,
It always comforts my heart,
It rekindles many good memories.




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