July 3, 2013
Tassajara Poi

By Barbara Huntington


With no carefully constructed plastic partitioned plate and having been suckered in by Bunkai’s humor and philosophy in Sack Lunch 101 (I usually avoid buffets), I find myself with a purloined large yogurt container, small white bags, and the traditional brown one, loitering in the sack lunch area after breakfast.

The tables are piled high with hummus and baba ganoush, and tapenade—tempting tapenade!  After examining my yogurt container for possible hidden compartments, I decide on the layered approach: hummus in one quadrant, baba ganoush, tapenade, some sort orangish dip, and…oh glory, guacamole! Oh no! More items than quadrants. Oh well. I pile on gherkins and a large dill pickle, kalamata olives, slices of avocado, tiny tomatoes…


Another table calls and I fill small bags with corn chips for dipping, a small slice of Tassajara bread (reverent pause), hunks of cheese, dried fruit, more and more and—ta dah! A chocolate chip cookie.  As I look in horror at the bulging brown bag, I remember my classmate’s question during our interview of the sack lunch guru.


“Bunkai, how do you feel about people who take more than they can eat?”

“I never judge how much someone can eat.

But, just in case, I try to make my bulging bag look smaller by holding it under my arm and making a quick dash for the door as some other yummy item is brought out and attention momentarily averted.  I stash the bag in my backpack, checking over my shoulder for blue jays and squirrels and head for poetry class.

swallowtainonrose-webAfter our  last session, of class, and tearful goodbyes with my compatriots who are leaving on the early stage, I don my jeans, hiking boots, and backpack, grab the camera, forget my walking stick and head for the narrows.  But my hikes are more apt to become meanders and soon I am alternately running and crouching in the garden, trying to digitally detain a swallowtail butterfly who weaves and dives among the alstroemeria and knows exactly when my camera is almost in focus, assuring that all my shots are of slightly blurry flowers, with a possible butterfly wing tip (or maybe that is a spot on the lens).

Departing the garden, I contemplate the word “meander.”  Isn’t that what Pooh did?  (Great flash of insight!)  From there I remember that when my sweet demented mom could not conjure up an answer to a question she always said, “Oh Pooh!”  This leads to trying to remember if I every did read the Tao of Pooh,  (and if it really matters), relegating my recent great flash of insight to the category of , “That’s kind of interesting.”

In this mindful state, I approach the ford.  After drenching my socks and hiking boots in a great show of “going beyond the need to balance on the rocks of the ford,” I see a sign! (this one is wood with three arrows.)  OVERLOOK—NARROWS—TEA.

The-narrows-Shundo-cropWell, tea sounds pretty good, but it’s the way I have just come and my boots are still squishing so I head up the hill to OVERLOOK.   Ah Hah!  Another GREAT FLASH OF INSIGHT!  To “overlook” one must go up, and the path does just that in the hot sun.  With only three retraceable steps downhill, I opt for the NARROWS, once again impervious to the temptation to flaunt my ability to balance on slippery rocks, literally going with the flow, holding my lunch and camera over my head as I descend gracefully into the creek.

A deep, flat, Eeyore voice booms out, “Can I help you?”  as a red-haired resident passes deftly, without a walking stick, over the slippery rocks beside me.

I demure, asserting that it is “part of my practice.” Is that a grin replacing his doleful expression as he goes into a coughing fit and heads out toward the narrows?  Sighhhhh….

Then I see it.  A beach!  (No, not a beech.)  With sand! And a rock for sitting! And, through miraculous coincidence, my watch says one o’clock!  I have managed to memorize a few of the items on the center schedule and since one o’clock, LUNCHTIME, is one of them and I happen to have a lunch…

yogurtcontainer-webPulling out my layered yogurt container, I quickly dip in my chips and scoop out indescribable mystery bites. Humus, baba ganoush, tapenade (with a touch of sweetness), a crunchy big dill, and Oh Glory! The Guacamole!  With kalamata olives and little sweet gherkins. In my own oryoki method I dip, close cap of container to minimize insect protein contamination, dip, close container…Wait!  That last bulge in the chip bag isn’t chips but two crackers with a cashew cheese roll inside…yummmmmm.  Oops, no more chips!

It is then I discover the joy of Tassajara poi.  1-finger, two fingers, three fingers, empty?????  I locate the Tassajara bread (reverent pause) and wipe that sucker clean.

Cheese, oh cheese, in a little white bag.  Cheddar, tangy cheddar, and… something white.  Only one bag left.  Dried fruit! Figs!  Oh, I give a fig!  I do!  I do!  And dried plums! (Who would dare to invoke the horror of calling them prunes?)


A chocolate chip cookie.


Words drift into my brain.  “I never judge how much someone can eat…”

Barbwetlegs-cropThe blue jay, who has been gradually hopping closer and closer, looks at me in disgust and takes flight.

A group of hikers greet me as they start out on their hike to the narrows. Nature calls, but with poison oak off the path and hikers on it, I decide not to pick up the phone.  Since I am out of provisions, I decide to return to base camp rather than to forge ahead and face possible starvation. Besides, a meander back to the courtyard for a little nap sounds good right now and if someone asks why I didn’t get all the way to the narrows, I think I will just answer, “Oh, Pooh!”