January 4, 2024
Honoring SFZC’s Elders as They Depart for Enso Village

Left: Meiya Wender and Fu Schroeder at the GGF Tea House; right: Barbara Machtinger, Susan O’Connell, Arlene Lueck, Rosalie Curtis, and Teah Strozer. Photos by Tova Green.


By Tova Green

City Center held a ceremony in the zendo on November 28, followed by a celebratory dinner for five elders who left for Enso Village on December 1—Arlene Lueck, Barbara Machtinger, Rosalie Curtis, Susan O’Connell, and Teah Strozer. There was a similar ceremony on December 3 at Green Gulch Farm for four elders—Emila Heller, Sukey Parmalee, Meiya Wender, and Mick Sopko.

David Z and Rosalie

David Zimmerman presenting a gift to Rosalie Curtis at the celebratory dinner. Photo by Tova Green.

Words from Central Abbot David Zimmerman at the City Center ceremony: “We gather this evening to honor, celebrate, and offer a fond farewell to five beloved sangha elders, teachers, and friends who will be departing Beginner’s Mind Temple later this week to become some of the very first residents of Enso Village.

“Teah, Rosalie, Arlene, Susan, and Barbara, thank you for your many decades of practice and service at San Francisco Zen Center, and for all the ways you have supported and contributed to the Triple Treasure while in this community. When I estimated the total number of years of practice you have collectively engaged in while in residency at SFZC, it came to more than 163 years. Beyond a doubt, your commitment to manifesting the Dharma and cultivating the Buddha Way has helped continue Suzuki Roshi’s legacy and shaped Zen Center into the great sangha and institution it is today.

“Dear ones, please know that you are loved and cherished. We will greatly miss the presence of each of you in the temple but know that you will not be far away as you help establish a new practice community at Enso Village. We wish you the very best in this new chapter of life, and we look forward to our paths continuing to cross in the years to come. Nine deep bows in gratitude and appreciation!”

The five who were departing completed a jundo around the zendo, bowing and being bowed to by each person there, and then received warm words of appreciation from their teacher, a dharma friend, and/or student. At a festive dinner in the dining room Teah, Rosalie, Arlene, Susan, and Barbara were each presented with a statue of Kuan Yin to take with them to Enso Village.

GGF procession

Procession during the departing elders ceremony at GGF. Photo by Tova Green.

A departing ceremony was held at Green Gulch Farm on Sunday afternoon, December 3, for Emila Heller, Sukey Parmalee, Meiya Wender, and Mick Sopko. The Green Gulch elders, senior Dharma teachers, senior staff, residents, and many friends followed in procession to altars at the farm, garden, tea house, and bakery. At each altar the elder whose work was represented at that altar (for Emila the farm, Sukey the garden and land stewarding, Meiya the tea house, and Mick the bakery) spoke about their experience of practicing and working at Green Gulch and a student or peer expressed appreciation for them and their work. These exchanges were heartfelt and loving. A reception at the Wheelwright Center followed.

Emila and Sara

Emila Heller and Sara Tashker at the GGF Farm altar. Photo by Tova Green.

Sukey and Carolyn

Sukey Parmelee and Carolyn Cavanagh at the GGF Garden altar. Photo by Tova Green.

Mick and Sam

Mick Sopko and Sam Grotter at the GGF Bakery altar. Photo by Tova Green.