Friday, December 23, 2016

Double Rainbows

Wishing you a Magical Holiday Season
A Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum

"So where are you from?"


"And how did you find out about us?"

"Um . . . .  well . . . I lived here for twenty-seven years, but never got over here."

The young woman smiled.  "Welcome home," she said.

Typical, huh?

  I always wanted to check this little museum out.  After all, I love history, but "living" in a place and "visiting" it, are two very different things.  I was often a tour guide when out-of-town family and friends came to visit, but I was never a tourist myself.  I had a standard route:  Courthouse, Mission, Stearns Wharf and the Beach.  The Botanic Garden if they stayed longer.  Maybe the Art Museum.  But never this tiny little adobe on East De La Guerra Street.


Because Santa Barbara, California is steeped in history.

This quote from President Kennedy is so true.  I didn't move to California until I was in my twenties.  I grew up in Kansas and sure enough, I was taught that our nation's roots began with the Pilgrims.

  The Spanish explorers?  The Native Indians?  What about their stories?  Nope.  Nada.  It's as if they never existed.

If you go to Santa Barbara, this little museum is a great place to start your tour.  For one thing, it's free.  It's also very small so it won't take very long to walk through.  How I wish I had taken my out-of-town friends here.  Their understanding of this beautiful historical town would have been much more meaningful.

The exhibits begin with the Chumash Indians who lived here long before the Europeans arrived.  Then, of course, it moves to the Mission Era and the Spanish influence of the padres and the settlers.

During my travels up and down California to see the missions, I have often wondered why Spain didn't try to colonize the pueblos with immigrants from Europe.  Well, the above painting provided the answer to that one.  Because it was extremely perilous, that's why.  They had to either cross the thick jungle of Panama or sail around Cape Horn.

The museum covers not only the Spanish families who eventually settled here, but other immigrants, especially those from China and Japan.  There are wonderful photographs and fascinating exhibits of these eras, now long gone (and largely forgotten).

The earthquake of 1925 changed the look of Santa Barbara forever.  Those big Victorian buildings were replaced with Spanish Colonial ones.   This became the city's standard and a strict architectural review board was put into place.  If you wanted to build here, you better submit plans for a white building with a red tile roof, accented with wrought iron, bougainvillea and colorful tile.

Of course, this is what makes Santa Barbara so special.  The museum itself is the epitome of this style.  After touring inside, be sure to go out back to the patio area.  Then continue your exploration into the city.

I loved living in Santa Barbara, but you know what?  Being a tourist here is pretty darn fun.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Returning to Stearns Wharf

Exploring Santa Barbara

I woke up early, eager to get out and explore this city on California's South Coast, this city I had lived in for nearly 30 years; this city I had left behind.

Returning as a tourist is something I had been looking forward to so while my travel buddy was still sound asleep in our hotel room, I set out through the fog to Stearns Wharf.  This is a Santa Barbara landmark and a place I had only brought visiting family and friends to.  We would go to the Sea Center and then grab some lobster bisque or calamari and chips and watch the seabirds (or more like them watching us, hoping for a hand out).
I love these early morning forays along popular, well-trodden paths.  To have such places all to myself is a bit self-indulgent, but always magical.  At this hour, there are no tourists.  The shops and restaurants are closed.

But a new day is dawning.  And I am a witness to its singularity. Men (probably homeless) are building sand sculptures on the beach.  There are kayakers out rowing in the water and fishermen catching mackerel at the end of the pier.  This is life.  Idiosyncratic life.  This is what I missed when I lived here--too busy getting ready for work, taking kids to school, buying groceries, paying bills, cleaning house and making dinner, blah, blah, blah.

This is why I wanted to return.

Stearns Wharf has been around since 1872.  At that time it was the longest deep-water pier between Los Angeles and San Franicsco and provided much needed passenger and freight shipping services.  Before it was built, cargo had to be rowed ashore through kelp and very rough breakers.  At one time there was even a spur for the railroad, but it was abandoned in 1923.

The Harbor Restaurant was opened in 1941 and thus began a new chapter in the pier's life--that of tourism.  Today the Harbor is still there, as well as many other popular seafood restaurants like Moby Dicks and Longboards Grill.  Perhaps I was a bit hasty in saying I never came here unless accompanied by out-of-town visitors.  I do remember bringing the boys down here for ice cream on hot summer days or to see the occasional gray whale who lost its way and floundered next to the pier for days on end.

I grow a bit melancholy thinking of the past.  That is the danger of returning to such places.  You know that saying:  You can never go home again.  Well, it's true.  The past is the past.   Plus, those days are beginning to blur. 

And so I walk to the end of Stearns Wharf. 

 Through the fog. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia

Along the Mission Trail

I understand now why Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, located in Oceanside, California, is known as "The King of the Missions."  It has a grandeur and an elegance, both inside and out, that the other missions lack.  That it is named after a king is perhaps another reason for its nickname.

The mission was named after King Louis IX of France who lived from 1214 to 1270.  He was known for his reforms, but also for his Christian zealousness.  He led the 7th and 8th Crusades to the Holy Land and expanded the Inquisition.  That he was canonized in 1297 for these events makes me shake my head with horror, but such is history.  It seems odd that a mission run by such a humble order of monks, the Franciscans, should honor such a man.

But then again, that is why following the mission trail has held such a fascination for me.  That the Spanish government should use the Franciscans to further their colonization of Alta California was an interesting strategy that, of course, eventually failed.

  However, The Powers that Be got lucky with this one.  It was one of the later missions to be founded in California; Number 18.  Founded in 1798 by Fr. Fermin Lasuen, the site was chosen to fill in the gap between San Diego and San Juan Capistrano.  The Luiseno Indians who were rounded up to provide the labor to build, harvest and maintain the mission were easily coerced into doing so and thus attributed to the mission's success.  It thrived for 31 years.
There are many interesting exhibits in the adjacent museum, but now that I am reaching the end of my mission journey, I recognize the bias in the church vs. state run operations.  Because Mission San Luis is an active Catholic parish and houses the Franciscan School of Theology, the exhibits praise the order and the founding fathers.  It seems that they did no wrong.  They were loved and respected by all.

It would be interesting to read the "Conversion de los San Luisenos de la Alta California", the only written account of mission life according to one of the natives.  Pablo Tac, a Luiseno Indian who was born at San Luis in 1822, actually accompanied Fr. Antonio Peyri back to Rome and was interviewed while there.  

I also found some of the sculptures in the museum to be quite appealing for their artistic merit in the "folk art" category.
In the church, too, the depictions of Christ were much more bloody and gruesome than usual.  They turned my travel buddy's stomach, but held a macabre fascination for me, a cradle Catholic.

. . . and the scourge of Christ followed us into the garden.

But, by far, what puts this museum on the map is the original document signed by President Abraham Lincoln, returning the mission to the Catholic Church on March 18, 1865.  The document was signed less than a month before he was assassinated.  It sent chills down my spine.

What also makes Mission San Luis Rey de Francia worth a stop on the mission trail is the fact that it was never neglected for any lengthy period of time like the others.  Once the missions were sold by the Mexican government during the period of secularization, many of them were abandoned and picked apart until completely destroyed.  This mission is like a cat with nine lives.  It just kept on living.

During the Mexican-American War, the mission housed military troops and repairs were made to the quarters.  Then in 1892, a group of Franciscans from Zacateras, Mexico, took refuge here.  With the help of an English-speaking priest from Ireland, reconstruction began in earnest and the church was re-dedicated in 1893.

Although the Franciscans returned to Mexico in 1903 and the mission was abandoned, thirty years later the Works Progress Administration (WPA) undertook to restore it yet again.

  Because of the care it was given over its 200 year old existence, it is one of the most beautiful of the California missions.  It is the only surviving mission laid out in the cruciform plan and its wooden cupola is unique.  During its heyday, the buildings covered six acres of land.  Its quadrangle design with its 32 Roman arches make it a beautiful site.  Then and now.

 The livestock count reached an unprecedented 20,000 with an additional 26,000 sheep.  Wheat, barley, corn and beans were planted to provide food for the 3,000 neophytes who lived there.  No wonder it was considered the most successful of all the missions.

Oh . . . .it even had a Hollywood role in the 1957 Walt Disney Zorro t.v. series

Today, 28 Franciscan friars live at the mission.  Not only that, but as many as 6,000 people come here yearly for private retreats.  The idea of a weekend devoted to solitude and personal soul searching is very appealing, and I love the fact that there is no formalized spiritual service.  The cemetery, too, is open to people of all faiths.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is definitely worth a stop along the mission trail.  It is historically significant and extremely beautiful.  The fact that it lives on as a spiritual center for so many people, adds to its appeal.  Even my travel buddy (who is getting a bit jaded) couldn't help but remark, "How did I not know about this place?"

And that says it all.