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How I ended up in California ☀️

one of the views from the Ojai Foundation

On my first trip to the west coast ever in November of 2009, (I grew up in Pennsylvania and Florida), at the urging of a friend from college that had grown up in Ojai, I spent a month in a work exchange program living in a tent at the Ojai Foundation.

I flew into Santa Barbara from NYC, a city girl through and through at the time, and my friend, who also lived in NYC, had her little brother pick me up from the airport and drive me to a Target to buy myself a tent and sleeping bag for the adventure.⛺️ 

He dropped me off at the top of the mountain on the Ojai Foundation just as it was getting dark, and I invented entirely new combinations of expletives as I laughed and attempted to assemble a tent for the first time by myself at night without a flashlight. 😂  I finally got the tent to stand up well enough to crawl inside of, and then proceeded to sleep for about 45 minutes that entire night I was so terrified of bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, scorpions, and basically every other creature you could name a high school mascot after.  

The next day, I decided to go out for a run to get the lay of the land and take in my new surroundings. However, I was so stunned and awestruck by the views that I tripped over a patch of rocks and skinned my knee, something I hadn't done since I was 10-years old. With blood dripping down my leg and tears in my eyes, it became apparent to me I'd need to slow down and give myself time to adjust to such an entirely new atmosphere and new pace of life.

Things got better from there, and I really enjoyed my days of gardening, decorating the fire pits (kivas) with flowers 💐, digging ditches,  cleaning yurts and bathrooms, and helping care for the land and facilities as part of the exchange for the opportunity to camp out and enjoy the stunningly beautiful land. Some other people living there informed me that the mountain is an energy vortex so powerful that Native Americans had considered it to be a holy and sacred place.

It was an honor and a gift to spend some extended time there, and a huge life reset that I really needed at the time (I'd been living in a vibrant but concrete-laden, industrial part of Brooklyn for years). I'll forever feel connected to and deeply in love with that piece of the land that opened my eyes to a new way of living on the Earth.🙏🏽  

Beaming from ear to ear at the Ojai Foundation in 2009

Ojai resonated so thoroughly in my bones, unlike any other place I’d ever been to before. I had found the Hidden Valley. My Shangri-La.

Growing up entirely on the east coast, I was totally unaware that a place with such storybook enchantment actually existed. It looked exactly like the scene on the bottles of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. (To Americans, anything pertaining to ranch dressing is highly revered.😂)

It took me 7 years from that first pivotal visit to figure out how to transplant myself fully from NYC to southern California. I was going crazy being confined to an office job as a graphic designer in Times Square, and when I finally got up the nerve to quit, I blurted out to my boss that I was quitting because I was moving to LA.

I have no idea where that came from, because I definitely had no plans (or means) to move to LA at the time. But, in a seriously baffling and totally magical turn of events, the owner of the company offered to let me keep my job as a graphic designer, and to work remotely from LA. I asked the one person I knew in LA if he'd heard about any rooms for rent, and it just so happened that he'd just had a room open up in his apartment. I didn't even have to put down a security deposit. So all of a sudden, I was actually moving to southern California! 😎

I thought LA would be a good compromise towards my dream of moving to Ojai.  Somewhere I could more easily find future work. Hollywood would probably be exciting. ✨

It was, for a little while, until the glitter and gloss of LA stopped being dazzling and started to feel dizzying. After 5 years in LA, it was still Ojai where my heart wanted to call home. I live 40 mins away from Ojai now in Santa Barbara, and it’s an easy day trip in to poke around and soak it in. Santa Barbara is very similar in places, and has the perk of being much closer to the sea. 🌊

Today, AJ and I are headed to Bart’s Books in Ojai so I can stock up on some fresh new reading material. And we’re going to poke around and have a slow Sunday. Maybe ride our bikes on the gloriously green bike path that smells of a thousand spring flowers.🌼 Maybe pick up some tater tots to-go from Little Sama for the ride home. Definitely pick up some tater tots to-go from Little Sama for the ride home. Preferably with a side of ranch dressing. 🤠

Here are a few photos from one of our pre-pandemic trips to Ojai with stops at the Ojai Foundation and the Ojai Rancho Inn.

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