Wednesday, March 22, 2006

La Purisma Mission

Originally uploaded by cork demon.
Finding myself a little fatter than I was when I left Austin, I decided to get some hiking in. Just outside of Lompoc is a Mission State Park. The weather was purrrr-fect, so I stopped the car.

The founder of this sprawling Mission, Father Presidente Fermin de Lasuen, wanted to make really, really sure that the Chumash Indians understood how Holy the Holy Mother was, so he named it Mission of The Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Mary. She's not just Holy, she's the Most Holy.

The way they've reconstucted this place is amazing. I was lucky with my timing, as all of the schoolchildren were well ahead of me, so I had time to contemplate the rooms.

Yeah, I said contemplate. I'm a geek like that, I admit it. I love to visit places like this and imagine what it was like for the Missionaries, for the Soldiers stationed there and alloted tiny two room apartments for themselves and their wives and children, for the Chumash Indians, both converted and reluctant, who resided there.

This Mission was the second built; the first one, four miles to the Southeast, was destroyed in 1812 by an earthquake. Once the new one was up and running, it flourished, with over 1,000 Chumash neophytes, 20,000 head of livestock, and shops for weaving, leather and ironwork, and clay tiles.

The spread is at once idyllic and a little creepy. One building served as a cramped open room dormitory for Chumash girls who had reached the age of eleven but had not yet married. A five-ish foot wide wooden shelf wraps around the room and hosts thin straw mats and dingy pillows. Gotta keep 'em away from the soldiers while you're teaching 'em how to cook. Eeek.

In the middle of the main area is a garden full of typical Mission plantings, and a large corral with lazily grazing donkeys, horses, longhorns, and strutting turkeys. And since I'd caught up with them, screaming children. Interestingly, there's a outside bath nearby, intended to allow the Chumash to bathe and wash their clothes the way they normally would, despite the fact that the whole bathing thing was frowned upon by their Spaniard hosts. Nice touch, I guess.

This place is a great half-day walk and picnic, if you're ever in the area. I highly recommend doing the Las Zanjas Trail around the wide green field for exercise prior to checking out the main grounds, just watch out for the abundant poison oak on either side of the trail. Exploring the reproduced apartments, chapels and workshops will at the very least give you ideas for your minimalist Mission-style interior decoration project. You can have lunch with the retired tourists and pet the horseys. What else could you ask for?

Here's a clue as to my current whereabouts: Smorgaasbord. Oh, dear God, my stomach.



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