It was the mid-1980s when Adriana, the oldest of my seven siblings, who had lived in various exotic places, moved again. “Adriana is going to Ojai!”Mom said after hanging up the phone. In my mental map there was no such place; “what a strange name”, I thought, and today, when I pronounce it, they look at me with a strange face. “Ouji? Ohio? What?”, they ask me. And I start with my little verse: “OJAI – I emphasize each letter well – is a charming little town in California, a mystical town, 80 miles from Los Angeles, new age and today more hip than hippie, where Krishnamurti and Aldous Huxley lived and, for a thousand years, my older sister and her two children, Gunnar and Eliza, have lived, and in recent years , became fashionable among the “cool” people of Los Angelesof mountains half an hour from the beach. A beautiful town that was hippie according to the interest of my interlocutor on duty.
A town of 8,000 souls, northwest of Los Angeles. 40 minutes from the Pacific. 45 from Santa Barbara. A town dotted with low houses, zero ostentatious– spread out in a generous valley, surrounded by the Topatopa, a 2,000-meter-high mountain range that, when the sun goes down, turns pink quite regularly (the famous “pink moment”).
A town in which mcdonald’s has the entrance prohibited, same ban that applies to any large chain brand that, if it manages to enter, due to those legal loopholes that always exist, suffers the boycott of the localsas it happened with Underground. Not to mention that some developer would think of building a condominium, or a politician, extending the highway so that it reaches the door of the town. Mission Impossible.
Ojai is a town inhabited by well-mannered, well-formed people who always seem to be relaxed. People greet each other, smile frankly, without knowing each other. The natives respect the great signs of Stop painted on the asphalt, although there is not a soul around. And they also brake to zero to let anyone cross the street on the zebra lines.
A town that has a picturesque wheelbarrow (the wooden one still remains) attended by very nice drivers who tell you: “Good morning, how are you?”, when going up, and “Have a good day”, when going down.
A town where stalls selling tangerines, oranges, lemons, avocados can be seen, all grown a few meters away, with organic or regenerative practices– cared for by no one. The mere presence of a piggy bank reminds, with high chances of success, that after taking that fruit you will have to deposit the corresponding dollars in the little box, with a slot, resting on the beach bar.
A town that also shines bartsan open-air bookstore that since it opened in 1964It has various shelves attached to the external walls, on the sidewalk itself, full of books. At night, when it is completely closed, it continues to function under the stars. And if anyone – a night owl, a dreamer, anyone – comes up with the idea, they can take all the time in the world until they find that treasure that kept them out of bed.
And, once again, that same confidence that makes the essence of this town so unique, so contrary to the times we live in and without anyone remembering it; that subject who chose a book under the starry sky deposits the value of the purchased merchandise inside a mailbox that is next to the entrance door. I repeat: without anyone reminding him.
At the time, in the mid-1980s, I came to Full Circle Farm, a hippie communityrecently released on the outskirts of town, where my sister and Gunnar, her 6-year-old son, settled. A few months after their move, I decided to go on summer vacation and spend an entire January with them. But, I clarify, I was not one bit afraid of this vegetarian community led by Bob Goddard, an eccentric Californian who years later became my brother-in-law. Bob, a pacifist who at the age of 18 managed to avoid being enlisted in the war against Vietnam, without receiving a sanction. Bob, the great mountain explorer and convinced that community life is the best alternative in this highly individualistic society.
But before continuing I have to confess a childhood terror: I don’t know how I found out that he lived in Ojai –and lives– Malcolm McDowell, the villain of clockwork orange1971 film directed by Stanley Kubrick, with scenes of enormous violence. It is clear that I could not separate the actor from his character: the mere idea of running into him through the streets of that town with a strange name made me panic (I never saw him, neither on that first trip nor on the dozen others I made during these decades passed).
And I just settled in the Farm, one of the few hippie communities that are still standing in the United States. Extended over some five hectares, populated with plum trees and native grasses, it includes a large two-story central house built in wood, with seven bedrooms, two shared bathrooms, a sauna, a family room and a kitchen-dining room where those who come together eat. they want: here there are no obligations of any kind and the distribution of tasks –cleaning, preparing dinner, for example– is suggested as a form of good coexistence.
And as for the rest of the constructions, which have different rental values, it is an exotic and spontaneous mixture that Bob has been building over these decades: tiny houses, a yurt, an adobe house, mobile homes, a vegetable garden, a chicken coop, a laundry room and a kiva where various ceremonies are practiced.
And the most exotic for me: I happily shared my days with another 24, 25 young and free-spirited souls, from 20 to 40 years oldthat every morning they climbed into their cars to go to work in town. There were engineers and there were literature professors. And artisans, artists and jewelry designers, such as my sister Adriana, who started at the Plaza Francia fair, continued with Portobello Market and until recently had love heals“the shop” of jewelery in the center of town.
In addition to adults, at the Farm, there lived a handful of little children of various ages: many did home schooling and during the week the living room was transformed into a classroom, and Jaia, the versatile Jaia, acted as a teacher for everyone (in addition to taking care of the community purchases of organic food and other goods). While others studied in private schools with names that seemed funny to me, such as Happy Valley (today called Besant Hill) and the secondary school founded in 1946 by Huxley and Krishnamurti, also founder of the Oak Grove Schoolalso populated by children of celebrities, such as the stepdaughter of Barbra Streisand, the children of Yvon Chouinard –the legendary creator of the brand Patagonia–, those of Ewan McGregor, Diane Keaton, etcetera, etcetera.
In Ojai, Incorporated rituals several that, in my country, in the 80s and 90s, were unknown, except for an initiatory circle: to take off my shoes to enter the main house as a hygienic measure; the beautiful ritual of giving thanks, every day for food, with my eyes closed and holding hands with other inhabitants of the community.
They warned me that I had to eat organic to be healthier. And that grass juice, pure chlorophyll, was a magnificent purifier. I also learned about alternative therapies that back then were the closest thing to practicing magic. At the Farm, they told me about peyoteof the teachings of Don Juan and how wonderful the practice of meditation is.
And I discovered perhaps the most important thing of all, observing them this February that I spent in the house of my dear sister, who no longer lives in the community, but continues to practice the beautiful ritual of giving thanks for food: there is another way of living and build community. That respect, trust and empathy, and respect for rules are powerful engines to generate a more loving society. And that for them to persist you have to do a job of being present and remembering and remembering. It’s so easy to forget.