The original name of this mission is LaPurísimaConcepcióndelaSantísimaVirgenMaría, or The Mission of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. It was established in 1787 by Junipero Serra’s successor, Father Fermín Lasuén.

It was the eleventh mission in the chain and was the headquarters of the Alta California Mission System for a few years. It was extensively renovated by the CCC in the 1930s and is now a California State Historic Park. They have done a beautiful job of restoring this Mission and it is well maintained. There is a volunteer group that reenacts Mission-era crafts and other activities on a regular basis.

A museum on the mission grounds paints a picture of the Mission Period and the restoration of the site by the CCC. The local tribe around this mission was  (and is) the Chumash Tribe. According to the museum the priests attracted the natives by offering food and gifts, such as beads and other trinkets. The young were particularly curious and before long were learning the ways of the Spaniards. Cattle hides and tallow were used like money in exchange for goods traded with ships, such as china and sugar; the proliferation of livestock changed the surrounding flora and native plants were overgrazed, making it increasingly difficult for the natives to live in their traditional manner.

Once they were baptized, the neophytes were forbidden to leave the mission and if they did so would be punished. They were promised title to some amount of land after a certain period of years’ work, as well as Spanish citizenship; however, neither of these promises would ever be kept.

Yesterday, while shopping in Buellton at Albertsons for my daily rations, I picked up a copy of the Santa Ynez Valley Star. I read an article reporting that there is considerable opposition to a housing development in the Santa Ynez Valley proposed by the Chumash Sovereign Nation. The members of the coalition against the development are afraid that the development will be aesthetically displeasing and not in keeping with the rural nature of the valley. The coalition is also upset because the sovereign nation doesn’t have to abide by the usual building regulations. I can see both sides of this issue. It makes sense that native tribes should be compensated somehow for the loss of their way of life. And I also understand the indignation of the newcomers who feel it is unjust for the sovereign nations to have advantages over other citizens.

Most of us strive to achieve some sort of security in life through the acquisition of land and/or money so that we can feel certain that we will have what we need, and desire, in our lives, and the lives of our family. But do these acquisitions really guarantee a sense of security? Sometimes the more we have the more we fear its loss, or we stress over how best to manage our assets. And if we acquire that property or money at another’s expense, can we truly live in peace?

The Prayer of Saint Francis of Asissi  brings me peace whenever I start to stress about my own security:

Lord, make me a channel of Thy peace–that where there is hatred, I may bring love–that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness–that where there is discord, I may bring harmony–that where there is doubt, I may bring faith–that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted, to understand than to be understood, to love than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds, it is by forgiving that one is forgiven, and it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life. Amen.

At the River Park Campground in Lompoc a field of flowers greets you as you enter.

The tent camping section is basic but does include a fire ring, and there is wood to be found drying upon the ground and ready to kindle a roaring flame. When I collect and burn such downed wood I imagine I’m helping prevent unintended fires and I am grateful for the opportunity to warm myself twice– in the collection and in the burning.

On May 28th I was doing some such housekeeping when a woman approached, asking if she could fill her water bottle at the spigot near my site. We got to talking and it came out, over time, that she was basically running away from a disagreeable relationship with a man with whom she had been living for some time, in Florida. She also told me that the night before she thought she was going to die because she had a piece of apple lodged in her throat and could hardly breathe. She wanted to go to a hospital emergency room but couldn’t find one; she has no phone of any kind. Instead she went into a fast food restaurant and got an employee to do the Heimrich maneuver on her, but that was unsuccessful. Eventually the piece of apple went down and her throat was so sore she couldn’t eat. That she has few teeth didn’t help the situation.

Susan is 56 years old and her mother, step father and sister, with whom she was close, have all died. She has no family left and has next to no money or other resources. She came to California because she had lived here as a child and has always regretted leaving. She would like to get a job working with horses; she loves everything about horses. She also likes cats, and “Little Bit,” her long-haired black cat, is her most cherished possession. She was concerned about her because she hadn’t had a bowel movement in several days.

Susan told me about a near death experience she had when she was just 18 years old. She was in an automobile accident and was announced dead on arrival at the hospital. She remembers suddenly looking down on a scene in which  paramedics were frantically working on a pretty young woman, trying to resuscitate her. Then she realized that that young woman was her. Next she was filled with a feeling of being loved so completely and so unconditionally that it was like being washed in a shower of warm, golden light. Never had she felt such amazing love, nor has she since. Jesus appeared to her and she was aware that she had a choice to go with Jesus, or to return to life as she had known it. The choice was hers. She thought of her mother and how devastated she would be at the news of her death, and so the decision was made. She was revived.

Susan sleeps in her car, an older sedan. She is afraid to sleep in her car at night, so she often drives at night and takes naps during the day. I let her park in my camp site for the night and we spent an evening by my fire, talking and eating. She suddenly realized it was her birthday and she was grateful she had made it through the choking experience. We prayed together, asking Jesus to take away her fears and to give her the strength she needs to carry on. Though she really wants to stay in California she suspects she will return to the dysfunctional relationship in Florida.

The next morning I was only somewhat surprised that Susan had left sometime during the night.

Moving on to Buellton on Tuesday was a lovely ride.

The Flying Flags Campground, with these interesting “tiny houses”

has been wonderful thanks to luxurious hot showers and laundry facilities.

My old friends Frank and Karin Pauc came to visit me here shortly after I arrived. Theirs is a story that could take an entire post. In the interest of time I will simply say that what I noticed after spending some hours in their presence was the harmony between them. It is not especially common for a long married couple to be kind, patient and tolerant of one another, especially while traveling as they have been for some weeks.

I’ve met nice people that live at the campground in their RVs, as well. One retired architect and German immigrant proclaims that this is the best country in the world by far and is impressed with Trump’s resourcefulness and success, while another older man is equally emphatic in his horror of Trump and his followers.

Freedom of thought and speech, as well as differences, are alive and well in these United States.




3 thoughts on “Mission La Purísima Concepción

  1. I can’t believe how far you have gotten Jody……… many stories….so many encounters…and next the beautiful coast on the way to Santa Barbara or maybe the mountain pass………..can’t wait for the next post………

  2. Sounds like you are doing quite well, Jody. We (Gina and I mostly) talk about you and your bravery in this pilgrimage often. I am happy you are safe and doing well, enjoying your journey.

  3. I enjoy reading your updates Jody. Stay safe and continue to enjoy your journey!


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