April 14, 2017

Photo Essay: Taking Pause at Serra Retreat

Although Malibu is no longer a place to get away from it all, as it was in the days when movie stars discovered the stretch of then-deserted coastline...

circa 1939 (Malibu Historical Photograph Collection [digital resource], Pepperdine University Special Collections and University Archives)

...all that was there back in the 1920s was a sprawling rancho operated by May Knight Rindge (of Malibu Potteries fame).

The main showcase for her Malibu tile is the Adamson House, off the PCH next to Malibu Lagoon, but since she'd built it for her daughter to live in, she never lived there herself.

I've known for over four years that the former estate actually continues across the PCH and up the hill at a Mediterranean-style "castle" that's now known as Serra Retreat...

...but since its grounds are only open to the public during the week, it's taken me that long to get back there to actually explore it.

In 1942, the year following May's death, this "citadel by the sea" (upon what used to be known as "Laudamus Hill") was sold to the Franciscan friars...

...who renamed it after the founder of the California missions, Junípero Serra.

Overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and Malibu Creek, it’s secluded from the sounds of the surf and the sport fishing pier.

Father Serra has been famously quoted as saying, "Always go forward, never turn back"—which I think is pretty emblematic of both my move to California and the time I've spent here.

But sometimes you've got to stop—to go away to a desolate place and rest a while—when rest is not a leisure but a necessity.

As they say, if you're too busy to make a retreat, you're too busy.

And so even though it's technically a Catholic retreat, I really enjoyed my time among the tiles...

...and the "dream home" that May never got to finish, and that had to be rebuilt after the 1970 Malibu Canyon wildfire.

I traced the Stations of the Cross with my footsteps, but without prayer.

I contemplated loss...


...and divine intervention...

...but without any particular devotion or piety.

The statuary is full of Catholic iconography...

...but I made sure to spend some time walking the non-sectarian labyrinth in mindful meditation.

I could've spent much longer than an hour up there to enjoy the scenery, far away from the “scene” of Malibu down below, but the demands of weekday life prevented me from getting there any more than that before closing time—and pulled me away before I was ready to leave.

But when you find yourself in a state of perpetual motion, any pause you can take is a good thing.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Before Malibu Was Malibu
Photo Essay: The Way of Sorrows
Photo Essay: The Monastic Life at St. Andrew's Abbey
Photo Essay: Faces at California's First Mission

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