Ashley Herrin Art Direction & Photo




California Pt. I: Ojai

At the end of March/beginning of April, I had a work trip that sent me to Los Angeles for two weeks. While there, I had the chance to visit with my best friend, Sarah Comer, and founder of Inspire-Aspire: Be the Career Change.

Sarah strives to live a life of meaning. She left her job in fashion a number of years ago, committed to finding a career that would merge certain passions like philanthropy and female entrepreneurship. She wanted a job that made a difference, in her lives and others, that helped people while helping her. One that was self-rewarding and rooted in happiness and good. Finding this unicorn of a job on the existing job market proved to be fruitless, but, she realized that she didn't need to wait, and wait and wait for it to come to her. She could create the opportunity and her career change. And thus, Inspire-Aspire was born.

Visiting Sarah is always a welcome departure from East Coast life. Beyond the obviously warmer weather, the west coast has this unwavering ability to slow. me. down. In Boston, it's go time, always. In Los Angeles, it's quite the opposite. On top of that, a weekend with Sarah always proves to be a meditative weekend away and a chance to creatively reset.

The past two years (because 2016 sent me out to LA for a week & a half as well) we spent a day in Ojai, California. Ojai is easily the best day trip from Los Angeles that one might embark on.

Ojai, CA is small city northwest of LA. Nestled in a valley in the Topatopa Mountains, it's a hotbed for art galleries, small shops, great food and beautiful outdoor spaces for the public to access, meditate in, explore and just escape reality.

We cruised down Grimes Canyon down into the Ojai valley. The colors were off the wall vibrant. Winter rains made the California landscape come to life in ways that hadn't been seen in many years (see: desert super bloom). I could barely contain my excitement seeing the green, green hills and the bright blue sky. Back home they were getting their last snowfall of the year - this was undoubtedly a welcome site.

Our first stop was the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, (but I'll save the details and photos of that visit for the next post). After a couple hours exploring the studio space of Beatrice and the museum that was once her home, we headed downtown. We dined at Hip Vegan, an unassumingly delicious vegan cafe on the far end of town, then made our way to some of our favorite Ojai haunts. Bart's Books, Summer Camp, and Tipple & Ramble all made the trip. In between visits to some of these favorites, Sarah took me to some of her favorite meditation places and spiritual getaways.

Side note: Ojai draws many visitors annually because of the strong positive energy and spirituality felt within the town's limits. There are storied electromagnetic forces that draw visitors to this inland oasis like the millions that flock to the vortexes of Sedona. Perhaps it's the majesty of the mountains and the picturesque views. Or the seemingly perfect year-round weather that put the mind at ease. Regardless, the town's earliest inhabitants, the Chumash Indians, certainly felt the pull of what they believed were the valley’s healing properties. They called their home Ojai, which derives from the Ventureño Chumash word ʼawhaý which means "moon".

We stopped into the Krotona Institute of Theosophy, visiting the gardens and the labyrinth that welcome all visitors. We followed the path that presents a single undivided journey and represents a Cretan pattern. In this type of labyrinth, "no choices are needed other than traveling onward through the winding pattern to an assured goal" (source: Krotona Institute).

As the sun started to set behind the Topatopa Mountains and the valley was painted a golden hue, we set out for Meditation Mount. Meditation Mount, much like it's name presents, is a public mediation space. Open Wednesday - Sunday, 8:00AM until sunset, the property boasts beautiful gardens, an internal Garden of Peace, an auditorium, a reading room and of course, panoramic views of Ojai from it's scenic viewpoint. 

We watched as the sun dipped behind the mountains and the valley darkened as day turned to night. We drove back into town for one last meal and some end-of-day beverages at Chief's Peak at the Ojai Rancho Inn. We decompressed and reminisced about the day's events.

Though we had filled our day with activities, it felt world's away from the hustle and bustle of every day life in Boston. And, as hoped, I left Ojai, and the company of my friend, creatively inspired and reinvigorated with a renewed sense of energy and excitement. Ojai had worked her magic.

Ashley Herrin