We were on one of our escapes to Ojai in the Summer of 2014. I was there for my birthday and Father’s Day. Occasionally the two dates coincide as they did that year. Along with our usual routine, we visited L., a long time friend who happened to be staying at the Ojai Valley Inn for the weekend. The OVI is a lovely, old school hotel with beautifully kept grounds, a spa, and golf course. We were there on Monday, and the emotions of the weekend were still so close to the surface.
We took a walk with L to see the magnificent herb garden and passed by the first tee. There was something so tranquil about the scene. Shade on a hot day, the uncrowded golf course. The anticipation of the first drive to begin a memorable round. You can spend a lot of time waiting on a golf course, there are usually benches at every tee. Today, it didn’t look like anyone would be waiting for very long.
Golf was one of the things Jake and I did together for most of his life. After he died, I could barely look at a golf course without bursting into tears. It took me nearly a year before I could play again. I stopped to photograph this bench and cast a longing look back, remembering all the wonderful rounds we played together.
After Jake’s passing we were devastated, distraught, depressed, in the agony of grief. We needed to get away from this house, from the overwhelming absence of our son. Every place we thought about going was fraught with memories of family trips with Jake. We were paralyzed. Our dear friend E. suggested we get away to Ojai. She owns a beautiful cottage in Miners Oaks, a hamlet just west of the Ojai center. Three weeks after the funeral, we were finally able to think about going, we packed up our car and made the short trip north.
The cottage sits on a large piece of property surrounded by fruit trees and towering ancient oaks. This was a place Jake had never been. There were no haunted ghosts lurking, no memories of wonderful times gone by. It was a neutral place. Just what we needed.
We managed to eke out a bit of solace from the unspeakable events of the previous weeks. Still too shell-shocked to do much of anything, we were able, nonetheless, to have a few meals out, do a little wine tasting, visit Meditation Mount, a beautiful serene retreat atop a ridge that overlooks the entire valley.
We would return several times that first traumatic year, every six weeks or so. We found a routine and rhythm to the visits – dinner at a favorite restaurant, shopping at the farmer’s market, picnic at Meditation Mount. Mostly we just laid low. The photographs represent three trips to three restaurants and a shot of the main street colonnade.
We still visit from time to time, but having that place to run away to that first horrible year was a blessing and a godsend. Thank you, E. for your gracious hospitality.