Another kind of journey


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Now that my road trip has rounded a years time and I have begun to settle into life, it’s time to focus on another kind of journey – that of the writing life – not the public, blogging kind, but the kind of grind that takes time to weave into the daily living I documented here.  Life is short and the task of writing good stories and making good art takes the kind of focus that daily, computer technology wipes away.

Thus, although my academic writing will continue at my new venture, The Vault:  The Newsletter of Special Collections, my personal work will take a hiatus until a publishable collection is completed.  Many thanks and best wishes for all the road trips that inspire all of our individual journeys.

“Illustrations, mostly paired comparisons, showing correct and incorrect postures for various household tasks,” taken from the Human Ecology Historical Photograph Collection at Cornell University Libraries.  Circa 1920.


Sunflower days

The scorching summer sun beats the earth in a way that it hasn’t done in ages. And even as the young sunflower I planted from seed stretches it’s neck high, it’s crown of petals is already wilting.

Note that it’s not the exceptionally high temperatures at work here but what seems instead, to be the absence of a layer of sky that once sheltered our heads.


As I was sitting on the patio having tea at the Malibu Kitchen and Gourmet Market and fighting with my writing project, I look up and see Dick Van Dyke look over at me on his way to get a cup of something to drink. Although shocked, it was as though I recognized a friend, especially after seeing the placard he had built for his wife at the Serra Retreat Center yesterday. So I looked up from my pile of papers and said hello as he rushed off.

Malibu tile


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In the 1920s, Malibu Pottery along with other local pottery makers like Catalina Clay, Taylor Tilery, Brayton Laguna Pottery, etc. put California on the map of innovative tile makers. But it was Frederick Ringe who began it all when in 1892, he bought a ranch that stretched from Santa Monica to Oxnard and established Port Los Angeles Railroad to keep the Santa Fe Railroad from taking his property. His daughter Rhoda Agatha married Merritt Huntley Adamson and overtime build a home in Serra Retreat using tile craftsmen and from their work together began the Malibu Tile Works. That was 1926 and today the Adamson House has been preserved and opened for public view at the Malibu Lagoon State Beach.

Directly across the street and up the hill is the Serra Retreat now owned by the Franciscans Friars. The property was originally part of Frederick Ringe’s initial acquisition and after his death his wife May spent part of the fortune on litigation costs to keep the privacy her husband wanted, but her efforts were unsuccessful when in 1923 the Pacific Coast Highway was begun.

Undeterred, May began building the mansion using tile from the Malibu Pottery. The house was considered an unrivaled jewel that was never inhabited as the tile company caught fire and a year later, when her funds ran out, the Marblehead Land Company offered the bankrupt property for sale.

The tiled jewel sitting on 26 acres was placed under the patronage of Junipero Serra and the Franciscan Friars of the Province of Santa Barbara opened a Catholic retreat center. This center ran until the 1970 fire destroyed the original mansion. After decades of rebuilding, the grounds are now open daily.