Tuesday, September 7, 2010

SAN DIEGO

"The great red light in the light-house tower had again blazed out, and had been some time burning, before Alessandro thought it prudent to resume their journey. The road on which they must go into Old San Diego, where Father Gaspara lived, was the public road from San Diego to San Luis Rey, and they were almost sure to meet travelers on it.

But their fleet horses bore them so well, that it was not late when they reached the town. Father Gaspara's house was at the end of a long, low adobe building, which had served no mean purpose in the old Presidio days, but was now fallen into decay; and all its rooms, except those occupied by the padre, had long been uninhabited. On the opposite side of the way, in a neglected, weedy open, stood his chapel,-a poverty-stricken little place, its walls imperfectly whitewashed, decorated by a few coarse pictures and by broken sconces of looking-glass, rescued in their dilapidated condition from the Mission buildings now gone utterly to ruin. In these had been put candle-holders of common tin, in which a few cheap candles dimly lighted the room. Everything about it was in unison with the atmosphere of the place,-the most profoundly melancholy in all of Southern California. Here was the spot where that grand old Franciscan, Padre Junipero Serra, began his work, full of devout and ardent purpose to reclaim the wilderness and its peoples to his country and his Church; on this very beach he went up and down for those first terrible weeks, nursing the sick, praying with the dying, and burying the dead, from the pestilence-stricken Mexican ships lying in the harbor. Here he baptized his first Indian converts, and founded his first Mission. And the only traces now remaining of his heroic labors and hard-won successes were a pile of crumbling ruins, a few old olive trees and palms; in less than another century even these would be gone; returned into the keeping of that mother, the earth, who puts no headstones at the sacredest of her graves."

-Helen Hunt Jackson
Ramona
Written in the Berkeley Hotel,
New York City,
1883

2 comments:

hydrodynamica said...

the most melancholy spot...the saddest sunshine, the cheeriest gloom.

dogleg said...

interesting side note; segment of the 101 fwy near Olvera st. in LA was once named the "Ramona Fwy".
good post.