Mission San Antonio de Padua

Treasure trove of the acorn woodpeckers

We are camping at the remote California Mission San Antonio de Padua, amid the oaks and a huge and noisy flock of acorn woodpeckers. Pleasant little knocking sounds, like tiny bamboo drums, come from all directions as they work. This Mission is set in a small pocket of space completely surrounded by the Hunter-Leggett military base. Each morning Reveille, the bugle call, echoes over the speakers, bounces among the foothills, and is answered by the howls and yips of coyotes.

Mission garden fountain pool

It’s a stark mission, the third one founded after Monterey and San Diego. By the 1930’s it was in ruins, then slowly brought back. There is still an air of privation. Several Padres died of starvation; early California was hard. I walk around picking leaves from the Original Grapevine, Original Pomegranate, and an Original Olive, perhaps 250 years old. One of the women in our camping party has us making cyanotypes.

On the right, leaves from original olive, grape and pomegranate, plus a woodpecker feather

This Mission is near Jolon, CA and is open to the public. You can rent rooms and stay the night, but must bring all your own food. The power can be dicey and the cellular/internet is controlled by the military base, which means odd outages and censorship. I could read The NY Times, but couldn’t watch my Best of Late Night video clips of political satire. Hmmm…

The stark surroundings make you appreciate the beauty of simple things, like a pomegranate cold from the fridge. It’s a bit ghostly here. Indigenous people died; the church with its crucifixes of tormented, sad, Jesus did not provide much relief from suffering.

I was deeply moved by this 4 foot high image of St. Francis holding birds

Only the fruit and the women provided a bit of joy; I mean of course the Virgins, with their compassion. The Refectory remains cool all day behind 3 foot thick adobe walls, natural climate control.

Notes were assigned to a part of each human hand so that singers who could not read music could be shown what note to sing

Scott does a demonstration on tire repair to the group which involves punching holes in tires and party balloons inflated at various levels to show how “airing down”— deflating your tires before desert off road travel— can help avoid a flat. The theme of the presentations is survival, and, set in the heat among the “beware of snakes” signs, seems to highlight the stark beauty of the dry oak forest. The mission has warnings inside each door to close it to prevent “uninvited visitors” like tarantulas and rattlesnakes.

I’m off to the lush churches of Europe soon. Seeing this place reminds me of how much of a New World California really was.

5 thoughts on “Mission San Antonio de Padua

  1. You have a remarkable ability to take me with you! We have never met, but then of course we have. I think you and Scott should come and let us show you the glorious beauty of the Norway we know and love, Next Spring! 😉 Rosi


  2. I love your photos and comments Suzanne, maybe the closeup of the woodpecker holes the most. It is a lonely place out there. I’m so glad you were able to visit it.

    Liked by 1 person

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