A rejuvenating experience

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The past week has been really hard on me, as the pressure to get a job grew and my parents and I had a tiff over my sleeping pattern and job search, among other things.  So, it was an absolute blessing that Opportunity Green was holding a retreat over the weekend.  One of the Board Members owns Casa Barranca, a fabulous estate out in Ojai.  People who had contributed to the Opportunity Green Conference back in November were invited to either stay the weekend or swing by on Saturday or Sunday to hang out.  Tucked in the hills of Ventura County, in a gorgeously maintained house from the early 1900s, I got to spend my weekend relaxing, enjoying nature, and chatting with some really amazing people.

pasta, salad, and schnitzel for dinner

Delicious potluck to start off the weekend.

Friday night I arrived thinking I was late for dinner, but it turns out the days drag out so peacefully and slowly there that dinner hadn’t even been thought of yet.  I hung around the kitchen, talking to some of the people I hadn’t really gotten to know prior to the conference – we were all so busy, after all!  It was already completely dark outside when I pulled up around 6:30, so it felt like 11 when we eventually got around to preparing the food.  I think it was more like 7:30-8.  But that’s the thing about being far away from the city and its lights and noise; time stretches itself to its very limits and you discover how much can be done in just a few minutes, a few hours.  There’s a serenity about Casa Barranca that relaxes you and lets you forget that you have an inbox full of e-mails or that your favorite TV show is on.  In fact, there isn’t a television in the entire place, which I found to be one of the best choices they could have made.

yoga studio at casa barranca, detached from main house

That yoga studio was to die for!

The house itself is absolutely lovely and you should definitely check out the virtual tour on the Casa Barranca website.  Besides that, there are a bunch of little bungalows or “teahouses” sitting around the property and small cabins as well.  You can easily fit 30-40 people without ever feeling overcrowded.  When I got a chance to first see the grounds during the day, it was even better than I imagined.  The yoga studio sits perched at the top of a hill overlooking part of the valley below.  There’s no better location to get in touch with your inner spirit and truly experience some Zen.  Between that and the house lies a little orchard, teeming with citrus trees of all sorts!  Since part of the grounds is an organic winery, I think it’s safe to assume those fruits were organic too.  I meant to pick one to try, but was so distracted by the beauty that I forgot to.  There’s also a chlorine-free pool and hot tub, small field to frolic in, a koi pond, a hammock, and so many great vantage points!

casa barranca wine tasting & gallery

A cute little shop in the middle of town!

The town is also a delight, with a main street that is lined up with little shops.  The Casa Barranca tasting room is right next to the ice cream shop (and thank goodness, because I got hungry pretty quickly and needed something to fill me!).  I felt slightly out of my comfort zone in their downtown, which didn’t have lights illuminating every inch of street.  When I was directed to the nearest ATM, I turned around too early because the lights stopped.  It seems that their town is so safe and quiet that they don’t need lights all over the place.  It was strange to be back in that type of place again, after years in the city.  At night when I went to sleep, I was struck by how absolutely silent it was out there.  It was completely dark as well, and laying there was such a tranquil experience.  The rest of the people had long since called it a day and were no doubt happily dreaming away in their respective beds.  I’m glad I had a roommate to share the space with, otherwise everything might have seemed too still.  But with another person in the room, I fell asleep easily as a long day caught up with me.

cool (and difficult) yoga pose

Can you believe it was only her first time teaching? She did a fantastic job and should totally be a yogi.

I slept in until 10:30 on Saturday, but was still able to enjoy a full day, complete with yoga, sitting out in the sun, chatting in front of the fireplace, going down into town to watch the Casa Barranca wine tasting (mentioned above), playing Spoons and BS, lots of opportunities to experiment with the ISO settings on my camera, an intense game of Jenga, and some hot tubbing.  It was really nice for the day to go on forever, since it allowed me to have a multitude of quality conversations with some remarkable people.  We talked about all kinds of random things, from what they do to what I want to do to what drives us and how we came to get involved with Opportunity Green.  In the mix was also random talk about crazy cat ladies and women who obsess over fake babies.  Sharing some of my ideas really helped me think about what it is I want from life and the like.

people walking along a hiking trail

We came across some great vantage points and learned to be grateful for every bit of shade we got.

On the final day, I got up at 9:30 when I was told we were leaving for the hike.  About a dozen of us headed out along the trail, making our way up the path in the morning sun.  After awhile, those of us with long sleeves began to regret the decision and the few who brought water found themselves sharing with the group.  We met some wonderful people along the way and got to play a bit with their adorable dogs!  Two of the people staying at the retreat had brought their dogs, one of which came along for our hike (even though she’s 13!).  The trip was absolutely worth the huffing and beads of sweat that began to form, as we were rewarded with views of so much greenery it was hard to imagine life back in the city.  It was a great way to spend the morning before heading out in the afternoon.  Though physically I was tired from more physical exertion than I had done in months, it was a great feeling and my spirit was lifted after being there.

And for more pictures of the weekend… I’m quite proud that some came out looking nearly like a DSLR took them, or so I think!

standing at the end of diving board looking down into pool

I went to have some fun on the springy surface.

landing after a short jump on the diving board

They tried to get a shot of me in the air, but the timing just wasn’t right. I had a blast anyway!

decorations inside yoga studio

Artistic pieces sit by the doors that open out to the view over the hillside.

view from yoga studio, looking out over hills and valley

The view that we saw as we did yoga in the studio.

buddha statue sitting outside yoga studio

The statue that sits to the left of the yoga studio entrance.

fire pit with log seats

The fire pit situated right outside the yoga studio doors.

a sitting log full of holes

I wonder if the tree was shot at or got infected with bugs?

a side path leading up to the house

This pathway led up to one end of the house, where the kitchen is located.

orchard full of orange, lemon, and lime trees

Looking the other way down the path, you see more fruits that you could possibly eat!

lone pomegranate on tree

Hidden amongst the green, orange, and yellow is this little gem, just barely clinging on.

sunburst-looking green plant

These plants grew in a patch just outside the kitchen.

bird of paradise flower

I love the colors of the Bird of Paradise.

plant with spider-like legs

It kind of looks like those 8-prong head massagers.

closeup of orange

Take a look at that freshness!

closeup of lemon with little white flower visible

There’s something really fun about the dimpled texture of citrus fruits.

purple iris flower

What a beautiful shade of purple! Absolutely gorgeous.

a dog laying on brick area

Jack, one of the dogs with us for the weekend.

a dog laying on brick

Jazzy, the other dog hanging out with us.

outdoor bungalow/teahouses for guests to stay in

One of the bungalows/teahouses scattered around the property.

looking inside bungalow/teahouse to see bed and fan

Inside each were two single beds, a little desk, a fan, and heater.

hammock overlooking view of mountains in distance

A hammock was put at the edge of the hill, with a great view of the land below.

sun setting through haze

It was a hazy day and the sun began to sink slowly.

setting sun casting hills in red

It soon became a brilliantly beautiful sunset. I love the details of the rocks in the distance.

festive display in window of casa barranca tasting room

It was so cozy, warm, and welcoming.

people getting ready to taste some wines

Everyone squeezed in to the bar for their share of the wine being sampled.

line of wine bottles in a row for display

Many of these were tasted that night, as Casa Barranca generously shared their products.

square coasters made from colored paper

Check out these awesome coasters recycling paper into a great new use! I think I remember reading they were from Vietman or Thailand or something.

funky-shaped leaves

Along the trail path were these funky leaves, complete with curling tendrils.

fence made of wood pieces

The kind of fence you used to hand make with an axe and nails.

a house perched on top of a hill with great views

Now that house is situated in a place with views in nearly every angle!

green metal crane sculpture in alcove along trail

A random sculpture tucked away along the trail.

cute white half-Chihuahua

Such a pretty little puppy!

muddy paw print on black leggings

I was trying to capture how there was a perfect little paw print on her leggings, but the angle isn’t quite right.

hill after hill in the distance

So many layers of hills!

a clearing area on the hill, perfect for sheep

We seriously expected some sheep to be grazing here. I thought we were continuing over this hill, but thankfully we cut down the mountain before then.

view that shows part of the town of ojai

You can see part of downtown Ojai now.

tall pines lining either side of a driveway

Now that’s an imposing wall to have for your driveway.

large pile of avocados

Back inside and we are made some fresh guacamole! I learned that putting bananas and avocados together makes them ripen faster.

fresh-made bowl of guacamole

There’s nothing quite like freshly-made, is there?

lounge chairs on rooftop area

There was this cool rooftop patio complete with lounge chairs for resting in!

view of backyard from rooftop

The view of part of the backyard from the rooftop.

outdoor room with screens

You can sleep here and feel like you’re outdoors without the bugs!

wine grapes in winter

Lines of vines of wine grapes! That’s just too fun to say.

Jealous much?  😉

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