Sharon MaHarry

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A Portrait of Ojai

Ojai, which takes its name from the Chumash Indian word A'hwai, meaning "nest" or "moon," is a special place with a long history of reverence and appreciation for agriculture, the arts, education and the human spirit. The city is nestled within the Ojai Valley , a tiny sun-drenched, east-to-west-lying valley 10 miles long and three miles wide. Many people say the valley closely resembles the look and climate of either Tuscany or the south of France . In addition to the city of Ojai , the valley encompasses the unincorporated towns of Casitas Springs, Oak View, Mira Monte, and Meiners Oaks.

With its richness in physical beauty and cultural history, the valley attracts artists, entrepreneurs, activists and actors. Ojai is a lovely land of coastal oaks and lush groves of citrus, olive and avocados. The views are legendary. The sight from the top of Dennison Grade is so extraordinary that is was portrayed as Shangri-La in the legendary movie "Lost Horizons"---the ideal place to view our Pink Moment.

Horseback riding, mountain biking and hiking are popular outdoor pastimes in this area of graceful oaks and friendly mountains. The architecture of Ojai owes much to its Spanish influence. The downtown arcade has a Spanish-style facade, and there is a mission-style arch and pergola at the downtown park bearing the name of Edward D. Libbey, a wealthy glass manufacturer who set out to make Ojai into "a dream city of soft harmonies, smooth flowing line and warm colors." Dream city or not, Ojai does have a wide choice of housing styles to suit almost any taste.

The Valley's magnificent climate and natural beauty, along with the area's many mineral hot springs , fostered Ojai's reputation as a place to restore and rejuvenate health. That heritage thrives today at Ojai's world-renowned spas and resorts and in a widespread emphasis on wellness and good health among those who live here. Those seeking a connection with the spiritual life find kindred spirits in Ojai, which is home to a variety of New Age and religious groups. Many people who come to rediscover their spiritual roots believe Ojai offers special access to awareness, and when the setting sun bathes the Topa Topa Mountains in a luminous pink light, it's easy to agree.

Ojai is and has always been an artistic community, attracting writers, photographers, painters, musicians, composers, sculptors, potters, weavers, and jewelry makers. The Ojai Center for the Arts is the oldest continually operating arts center in California . Painting, poetry, theater, dance, and music classes and workshops are held at the center throughout the year and the center also produces art shows, theater productions, poetry festivals, crafts fairs and dances.

Today, Ojai is a beacon for ecologically aware citizens who wish to preserve the unique character of the Ojai Valley by engaging in occupations that are compatible with nature and the small-town atmosphere of the city. The arts flourish here, as does tourism, education, and agriculture.