SACRED STONES – Abbey of New Clairvaux

Q: What is 1,000 years old, weighs two tons and hangs out in a monastery/winery?  (No, the answer is NOT “ChicoLaura”!) A: One of the “sacred stones” being used to construct the “Chapter House” at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, CA (just 20 miles north of Chico).

Our Soroptimist of Chico club was treated today to a fascinating presentation by Jerry Olenyn and Karla Johnston, representing the Sacred Stones Project at the Abbey of New Clairvaux.  Who knew stones could be so interesting?

Moved in 1931 from a Cistercian monastery in Ovila, Spain to San Francisco by millionaire publisher William Randolph Hearst at a cost of $85,000, the stones were intended to be used at Wyntoon (his estate near the McCloud River).  He even had a structure designed by famed architect Julia Morgan (who designed his San Simeon estate).  But then came the Great Depression, and the stones sat languishing for decades in Golden Gate Park, where some of them were used as borders in the Japanese Tea Garden.

Then In the 1990s, the stones were given to the New Clairvaux monks, who started using them to reinforce their monastery buildings with concrete and steel to meet modern earthquake codes.  A few years ago the monks embarked on a huge undertaking: reconstructing the Chapter House on their spacious grounds.

Read more about the reconstruction here:

In 2010, Chico’s legendary  Sierra Nevada Brewing Company announced its joint venture with the Abbey of New Clairvaux to begin production of Belgian-style abbey ales.   Named “Ovila” after the 12th century Cistercian monastery, Santa Maria de Ovila, the ales have proved wildly popular.  Part of the profits go to help with the Chapter House reconstruction.

It’s been years since I visited the monastery, but I definitely plan to go in the near future.  Click here for info about day visits; you can also schedule a weekend retreat if you are really wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life in our techno world!


Pugh Mural at CSUC

John Pugh's FIRST mural - Taylor Hall, CSUC

It’s hard not to notice this John Pugh mural if you spend any time in downtown Chico. Located on the corner of 1st Street and Broadway (on Taylor Hall, which houses the University Art Gallery), it was Pugh’s first mural, painted in 1980-81 when he was a CSUC student.

Pugh went on to create more than 200 large-scale “trompe l’oei” (“trick of the eye”) murals across the United States, New Zealand, and Taiwan.

In his 2006 book, The Murals of John Pugh:  Beyond Trompe L’Oeil, author Kevin Bruce writes:

Rather than simply paint a realistic-looking series of columns, Pugh was influenced by a dream to “break open” the wall on Taylor and “fill this fictive space with relevant narrative creations — intended to engage the viewer on deeper levels.”

The fate of this well-loved mural (also known as “Academe”) currently hangs in the balance as plans to demolish the building are underway.  There has been much debate about preserving the mural, whether in its current location (can’t we just keep THAT wall?) or elsewhere on campus.  I will post an update on the status when I can.

I feel honored to live in a place that has been named one of America’s “Best Art Towns*,” and I think Mr. Pugh’s artwork has much to do with that distinction!  (Check out these photos of Pugh’s murals.)

*  Author John Villani named Chico #10 in his book The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America!

Muralist John Pugh at work


Patrick Ranch Threshing Bee!

COME ONE COME ALL to the Patrick Ranch Country Faire and Threshing Bee!

This weekend, June 11 and 12 at the historic Patrick Ranch located between Durham and Chico, the faire is from 9 – 4.

Activities include period games for children such as making wheat dolls, hand pumping water, painting fences, creating walnut shell boats, riding pedal tractors having their faces painted, hand washing flour sack towels and hanging them on a clothes line, making butter, grinding corn and acorns with mortars and pestles and much more.

A tram will weave through the Threshing Bee on half hour to offer rides. A food court on the farmhouse’s expansive south lawn offers delicious  entrees, specialty coffees and cold drinks. All this to the accompaniment of live music and good company!

(Note:   FREE trolley provides transportation to and from the Patrick Ranch. The trolleys leave the Chico Municipal Bus Terminal on the corner of W. 2nd St./Salem on the hour with return trips from the Patrick Ranch Museum returning on the half hour.

Draft Horses at the Patrick Ranch

Patrick Ranch

Antique Tractor Parade

Homemade jams and crafts

Chico Bucks!

Chico Buck circa April 1933

Cash crunch?  Why not simply print some money? That’s just what the Chico Chamber of Commerce did in April of 1933 (April 12th to be exact, my birthday–although a few years before my arrival).

It was during the depths of the Great Depression, and two prominent banks had denied citizens access to their accounts for well over a month.  The Chamber’s newly-minted “Chico Currency” could be used to draw on up to one-fourth of  citizens’ bank accounts (not to exceed $25!).

During its five-month-long circulation, local business owners gladly accepted “Chico Bucks,” even promoting their use in newspaper advertising.

By September, when the banks “thawed” their coffers, the city held a parade and mock funeral (complete with drum, bugle corps and coffin) in Children’s Park, with a young Ted Meriam (for whom Meriam Library is named, and–like Dr. Seuss’s “Lorax”–who spoke for Chico’s trees) acting as parade marshal.  About $15,000 worth of the script was torched in a dramatic funeral pyre.  Only a few specimens remain to this day.

(Note: A big “thank you” to Tina Aranguren for her research and for bringing the story of  “Chico Bucks” to my attention!)

Ted Meriam, 1911 - 2001

Dorothea Lange's Depression-era photo "Migrant Mother"

Of Books and Quilts and Music

Quilt on display at Butte Co. Library

Popped in at the Butte County Library today to check out some books (knitting–it’s THAT time of year–and Spanish children’s books to aid in my ongoing efforts in learning to speak/read the language).

In addition to the knitting and Spanish books, I checked out a few music CDs (was surprised to note that up to 25 CDs can be checked out at a time!).

I was also delighted to see a new display of quilts hanging from the ceiling, including an “opportunity quilt” made by Annie’s Star Quilt Guild (of which I’ve been a member these past 28 years). In collaboration with Chico Friends of the Library, the Quilt Guild donated this treasure (see “heart” quilt pictured below) as a fundraiser for the library.

The computer stations were in full use, and the children’s area was positively ABUZZ with activity, which felt gratifying.  I remember a few years back when–due to budget woes–the library was CLOSED weekends indefinitely.  Our local SOROPTIMIST club came up with the funds needed to open it back up on Saturdays for the whole year, and it has remained open on Saturdays since.  (Remember that when the Home, Garden & Antique Show occurs March 19 and 20, 2011.  It’s the largest fundraiser for Soroptimist of Chico, and the proceeds go back to the community, so come out to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds and show your support!)

Next time you have a spare hour, stop by the library (especially if it’s been a while since you have).  What a great place to hang out…and it’s FREE! (Maybe spring for a quilt ticket…a buck a chance, and it’s a GREAT cause.)

Library computer station--always popular

Annie's Star "Opportunity" Quilt

Buy a ticket next time you go!

Crazy Cat Quilt

Beautiful Red Flower Quilt

Next Page »