Friday, May 25, 2007

The Guts to Be First

(First a note about photos, etc. I'm on a Spanish-speaking computer and can't find some of the clicks. So I can't seem to move these the way I want. What's here: the swing under the Rancho pepper tree, a blossom that was growing beside me in the chi kung class, and a bit of BOLD ART in my room. And then the story....)

The couple that started the fitness spa in Baja where I'm teaching this week are an astonishing example of bold creative thinking. They were health nuts in 1940, with some ideas that are treated as news in recent years.

The place now called Rancho La Puerta welcomed its first visitors under the name Essene School of Life: "$17.50 a week, bring your own tent." (The Essenes were, among other things, highly successful farmers of antiquity, producing prodigious crops in poor Dead Sea area soil.)

Founder Prof. Edmond Szekely of Transylvania and his wife Deborah created what was in its early years the home of what the Prof called cosmotherapy, a regimen heavy on grape juice. He also believed that people need 20 minutes a day of direct sunlight for vitamin D, but that baking on a beach blanket is unhealthy. He was sure ahead of a lot of folks on that one.

A 1949 article in The San Diego Union reported that he kept a crystal ball in his study.

Szekely foresight also led to the school being an organic farm with a mainly vegetarian diet.

Today Deborah Szekely is still fit and active and inspiring, and still the grand dame. (The Prof died some years ago.) Grape arbors are still here, visible through a glass wall of the yoga gym. And the food remains largely vegetarian.

Now it costs a bit more than $17.50 and there's no need to pack a tent. The garden campus has enough Mexican-style cottages to house about 160 people, attending classes on mainstream topics like writing and Pilates.

And nobody thinks it's odd any more to eat a lot of vegetables or to drink the fruit of the vine for high anti-oxidant levels or to avoid skin cancer by limiting sun-time.

A fair number of people are comfortable with the idea of a crystal ball.

Back then it took courage.

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