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La Purisima was a place unlike any I’ve visited before. It’s a California State Park, it’s an historical landmark, it’s a former Spanish Fransiscan Mission, it’s a part of the past alive in the present.

I took the photo of the chapel above while kneeling at the altar rail, the way it would be seen by one of the padres or Chumash Catholic Indians while receiving Communion. The cross in the courtyard is the cemetery, where who knows how many are buried. It was a strange feeling, being there.

Doves cooed in the trees across the acreage of the old mission, in trees that were the peers of the people who lived and died there. Those doves were like little missionaries sent to continue singing the old hymns in a place where Spanish empire and optimism met American Indian spirituality.