By Margaret Magnus
When Avatar Meher Baba visited Meher Mount in 1956, He gestured toward the outdoors and said:
“Now, go out and see the view and try to love Baba through nature. This is all due to my love. This whole creation, this nature, all the beauty you see, all came out of me.”
HONORING MEHER BABA'S DIRECTIVE
To honor this directive and to provide a dedicated gathering spot and outdoor picnic area both for group events and individual visitors, Meher Mount built the Topa Topa Patio.
Meher Mount is blessed with a panoramic 360-degree view of nature. At the 2,500-foot level atop Sulphur Mountain, Meher Mount overlooks the beautiful Ojai Valley backed by Chief Mountain on the north, the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands to the southwest, the Topa Topa Bluff in the Los Padres National Forest on the northeast, and the Santa Clara River Valley and Ventura/Oxnard Plain to the south.
The site of the Topa Topa Patio takes advantage of one of Meher Mount’s views and directly looks out across the Ojai Valley to the Topa Topa Bluffs – famous for their “pink moment” at sunset when the 6,200-foot cliffs turn pink. Sometimes, in winter they are snow capped and provide another breathtaking scene.
THE IDEA FOR THE PATIO
The idea for the patio first came about when the Board was planning for the Workshop. An early concept called for a workshop/garage built into the side of the hill with a rooftop patio in view of the Bluffs. That concept proved to be too expensive, but the idea of a patio with a view of the mountains stuck.
When the plans for the Workshop changed, the plans for the patio evolved also. Building the patio adjacent to the new Workshop became the most practical and cost-effective solution. This site also provided excellent views of the Topa Topa Bluffs - after which the patio is named.
THE NEED FOR A GUEST GATHERING PLACE
Before the patio, visitors shared the inside kitchen with the Manager/Caretakers. It worked, barely; but, it was inconvenient for everyone. In addition, there was not a natural and easy place to hold group teas or potluck lunches. Finally, individual visitors did not have a readily available spot for a picnic.
With the patio, all can gather outside and create everything from feasts to snacks. The location next to the workshop provides for easy access to supplies and equipment, thus, giving the area maximum flexibility and efficiency.
A COHESIVE DESIGN
In addition to providing an outdoor gathering place and providing a picnic area to showcase the natural beauty of Meher Mount, the Board wanted to build a facility in keeping with other structures at Meher Mount.
The patio needed to blend into the landscape as much as feasible with a low profile on the land; have a natural look and feel; take into consideration the harsh conditions at Meher Mount, including the heat, cold, wind, sun, and and fire; and take into consideration termites, rats and mice, and the continual presence of pests.
The materials followed the pattern set by the Workshop: sandstone-colored, split-face and scored concrete block. The trellis is made of wood and steel was painted the same color at the Workshop roof. Together, the Topa Topa Patio and Workshop create a visually cohesive addition to Meher Mount.
USING THE STAINLESS STEEL SINK & COUNTER TOP
Some years earlier when the pharmaceutical company Amgen moved its offices in Ventura County, Meher Mount received a donation of a large, industrial sink. The sink was stored on the property in anticipation of finding the right permanent home to use for picnics and potlucks. The design of the patio took into consideration use of that sink and counter top.
THE PROJECT STARTED IN 2008
In 2008 a supporter liked the idea of the patio so much, he started a building fund with a $5,000 donation. That year, the theme of the Annual Fund campaign was the Topa Topa Patio. Donors received a Meher Mount apron with the newly adopted logo on it as a "thank you."
As soon as the Workshop was completed in May 2012, another donor stepped forward to add $15,000 to the Topa Topa Patio fund. With $20,000 in the bank, the Board authorized construction to begin in September 2012.
The architect and general contractor donated their time and services and with Manager/Caretaker Leslie Bridger supervising. Within months, the Topa Topa Patio was ready to receive visitors.
A GUTTA BREAKFAST IS THE FIRST EVENT
The inaugural event for the newly constructed Topa Topa Patio was a Gutta Breakfast hosted by Fred Stankus and Gigi Driessen on December 8, 2012.
The Gutta Breakfast is an opportunity to share insights, ask questions, and discuss Avatar Meher Baba and His life and words.
The event started with a breakfast provided by Fred Stankus and Gigi Driessen, a former Meher Mount Board member. After breakfast, Fred led a heartfelt discussion of selected passages from Lord Meher, the multi-volume account of Avatar Meher Baba's life by Bhau Kalchuri, one of Meher Baba's close disciples.
THE FINISHING TOUCHES
After the initial completion of the patio, Manager/Caretaker Leslie Bridger worked to complete the finishing touches including adding a bamboo covering over the trellis to provide shade until vines could be planted.
In May 2014, Meher Mount received a $3,000 grant to complete the project with landscaping and lights.
THANK YOU TO THE TEAM
A thank you to the team that moved the project forward to completion: Sam Ervin (chair), Byron Pinckert (architect), Dusttin Paren (contractor), Leslie Bridger (manager/caretaker), and Margaret Magnus (fund raising).
Meher Prabhu: Lord Meher, The Biography of the Avatar of the Age, Meher Baba, by Bhau Kalchuri, "Manifestation, Inc.", 1986. Copyright (c) Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Trust.