By Larry Pesta
The fire at Ojai happened on Monday, October 14, 1985. I attempted to call Agnes Baron on that day to no avail. Then, I heard the news from friends that Meher Mount had indeed been destroyed.
The following weekend, I flew down to Los Angeles and drove to Ojai to visit Agnes personally and make sure that she was well. I met her in town at the house of a friend of hers [George S. Stuart] who had taken her in after her devastation. Agnes appeared quite composed and peaceful.
SURVEYING THE DAMAGE
Agnes was interested in showing me the burned out remains of Meher Mount, and we drove up the mountain together. We walked around the property for quite awhile which was still smoldering from the fire. Mostly everything was destroyed.
Agnes allowed me to take one of the hubcaps from the burned out “Woody” station wagon in which she drove Meher Baba up to Meher Mount in the 1950's. I still have it today. It is one of my treasures.
FEELING SORRY FOR AGNES BARON
Walking out near the tree under which Meher Baba once sat on his famous visit, I felt really sorry for Agnes and her situation. I said, “This must be horrible for you.”
She looked at me and said, “The important question for you to ask is this. Tell me. Could you handle this? I've been burned out. The important question is will you allow Meher Baba to burn you out as well if necessary?”
A SPIRITUAL FIRE
I immediately realized that I was not just visiting someone who had lost everything in a fire, but I was standing face-to-face with one of my most important spiritual teachers in this life time. She was not talking about physical fire but spiritual fire.
AN IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL TEACHER
I had an unusual relationship with Agnes Baron. She trusted me once to take her only copy of a photo of her with Meher Baba back to San Francisco with me to make a negative copy of it.
She continually talked to me about the importance of working with Mexican migrant farm workers long before I “just happened” to spend most of my adult life teaching English to Mexicans at the community college.
The last time I saw her bedridden in Ojai just a few weeks before she died, the caretaker who afterwards accompanied me out to my car said, “I don't know who you are, but your visit was very, very important. Agnes demanded that everything be just right and very presentable. I don't know who you are, but your relationship with her is a very unique one.”
I will always love the Baron!
The October 14, 1985, fire is close to the start date of Avatar Meher Baba's New Life in India on October 16, 1949. Hence, the fire at Meher Mount has come to be known as the New Life Fire.