The Ranch becomes 'mother' (and 'sister spa') to the Golden Door
Throughout the Late 1940s and early 1950s, some of our guests yearned for more personal services and intimacy than the Ranch could guarantee. Some of them spoke with me about the possibility of opening a similar spa with smaller capacity and greater exclusivity. The Golden Door in Escondido (about an hour north of San Diego) received all of the empirical knowledge and health resort know-how we researched and demonstrated at the Ranch. But it took a slightly different tack than its sister spa in Mexico by offering extravagant TLC in a luxurious setting as pleasing as nature and a committed human effort could possibly make it. One reason I selected a site in the Escondido countryside is that it affords Door guests their very own mountain for the same ritual dawn walk so loved at the Ranch.
We founded the Golden Door in 1958, and in 1960 we observed Rancho La Puerta's 20th anniversary. The celebration was in keeping with our mission: we hosted a seminar on Human Potential–the first use of that glowing term– featuring Aldous Huxley and other prominent thinkers of that day.
Ten years later we welcomed our 30th anniversary with a similar seminar put together by Gardner Murphy (1895-1979), a Hodgson Fellow in Psychical Research at Harvard.
Today, the milestones are as important as ever, and although the Golden Door is now part of another resort company, it is still our close sister.
So much has changed, but so much is timeless
From the beginning, Ranch-proven rules of nutrition depended upon fresh, organically-grown foods. The Door served fresh fish and occasionally range-fed poultry (no red meat) and, most significantly, initiated the idea of decalorized Continental Cuisine (in other words, "Spa Food").
Today the Ranch is modified-vegetarian, and does serve fish as an option every day. Visitors know that our comfort foods are now hailed as 'Spa Cuisine'.
Joy in eating and joy in exercise are integral to a Ranch visit. No sincere explanation of our suggestions for healthful food planning would be complete without urging a comparable plan for daily exercise. Diet alone cannot assure a fit and slender body, lasting vitality, and the natural high that can transform you and your personal world. Those people who achieve their ideal weight and hold to it are the ones who have rejected the sedentary existence. They fit themselves with a pattern of systematically scheduled exercise that they not only can endure but actually enjoy. Walking, swimming, or joining a gym class–whatever your choice, it must be practical. It must suit your taste as well as the exigencies of your daily life.
This is still the message that Rancho La Puerta impresses upon our guests. The spa has never veered from the late Edmond Szekely's essential philosophy: To survive in this increasingly artificial world, mankind must reprise old ways of eating nutritiously and moving naturally, and in so doing establish new ways of achieving balance and realizing one's entire potential. So can we lead a useful, long, healthful life!
Generation after generation of guests, and the Szekely family
There must be a kind of conservator gene which the Szekely children inherited, for they followed in the footsteps of my grandparents and parents who were innkeepers, and my husband and me. Childhood at the Ranch instilled a healthy respect for nature in them.
Our daughter Sarah Livia is the artist-poet-musician of the family. Her love for people and for the flora and fauna of our Earth became apparent when she was still very young. Her studies led her to landscape design and ecology. Today she is a fine landscape designer, botanist, and agriculturist. Through her organic farm Tres Estrellas and the work of Fundacion La Puerta, she focuses her energies to teach all children a healthy respect for the Earth and its bounty, as well as prevent further deterioration and restore what has been damaged –in other words, to be good stewards of the Earth and enhance rather than diminish its resources.
Sarah Livia commutes to the Ranch from Marin County in Northern California where she lives with her daughter, Emily. She is now the President of Rancho La Puerta. Prior to her broad responsibilities as our company's president, she was the genius behind our overall building and garden design—and still oversees all of our beautiful improvements today.
Our son Alex always knew exactly what he wished his life work to be: running the two spas and taking care of our guests. Years before he assumed full charge, I could see that he would excel at his chosen profession. After a summer as a bellhop when he was about 12, he asked my secretary to type a memo which began, "I don't see why the guests have to wait until I take over for them to enjoy what I know should be done." When we lost Alex so unexpectedly, so tragically, in 2002 while he was only in his early 40s, my heart was broken, but he is present all around me in everything that he accomplished, and in my two grandchildren, Jacob and Joshua, their mother Diane, and his many friends.
And of course Mexico: Our partner, our inspiration, our soul
This text would be incomplete without a tribute to Mexico, the land that welcomed us long ago. The ranks of our staff have been enriched by its hard-working, delightful people who so well understand and practice the art of friendship.
Special recognition is due Jose Manuel Jasso. A second-generation employee, he grew up on the Ranch and was a mere youngster when he first worked for us during summer vacations. His total dedication quickly advanced him to a position of authority and earned him a full partnership as he managed the Ranch for several decades until retirement.
Our guests, too, have played a key role in our story. They have a happy habit of returning again and again–in this way, they support our efforts in finding ways to achieve that rare harmony of body, mind, and spirit.
The future belongs to the next keepers of the flame: my grandchildren: Jacob, Joshua, and Emily. I know that Mount Kuchumaa will take them under its protection, as it did me those many years ago.