October 9, 2009
For writer Aldous Huxley, Wrightwood probably represented a safe new
world, rather than a brave one.
The counterculture hero, who was a well-known proponent of
mind-altering drugs, spent four years living in the San Bernardino
National Forest community -- the same community that dodged the Sheep
Fire earlier this week.
Huxley and his wife, Maria, moved to the then-remote community in
1947 after spending several years in Llano, an even smaller town in
the Antelope Valley just east of Pearblossom.
Huxley already had produced his most famous novel, "Brave New World,"
and had spent several years in Hollywood writing for the film
industry. The move to the desert was meant, in part, to escape the
confines of Los Angeles and, reportedly, to improve Huxley's troubled
health. Both he and his wife loved the landscape.
Once they began summering in Wrightwood, Huxley started spending more
and more writing time there. Eventually, they fled to the hills full-time.
They already had purchased, in 1945, what had once been the residence
for the district forest ranger, a house that, although extensively
remodeled, still stands a few blocks north of Jensen's Market on
Highway 2. Back then, it was a tiny place. There wasn't even a
separate room where Huxley could do his writing. Instead, he had to
cloister himself in a converted stable behind the house.
At one point Huxley and neighbor Kay Mellendore banded together to
campaign against plans for a local restaurant to begin serving
alcohol. This from a man who would go on to promote the benefits of
mescaline and LSD.
They lost the prohibition battle.
One photo from the Wrightwood days, which can be seen on the Web site
www.wrightwoodcalif.com, shows Huxley with Igor Stravinsky and Jiddu
Krishnamurti, both influential figures in his life.
Stravinsky and Huxley were said to be great friends and, according to
the accounts of other residents, the composer came to Wrightwood on
While in Wrightwood, Huxley was working on a stage adaptation of one
of his best known short stories, "The Gioconda Smile." Huxley had
already written a screenplay of the story, which was made into the
1947 film "A Woman's Vengeance."
In a 1947 New Yorker interview, Huxley talked about the Wrightwood life.
"The place has the quality of silence," he is quoted as saying. "The
desert is five miles down. It exerts an enormous fascination. The
light is extraordinary, too."
In 1950, the Huxleys sold their Wrightwood home and returned to Los Angeles.
Reach Mark Muckenfuss at 951-368-9595 or mmuckenfuss@PE.com