All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
New Day Dawning
New Day Dawning
"Time seems to have stood completely still here...the Springs still retain the wildness and the remoteness the Indians once
knew and loved." -- Emile Frank
by S. Ward
Former longtime work-trader; volunteer
assistant manager under Mary H. 1999-2002
First posted 2013. Updated periodically
Now sailing through 2022, humanity, in the throes of global challenges, is fitfully reaching a historic tipping point in mass consciousness...
Life will eventually reach some new sort of 'normal', but without a Stewart Springs bathhouse...
...or so it would seem.
First, 'owners' decided to permanently close bathhouse and cease massage service, as announced May 2020.
Then they got busy converting it into extra retreat and class space, tearing out bath tubs. Then they dubbed it...Shambala House. Planned opening, to believe sketchy website sizzle, is now projected in 2023 (as if anyone who loves the place gives two hoots in hell).
Could such a plan, callously disregarding the enduring, once-deemed inviolable, water-healing tradition of the once magical realm, actually succeed? Are there really enough 'bourgeois-spiritual' people out there willing to embrace a scene built on the grave of the destroyed, public-minded spa oasis, so long venerated the world over? Or, if not, are Pneuma's pockets deep enough to keep shoveling money into a bottomless pit? ($77./day in county property taxes alone.) Cash flow dried up so fast, they began offering bookings at 40% off in May 2020.
It could prove doubtful. So...hardcore dedicated fans of Spring patiently await current 'owners' to burn out on their wonky fantasies of untenable diversionary takeover, what some consider a crime against humanity and no more than a temporary legal kidnapping of the place from the mindful public...before at last realizing its spiritual nature won't allow private-minded detours from the realm serving as an affordable healing place for ALL peoples.
In time they'll hopefully see how the upper-chakkra zapping power of Mt. Shasta had maybe somehow royally short-circuited their reasoning power to have pursued such a public-be-damned, exclusive-minded fantasyland boondoggle in the first place.
In the meantime, with bathhouse gone, the place last known has been reduced to basic lodging for groups-only doing events, retreats and workshops.
Without bathhouse spa, former central draw for most, it might seem unlikely any viable operation could EVER unfold. Bathhouse crazily morphing into more retreat and class area for anticipated droves of affluent, awareness-challenged visitors blissfully unmindful of the unfolding travesty. It's too beyond the pale to imagine it having even a ghost of a chance of ever succeeding.
It goes without saying that such mindless action is mega shocking to the legion of former visitors, happily used to combining a rustic stay with a leisurely soak, sauna, plunge, massage and sunbath.
Where would this imagined drove of newbies all hunky-dory with the current travesty of affairs come from?
So the question again becomes: can 'ownership's' outfits actually have enough following and connections -- and money -- to sustain place as some pricey bourgeois new-age teaching/retreat center, hoping to snag undiscriminating groups to lease grounds and lodgings to in order to defray steep operating and 'ownership' expenses -- and not lose its shirt?
Chance to redeem place in Springs legacy
It might seem now more than ever that it's a matter of time before the present 'ownership' wakes up, takes a big reality check and relents, 're-selling' place to more public-minded stewards...ones who can set it up legally as a dedicated nonprofit spa and lodging operation, restoring it to its former low-key glory as the affordable, public-minded purification, healing and rejuvenation refuge beloved the world over.
More egalitarian stewards could indeed rescue the realm...with the help of current absentee ones, once they appreciate it's ultimately in their own best interests. For in so doing, they'll redeem their now-pitiful legacy at a place they too love in their own way, albeit in an off-putting, brazenly bogart-minded manner. Sadly, they appear to have never attuned to the establishment's extraordinary love of service tradition of working for the greater good, its altruistic DNA fading away ever since the 1950s, when place momentously left Stewart family's 78 years of dedicated service and went through a long succession of often dumbfoundingly inappropriate 'ownerships'. see history
Envision current holders finding -- perhaps with help of connection-rich fans with possible leads -- a new, appropriate 'buyer'. One with resources as well as can-do spirit and a progressive, open-minded focus. One interested in giving it legal nonprofit status to pursue love-of-service healing, enabling place to again become a low-key thriving and affordable spa and inclusive cultural center for nature-loving, growth-minded people everywhere.
Barring an amazing change of heart -- or deep pockets grimly determined and able to tide place over with a dismal dream to yuppify place into some half-baked, upscale, quasi new age teaching and lodging retreat for people with more dollars than sense -- some are convinced that enough spring devotees need only visualize a perfect future stewardship to manifest it in the fullness of time.
"Enough' is the key word. Serious, laser-sharp visualization...not mere wishful thinking.
Deeply focused, positive visualizing by every Springs fan who feels that place is just waiting to reincarnate as an open-circuit, community-rich healing resource serving the greater good. For again, becoming a nonprofit healing refuge has been its destiny ever since its founding nearly a century and half ago. Its DNA is still there, fully intact, hiding just below the surface, patiently waiting to be reactivated by the right compassionate stewards...and then the world can once more enjoy the place and experience profound change that the land's amplifying energies and water's properties together foster. see history
is the key
Imagine a loving universe at long last giving place a giant green light.
All self-interested, defensive posturing, private-peace pursuits and non-public-minded preoccupations and diversions, gone ...POOF!
New, grounded stewardship and management, including present 'ownership', realizing they can redeem themselves by finding appropriate new keepers to sell place to at a fair price -- thus creating an ultimate positive legacy while still being able to enjoy place themselves from time to time, having gotten over the need divert it for their own devices.
Combine healing transformative energies with stone-pure intent and voila! In time a full-tilt, people-friendly, community-active healing, learning, and rejuvenating center can emerge... one open to all to help planet heal from current historic ravages and pursue newly-honed solitude skills (perhaps one of more positive outcomes of Covid crisis: people learned to shelter in place without going nuts by going more deeply within).
As divine co-creators, ENOUGH conscious beings together visualizing such a reality have the power to manifest it. Conscious humanity is that powerful..
Alternative is unthinkable
If we don't achieve a critical mass of group visualization and 'owners' continue destroying the place thousands have known and loved before finally giving up, due to lack of patronage and/or limited deep pockets trying to subsidize a money-pit, THEN the entire grounds could shutter, not just the bathhouse. Front gates could swing shut and padlock, as they did last in 1980s, sad testimony of tragic polarized times and inability or unwillingness to find the right energies to rescue the place (one with an admitted mongrel pedigree karmically) to foster the planet's well-being.
It was rescued before by an informal local management extended family, from the early 1980s through 2004, with unassuming low-key, folksy healing service, serendipidously in line with the spirit of the founder, including the willingness to work for peanuts (which became both initial catalyst for re-opening and ultimate handicap, as taken for granted workers became illegally exploited).
If operation closes due to meager response, even after bizarro touted grand conversion of bathhouse, and absentee stewards aren't moved to find suitable new legal custodians but instead try to unload it to the first person with ready cash, THEN a forlorn For Sale sign might get slapped on the front gates. Place could get snapped up by some investment concern with even MORE outlandishly inappropriate and sketchy intentions for the place...and the sometimes tragic, now-lost dream of the Stewart Springs realm would appear more gone than ever.
Wanted: openhearted investor angel(s)
to rescue extraordinary realm
The place deserves a solid redemption. Remember, a Findhorn teaching center was almost begun there by Peter Caddy of Findhorn fame in the early '80s. That's how much potential place has to become a global transformative point. (see book excerpts)
Visualize a positive future for the place with person(s), looking to plow some of an embarrassment or riches into a worthy cause and coming forward in the fullness of time.
Again, enough mindful visualization by enough conscious beings pulling together COULD manifest this, refusing to give validity to the drastic actions now afoot in the beleaguered realm. Private-minded endeavors, flagrantly disregarding the will of the people and longstanding healing tradition just don't make the cut.
Stewart's is well located midway -- along with Ashland's Jackson Wellsprings -- between California's sister springs Wilbur, Orr, re-opened Harbin and Oregon's Breitenbush for traveling spring aficionados and nature-loving lightworkers seeking safe haven while tooling the West Coast circuit, wanting/needing places to chill and push a grand re-set button as the entire planet takes a reality check.
Fifteen minutes off I-5, Stewart Springs is an easy stopover point for a shifting sea of growth-minded humanity seeking respite from challenging transitional times and wanting to recharge on new levels...without having to buy into any locked, limited structure of enlightenment model, or deal with a place more concerned with power and wealth and private-minded gigs than serving the greater good.
Within restraints of modest welling rate of mineral water spring(s) and limited usable land, the realm's potential to become a vital, low-key happening healing retreat/workshop/rejuvenation center is nothing short of staggering.
It always has been. It's simply a matter of present 'ownership' realizing this...that the powerful medicine of the land, along with the heavy karma of the place's violent tragic past, precludes even THINKING about trying to get rich off the sacred realm or re-purposing to pursue a private shtick, to the extreme detriment of a general public hungry for natural healing while receiving the glad tidings of nature. Current claims of the outfit helping raise vibration of the planet, disregarding having, in the process, destroyed the place as one countless thousands have come to know it, are nothing short of incredulous.
Stewards -- current and future -- can only (and will naturally want to) dedicate efforts to re-build its medicine wheel as a service-dedicated retreat and resort open to all growth-minded beings seeking purification, healing and rejuvenation.
Anything else is certain to fail, having the seeds of own failure built in from the start. Anyone investing heavily in the place with eventual material returns in mind, even with ostensible laudable goals attached, inevitably becomes preoccupied trying to recoup funds and get ahead of the game, in the process drastically watering down the potential healing power of place for everyone.
In umbrella Pneuma's case, its intent appears to be to use place -- even running at a loss if need be -- in order to serve and grow its own affiliated organizations and become a global headquarters. Here's the rub: while Pneuma itself is a nonprofit, California law allows a nonprofit to run a for-profit offshoot, which 'Pneuma Retreat Center' is. This allows it to gain bankruptcy protection if need be against creditors and still keep operating place without endangering the funds of the parent outfit.
That's why its crucial for both profit and private-shtick motivation to be forever taken out of the equation...and be replaced by a genuine love of service that, once again, offers an affordable healing and rejuvenating spa and retreat lodging for a weary humanity.
Skeptics might wonder if such a high-minded nonprofit operation could ever get by financially instead of becoming yet one more chronic money drain. Of course it could, in due time. Do the right thing, follow the bliss, and the green energy follows to support it -- every time.
Place could well become so popular it would have to follow the setups of Breitenbush, Wilbur, and Orr Springs in requiring reserving visits ahead of time, rather than allowing former accustomed impulsive in-the-moment drop-ins. With its limited mineral water sources -- far smaller than any other regional rural spring resort -- calling ahead or reserving online would likely become a given.
While putting a damper on impulsive spur-of-moment visits that Springs once thrived on, often lending an upbeat, happening vibe, on the plus side such a setup would make energies on the grounds more relaxed and focused. Visitors' time spent there would be more valued for having tuned into the place and committed ahead of time.
Fondest Hopes Dashed
As said elsewhere, writer at first naively hoped there'd be a concerted effort among current, way-absentee 'owners', management, and work traders to open their collective hearts and revitalize and beautify place, working in can-do spirit. Especially on hearing how Mathew Engelhart, founder of California's mindful Cafe Gratitude restaurant chain,
was a partner for a while. He soon sold his interest...and one needn't wonder why. (It appeared he also wanted the fireplace in restaurant gone, which, judging from their site photo on renamed structure -- Yahooey Golumpus Lodge of Bliss or some such high-flown tripe -- is a done deal.)
Surely we'd hit rock bottom and the only way was up.
Anticipation by some was in seeing the Springs experience a dramatic rebirth as a thriving renaissance rural retreat after the 34 long years under improbable, starkly profit-driven 'ownership'..one that at times seemed to barely tolerate bohemian-leaning, counterculture-friendly patronage that long formed core of support base. Possibly it did so only because it proved great for business, reportedly netting annual quarter-million dollars in last years under Foggy; possibly, to give him more credit, because he was, beyond off-putting relentless profit focus, something of a rebel himself and enjoyed enabling a quasi alternative-culture-friendly scene that was so in-your-face to conventional society's dully limited mindset.
In any event, it seemed a golden opportunity, after two generations of old regime, to realign healing energies and get place's once-powerful medicine wheel spinning merrily once again.
In our dreams...
One looked back wistfully on the old absentee stewardship after experiencing the recent disaster. We had clothing-optional banned, the gazebo altar erased, sweat lodge banished. Masseuse took reduced cut and gift shop consignees' share shrank. Lobby's oracle cards disappeared. Over an acre of stately tall pine and cedar trees were mowed down, almost certainly needlessly. Workers no longer got free monthly baths or even an employee discount; lower echelon workers still worked at insulting minimum wage...Then, incredibly, bathhouse, heart and soul of the realm, was indifferently gutted.
To call the intended repurposed bathhouse building Shambala House was like cutting down one-time majestic groves of ancient trees in a Bay Area spot and then naming the area Redwood City.
Future prospects couldn't look more dismal short of closing front gates outright -- again, a possibility if current 'owners' eventually give up their private-minded plans and can't sell right away due to perhaps inadequate or inappropriate publicizing and/or holding out for too much money, eventually ending up attracting detached deep-pockets buyer... perhaps some vulture speculator who goes around snapping up distressed properties and decides how best to flip for fastest profit before flying off into the night looking for the next easy prey.
Things had become so sorrowful that writer, longtime volunteer, with great reluctance unplugged totally from the Springs in late 2017 after 18 years of psyched work-trade and six years building this site.
Fact that current 'owners' Pneuma website from the get-go began referring to Stewart Mineral Springs as Pneuma Retreat Center boded ill indeed, sounding early alarm bells to any fan nurturing hopes of visiting again and experiencing even the faintest glimmer of former grounded, spirit-soaring enjoyment of realm.
Place is obviously now at a hyper-critical juncture. Assuming the worst rumor is true and place is indeed hellbent on trying to morph into some manner of mostly-private compound for Pneuma-related groups and subsidized by the public groups who can stomach the Kool Aid, Stewart aficionados can either kiss the place goodbye...OR visualize and pray for the universe to manifest a new, service-loving, legally nonprofit stewardship that will bring back the bathhouse and restaurant and sweat lodge with a powerful infusion of community involvement.
The choice is ours.
Recent improvements on grounds
As a breather from so many depressing developments, the following is recycled writing on improvements made on place in recent years, plus brainstorms for possible improvement projects. Some updated perspective is shoehorned in but was mostly written years before current crisis, so make allowances.
upgrades to match
Latter-day efforts by last 'owner', John Foggy -- who's running of place, again, looks pretty damn good now -- have included building zenned privacy wall by cold plunge, new plumbing to all tubs, new drain lines, and new flooring in bathhouse (though, alas, losing venerable intricate mandala floor pattern), plus custom floor tile work in changing room, bathrooms, and office. Also: enlarging conference hall deck, new footbridge across creek, zenned landscaping all around bathhouse, plus new grounds steps and stairways, including new landing and stairway and up to dorm rooms #7-10 above bathhouse.
One nice addition was the custom hearth work for bathhouse lobby wood stove (seen above), done by local tile artisan work-trader Monica, along with tile work on office, bathrooms, and dressing room floors. One of newer works tackled by grounds manager Josh was tiling floor and walls of two tub stalls and installing trey-fancy faucet fixtures...which, predictably, some love, others hate, others indifferent to.
One huge recent downgrade
In contrast, another project, deeply disturbing, was new 'owners' in 2016 cutting down a giant swath of forest above main road and just down from the hillside cabins. Reason? To make way for installing new septic leach line for bathhouse's greywater, to be pumped across creek (?!). Possibly Health Dept. suggested that off the cuff as wild-haired solution to past furtive dumping into creek...which of course eventually got place in trouble as sorry fact came to light. Maybe it was like, "Fine; we'll go with that" response rather than taking time to seek a more ecologically sound and innovative solution for which the department might've well granted a variance once they did due diligence in thoroughly researching viable options. As sad result, some 30 mature pines and cedars bit the dust -- many no doubt busy happily growing while pioneer Henry Stewart, founding namesake, was yet still strolling grounds, an 80+ year-old believer in the waters, over a century ago.
Bridge of song?
Perhaps the promise of potential positive changes were best symbolized by the rebuilt car bridge spanning Parks Creek and leading to bathhouse.
< Car bridge, during
construction, fall 2011, by Mendera and Mexican-American crew led by Jesus
Its former wood planks and timbers had rotted and unpainted metal understructure rusted up such a storm, crossing the stream could be something of an adventure. Bridge had been previously damaged by great Parks Creek flood of '90s and repaired.
One could view 2011 bridge rebuilding -- tackled by late Mendera and dedicated Mexican-American crew from previous owner Foggy's specs -- as reflection of spirit orchestrating restoration of place to former glory.
Bridge over troubled waters? Well, barring periodic raging deluges sending boulders size of VW bugs crashing downstream, waters really aren't usually all that troubled; they're often pretty mellow, actually; analogy only goes so far...
During reconstruction everyone used
former sole approach to bathhouse/office -- venerable old covered walking bridge (seen here), once called the Angels Bridge.
On subtle level this possibly re-activated energy patterns of former, more renaissance times when, among other things, bathhouse was protectively distanced from disrupting sounds and fumes of motor vehicles and drivers' wound energies circling it on three sides.
New policy, now over decade old, is for visitors to park below bathhouse and sweat lodge and stroll up short incline, or to park on upper road and cross covered bridge below restaurant. Let visitors walk a bit, lazy gats.
Former quasi drive-in bathhouse was self-defeating. How many spring resorts allow noisy vehicles to park directly by bathhouse, engines running and doors slamming and people yakking away six feet from bathers trying to relax and meditate while sitting or lying down in dark, womb-like sauna?!
Ours did, blessed wayward springs that it's been since leaving Stewart family and, later, the mason's service, the service-dedication plug pulled and commercial speculation rampantly taking over. Having thus restored that measure of quietude worked wonders to relax the heart of the place.
One project many years under consideration before getting tabled was to install a mini hydro power generator upstream and tap Park Creeks abundant free energy, as Oregon's Britenbush does (in their case impressively supplying ALL electricity).
This would reduce place's dependence on inefficient and environment-degrading grid electricity generation. Still on table was goal to tighten grounds' aged patchwork electrical infrastructure, reducing energy waste and bringing place into closer harmony with nature, strengthening foundation for healing and transformation.
What might further help? (Once getting an appropriate stewardship.) Though logistical challenge and requiring serious financial outlay and long-term disruption, it would surely fine-tune energies, creating chill freebody zone, to relocate laundry room and office to new spot, like open lot above bathhouse, and have visitors park along road and walk across bridges. Having the chance to feel creek's soothing energy on approach would help spa partakers better unwind and let go into timelessness, being even more insulated from disruptive vehicular energies, mundane street-clothed business transactions, and often hectic operational and maintenance hub-bub.
Virtually every other popular regional rural c/o mineral springs resort has office and laundry located away or well separated from bathing compound.
For good reason: fully clothed, foot-shod people arriving fresh off highway, money transactions, housekeeping runs, massage meets, churning washing machines and whirring dryers, etc. simply don't mix with bathers wanting a respite from such noisy busyness in order to slip into blissful meditative state and lock into healing mode.
Writer's convinced that non-ideal, now-late, bathhouse setup was more than anything (beyond new, conservative and exclusive-minded 'ownership', that is) ultimate cause of recently re-imposed nudity ban. Place, to own knowledge, was never clothing-optional -- other than perhaps casual de-facto -- before 2000, beyond 1970s' renaissance era under Goodpastures.
Another complication to changing setup: attendants would still be needed to track time, clean tubs, and stoke sauna and lobby wood stoves.
All other popular regional springs are self-serve.
But, as last manager pointed out, comparing Stewart to places like Harbin is like comparing apples to oranges. Not that the bathhouse couldn't become more streamlined and self-serve. But it would
go against the grain of place's long tradition of "Allow me to draw your bath, kind lady", working-it solicitude and infrastructure setup of offering private baths rather than communal pools. (This obviously also worked against ideal clothing-optional environment, visitors feeling put off by constant switching between private and public c/o zones with mandatory wrap-up in between...often made to feel, depending on mix of visitors and one's own mindset, either like quick-change fashion models, striptease artists, or shameless exhibitionists.)
Possibly relative scarcity of mineral water precludes ever making place self-serve short of some high-tech rationing system, as precious liquid must be carefully dolloped out. One tech solution: once set limit is reached, taps automatically shut off until reset by attendant for next soaker, sign lighting up and reading "No more water for you!" But just by moving office, laundry and massage meet, while keeping current attendant system, atmosphere would be transformed.
"I deeply love this place and hold its sacredness in the highest honor. Every decision I make reflects this commitment."
- Rowena Pantaleon, General Manager 2006-2017'
Why did so many come to doubt this sentiment? Especially after she brokered the deal to current 'owners'...who apparently likewise hold its sacredness high. So high, they don't want anybody to enjoy it anymore besides themselves and select groups willing to pay a pretty penny.
As mentioned elsewhere, place has been trying to shake free of benign neglect for decades, ever since leaving Stewart family's deeply grounded, dedicated management in 1954. It was closed outright from 1984 to 1988 but for special groups (including Peter Caddy's) -- yet forever appears determined to find its way back. Even now, despite recent series of mega depressing events.
As former front desk worker Brandy put it before getting sacked for essentially being human, "It's a hospital for light workers."
Stewart Springs might be likened to a stray dog belonging to no one and adopted by everyone, regardless of who "owns" or manages it at the moment. Sensing its sweet lost dream, nature-loving visitors of spiritually receptive bent and free-spirited
Former inspired walkway, with heart stone center, above cold plunge (photo and stonework by a local, Kiera, who later removed heart stone after falling out with management)
leaning, and with spare time on hands, were happy to plug in and help the place along...sometimes for green, other times in exchange for baths and sauanas, or combination of the two.
Or at least take a pronounced proprietary
interest over the place...as it's lacked a living-on-grounds legal steward for over 40 years now. Stewart family had seasonally called the place home during the operation's first 78 years, as did some later stewards. But last known, there wasn't even a manager staying on grounds. (Wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't even a resident caretaker. First absentee owner, then remote manager; nonexistent guests might've seemed the inevitable next step.)
One could feel unaccountably pulled to help place along. Financial reward was seldom a motive.
Take writer. With time on my hands (and as it turned out part beaver), I felt a spontaneous pull to build up a diversionary rock dam, creating place's first cold plunge in recent times.
Built and reinforced over the course of several summers, starting in late 1990s and in time gaining mostly-volunteer help from others, it lasted (with breaches needing repairs now and then) til late 2012. Raging deluge from double whammy of sudden spring snow melt plus heavy rain then wiped it out, and we had to start all over.
Since the end of the Goodpasture days of 1970s, having no pool meant any would-be plungers were often forced to wrestle strong currents threatening to carry them downstream and slam them into rocks (as had happened more than once) if they didn't cling for dear life to friendlier rocks
while submerging -- sometimes succeeding, but once breaking person's ribs -- while doing rebirthing (!) That, or be hard-pressed in low-flow season to find a spot deep enough to immerse short of awkwardly laying flat in rocky shallows, pointy rocks sticking into back or belly.
Maybe the thinking of management operation -- often a bit spartan, sketchy, and indifferent around the edges due to a starvation budget and absence of any more mindful stewardship and vision -- was that a cold plunge wasn't needed -- or, more likely, even thought of.
That, or efforts to keep a plunge pool were abandoned due to periodic rampaging creek floods soon erasing any determined effort...along with steps leading down into the waters. Writer once found a concrete step slab in creek while moving rock for the dam. It had apparently been torn loose by creek rampage, reportedly almost right after cement pouring, project done no doubt with fond hopes of permanence. Nature sometimes seems to have other plans.
In later times many work traders -- notably Kiera, Aurora, and the late Mendera along with Jesus's Mexican-American crew for modest pay -- joined in or took over maintenance and repair of dam and further zenning plunge area...including long-needed stone steps leading into plunge. After writer stepped aside due to health concerns, Mario took over, doing great shakes braving icy water in wetsuit and painstakingly moving up to one-ton rocks about with a come-along, rebuilding and deepening plunge to best level in years...until yet another deluge brought efforts back to square one. Working with nature's a trip.
Since so many wipe-outs had happened in recent years, one grounds manager was convinced that trying to create any deeper, more ambitious plunge would be a futile effort, despite writer's assurance that one dam actually lasted over a decade and gained depths up to five feet -- once, briefly, to over six feet after a backhoe was brought in and before dam-trapped silt and gravel built up again and soon erased the luxuriant depth that ephemerally made the plunge a genuine dive-able swimming hole for summer-goers to luxuriate skinnydipping in.
Myriad others made similar strides over time, harnessing often considerable talents and dedication, either for bath-trade, lodging, campsite, or pay so modest it would be out of the question if not for being so smitten by place. One dedicated bath attendant and yoga teacher, Dustin, several years ago on quitting, no doubt spoke for many former
Longtime masseuse Debbie Davis >
minimum-wagers-plus-two-bits when lamenting in supreme irony, "I love this place but can't afford to work here anymore."
Another former attendant, Seth, had felt inspired to paint the bathhouse ceiling in soothing sky and clouds motif that graced bathhouse many years...before unaccountably being painted over -- probably the sky-scape was deemed too outlandishly California in the eyes of new 'owner's' conservative taste. And Nathon, who later celebrated wedding to Sarah Sunshine on the grounds to a staggering overflow of family and friends -- largest gathering in recent times -- did wonders with the realm's imposing front gates
by water-blasting away the gloomy dark surface of long years, revealing a cheery light wood tone hiding beneath. And gardener Russell transformed the grounds with the greatest profusion of thriving, colorful flowerbeds in decades, to the delight of visitors and staff alike.
Of course, being a for-profit enterprise could often create off-putting commercial headwinds one had to get beyond -- visitors and workers alike -- before being able to tune into place's innately powerful healing properties.
< Once-happening peoples' altar inside spring gazebo, now empty and forlorn. It was at first replaced by cheery sign warning No This, No That, Violators Prosecuted, ostensibly posted to discourage curious from climbing over railing to check out adjoining untapped red springs
Indeed, some past managers and employees seemed to have kept almost solely focused on place as a cash cow and job security, dismissing all else as woo-woo ka-choo, new age hogwash...but then dutifully paying lip-service to it when serving a purpose, dreaming up catchy p.r. sizzle like "Indulge your Soul" to lure new visitors. No better able to tune into place's healing energy or resonate with light-work tradition and under constant pressure from 'owner' to max profits, they could -- and frequently did -- go on stupifyingly outrageous power trips, displaying curt, often blatantly rude, sometimes downright scary behavior.
This was, of course, more than a tad non-conducive to any visitor hoping to unwind and heal from the sundry slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...rather than, instead, experience even MORE at the would-be refuge...suffered more keenly for having let their guard down in hopes of at last having found a place of long-reputed conscious purifying and healing dedication.
Dead man walking
This was largely the product of former, remote 'ownership' attracting management who would agree to focus on maximizing profits but who, in the case of couple Ted and Rowena*, at the same time seemed to struggle (often, it appeared, futilely) to keep alive some hamstrung vision of the place's higher purpose.
Many dismissed any such effort as an impossible tightrope act, pointing out that one cannot serve two masters.
Result seemed to be building intent to attract those 'more refined' -- and, big coincidence -- more affluent; visitors willing to drop more coin, resulting in pricing out and eventually lifestyle-ing-out everyday folks of more unassuming, down-to-earth ways and modest means.
- Any would-be laudable efforts were in part (as mentioned in 12-part rant on home page) aggravated by late co-manager Ted D. dealing with Stage 4 liver disease throughout his entire ten-year run, lasting from 2006 to 2016. And in part because there was always so much work to be done to keep operation running without any bigger staff that it was easy to either rev into callous, hell-for-leather overdrive, courting fast burn-out, or unplug and goldbrick, feeling overburdened, unappreciated and underpaid.
One could feel unmotivated to build any more abiding regard for the place and its service beyond it providing a paycheck...and perhaps a giddy power rush now and then for helping run a historic institution beloved by so many and held in instant awe by newcomers.
All told, it was rough sledding for any more heart-centered workers hoping to build more positive energy flows. Lord knows, writer went through his own tiresome big-frog-in-small-pond phase before resetting and happily becoming a small fish in the big sea.
One former-employee friend vowed, after an abysmal experience with manager and eventual firing, never to set foot on property again until old management was gone. Now its gone...but, alas, might as well still be there.
For former, frequently alternative-culture indifferent/hostile and bourgeois mindset suddenly seemed only magnified -- to point of widespread shunning of place by countless of the place's biggest fans and longest supporters.
Of course, overseers and staffs at a nonprofit, or even what might be called conscious capitalistic spring resorts, can also get caught up in similar power trips and mundane, workin'-to-make-the-rent headspaces. But it seems less common. People often feel more inspired being part of a concerted group effort. They're focused on providing genuine service rather than narrow preoccupation generating green, instead gaining intangible rewards in spirit and inner fulfillment as well as (ideally) live-onable paycheck.
In any event, intent and awareness are always the bottom line, regardless of business model.
Innate healing energies of Stewart's in time often won over such disconnected workers. Work efforts became happy tantric fusion of spirit and matter.
Strange but True Dept.:
Hollywood's macho action actor Steven Seagal once tried buying the place when it was tenuously on market in the late '90s. Insultingly low counter-offer was promptly refused. No telling what might've happened. Open one day a year to public like Dunsmuir's historic Shasta Springs resort, now super-private St. Germain Foundation retreat? Surely the place seemed protected.
In startling irony, writer, seeking a bit of escape, had just watched Seagal's "Under Siege" movie on "NBC's Movie of the Week" the night before, yet didn't even see his tall personage with exotically attired entourage touring the grounds the next day, being so immersed in coldplunge work. On my taking a break, a local visitor asked wide-eyed, "You ever hear of Steven Seagal?" (He hadn't.) I said, sure, I'd just seen a movie of his the night before. "Well, he was just here." Manager Mary's mother, Pat, having 11 years helmed the office, later told me how she glared at him through window as he walked off. "I just knew the first thing he'd do if he bought the place would be to fire me."
In fairness, pressure to get jobs done quickly and efficiently -- not always able to make due allowance for the fragility of human spirit and hold the ideal of keeping a dignified work pace, especially with rigid profit focus by' owner' -- could make keeping any mindful headspace challenging to impossible. As a work-trader, never needing to earn money at Springs to put food on the table, writer was happily spared any such gnawing pressures. Admittedly such a situation was uncommon. (see Something About Mary) Workers scrambling to keep a roof over head couldn't afford the luxury of such noble sentiment or quixotic vision if 'ownership' chose to over-work and under-reward employees.
Places like Springs are obviously needed more than ever now, what with the pandemic recently trying humanity and social order polarizing and democratic principles unraveling. Places like Stewart's can offer natural medicine that help heal and enable humanity to better cope with current tribulations, what some view as only the intense birth pangs of a new humanity soon to be born.
One-winged angel cannot fly! >
Longtime, now reportedly gone, damaged creek island statue, one wing missing, symbolized all too well mismanagement of Stewart Springs in recent decades. Place wanted to soar as a thriving public-minded, culturally-diverse healing refuge, but remained earthbound, held hostage by inappropriate, far-absentee legal stewards
Growing numbers are awakening and dedicating lives to healing and unfolding higher selves. Again, as society reaches some semblance of 'new normal', more sojourners will seek such sanctuaries on the road, ports in the storm, safe havens from the fading yet still dominant dark forces gripping our fair planet. Accessible places amid nature to push the re-set button, rejuvenate, re-connect with nature -- sometimes in profoundly life-changing ways.
That's why it's so tragic new 'owners' seemed shockingly indifferent to erasing people's culture and time-honored ways in the course of pursuing their diversionary, insanely inappropriate repurposing schemes.
Giving some benefit of doubt for a moment, maybe it was only some unwitting effort on being unable to connect the dots rather than intentionally trying to tick everyone off so people wouldn't care if gates slammed shut down the road ...only after being suffered long enough and money taken to help fund makeover.
But, whatever the case, present 'ownership' could be a relatively brief one.
A new one -- match made in heaven via conscious group envisioning it unfolding in due season -- can redeem place and the beloved realm at last become a full-tilt, nonprofit, service-loving, healing and rejuvenation spa and retreat.
Writer, of course, should've realized the current malaise would happen. After all, the last controversial manager was the very one who brokered the sale. New 'owners' must've resonated with her "refined" vision of place (or found her useful to stay on until unfolding their own plans) as they seemed way too content to have her continue managing, running rubber-stamping staff with new relayed orders by remote from 150 miles away during her last two years, continuing to flex a counterculturally-indifferent, at times authoritarian power trip.
There's a clue, Sherlock.
Changes under future, open-minded stewardship
With advent of more affordable solar electric panels -- some 80% cheaper today than in 2010 -- along with breakthrough of denser, long-lasting storage batteries like Tesla's, Stewart, could borrow page from Wilbur Hot Springs and get at least some of its electricity from sun. (Wilbur, like Breitenbush, is totally off-grid.) One idea kicked around was to set up solar-operated stirrer for mineral water reservoir to keep minerals suspended.
Insulating the bathhouse would further reduce electric use and firewood. Its ceiling has so far stayed uninsulated because ancient wiring sheathing in
< Amazing stone sculpture created by cold plunge, engineer(s) unknown, summer 2012. Overnight earth spirits, perchance, wanting to gobsmack mortals' minds?
in attic crawl space is so brittle it can't be safely buried under batting.
Installing solar water heaters on bathhouse roof or nearby, though possibly marring rustic charm a tad, would reduce propane use when sun can assist heating process for free with zero pollution.
Electric service carts for housekeeping in warm season could go long ways to keep grounds energy settled, as anyone who ever witnessed their whisper action at Harbin (or any golf course) will testify.
Building faux-natural hot fresh-water pool -- even simpler ambient temperature one (mineral water's far too limited to allow a communal mineral pool) -- somewhere within earshot and sight of creek would greatly boost communal energy and enable elders and handicapped easier access to creek water -- if not creek itself, with solid, railing-ed steps -- further aiding and abetting people's enjoyment of place.
Adding a steam room, as former Harbin, and Jackson Wellsprings did in recent years, and Orr has long had, would mark a quantum leap in bathhouse amenities.
Breathing in mineral-water steam is the third part of traditional water therapy, along with soaking and drinking. Writer wasn't fan of steam baths until experiencing Jackson's in Oregon.
Generating steam from mineral water with special equipment seems to make all the difference: one senses beneficial minerals being absorbed with every breath, the same as with every moment spent soaking. Dry saunas are great, but so are steam rooms and saunas allowing pouring water on the heater top's hot rocks. Stewart visitors had long been frustrated how one couldn't throw water on stove. Even though enchanted by fire view through the glass door, it rendered throwing water on it begging disaster.
If not earmarking area up from bathhouse for new welcome center/front office, instead could possibly build gazebo and plant grass where visitors could congregate and maybe have acoustic music concerts, poetry readings, group meditations and such in nice weather. It wouldn't take much expense, with volunteer local supporters happily pitching in on work-trade basis, given cool, nonprofit stewardship.
Tile work by Monica; centerpiece
reportedly found on grounds
Pipe dreams? Maybe.
But the potential is there for even more dramatic transformation...again, if enough people holding vision see current 'ownership' mismatch in stark perspective: barring miraculous melting of hearts, they might ultimately prove no more than brief regressive blip in longterm evolution before place again amps up pioneer founder Henry Stewart family's 78-year service tradition...one echoing that of Native American rescuers, that the land be forever honored as sacred and an affordable place dedicated to purifying, healing and rejuvenating of ALL in the loving arms of nature, regardless of life station or lifestyle.
New 'ownership' cavalierly
betrayed longtime spring devotees
Once more we've experienced absentee Stewart Springs stewards . Again, it's the first new 'owners' in 34 years, despite the ridiculous epidemic of rumors over the decades every time a new manager, bristling with proprietary airs like they owned the place, appeared in front office. ("Act as if you own the place," last owner Foggy had told managers to encourage making wisest decisions amid his over 99% absence.)
Who knows where
the greywater goes?
New 'ownership' reportedly told outgoing manager that it was committed to plowing back into the place every cent of profit generated during its first two years. If true, much of it seemed to be poured into developing an expensive, outlandish new septic field for bathhouse waste water drainage, located down from cabins.
As said, it tragically involved clear-cutting an acre or two of mature trees. Though project enormous drain of funds (early estimate was $130,000.), it was perhaps karma of former sometimes-shady operation for having emptied bathhouse tub graywater into Parks Creek for so long, and county health department maybe finally checking up on place...possibly actually being invited in by new owners, wanting to be totally compliant with powers that be, possibly on advice of outgoing manager, and of course likely threatened with operation closure if the problem was not duly remedied. (Maybe project was halted after the first, dwindling bathhouse visits, then mandated virus closure, sparking drastic decision to permanently close bathhouse, not being up to health code and not wanting to go a penny more into debt to complete.)
Roguish charm of the Foggy reign was that he was rebel enough to try staying under radar of often cumbersome, nit-picky county health and building regulations, thus keeping operational costs down and change efforts more relaxed -- but in this case at the unfortunate expense of polluting the creek with bathers' diluted toxins. But, again, surely there was some more ecological water-treatment solution out to problem out there if parties were willing to research viable creative option and then gain a county code variance.
Another change with 'owner' turnover -- for what it's worth now -- was staff reportedly no longer working for 25 cents over minimum wage (though heard a report to contrary recently that wages, at least for non-management employees, were still rock bottom). This would improve worker morale and dedication to operation if workers felt new land stewards hadn't been seemingly intent on stealing place away from everyday people or offering a tightly controlled, bland substitute for the former prevailing wild, free, open-minded spirit...now forlornly locked up in some dank dark dungeon under locked down bathhouse.
Many bailed. One new worker quit the second day, seeing the writing on wall, knowing her conscience wouldn't allow working there to aid and abet the betrayal of the place's cherished traditions.
Sky's the limit
If and when the place eventually returns to original pure-love-of-service mode under new stewardship, as currently distinguish sister springs like Oregon's resident owned-and-operated Breitenbush, there's a world of room for further zenning grounds and amenities and majorly mellowing service operations.
What's needed now, more than anything, is every former aficionado of Stewart Springs envisioning current legal title holders GONE...giving up, spirits chastened, having connected with a new enlightened stewardship, to rescue it
and set up the place up as legal nonprofit healing, retreat, and learning center...thus somewhat redeeming their place in the Springs ongoing legacy.
When current mismatch is through with wonky fantasy, with dawning awareness that they'd created an insurmountable mountain of bad karma for themselves, THEN countless fans' focused vision will have cleared the way for manifesting a new, perfectly appropriate stewardship...
...one dedicated working hand in hand with the community to create a rustic Mt. Shasta cultural retreat and healing center, once again in alignment with founding family's dedicated vision.
It behooves everyone who's ever loved the place to imagine this happening. It's a simple matter of enough conscious beings INSISTING that the higher destiny of realm unfold with a new, hand-in-glove stewardship to make it so.
Bend time and visualize it as already here, hovering over grounds, gaining strength and clarity with each passing day...ready to descend and hit the ground running at precisely the right moment to at long last restore the sacred healing realm for the affordable, free-spirited use by all.
Damn-age (almost) done
Future 'owner(s)' will naturally restore and re-open the bathhouse -- and abandon the oppressive clothing-optional policy, forging a viable new policy with mindful intent, creating a respectable c/o climate crucial to furthering the place's powerful transformation potential now so lamentably on ice.
Karuk-led sweat lodge could be re-instated with grand ceremony and celebration -- if so interested after having gotten newest bum's rush from their ancestral land and group hasn't found new permanent ceremonial spot to group's liking by then. (Word is that they did, somewhere along a creek.)
With future stewardship embracing the idea, fans might form a think-tank of ridiculously loose-knit Friends of Stewart Springs to brainstorm the most readily doable projects, strong on work-trades and donated materials. Employ the far-flung talents of those living
in the region and those visiting awhile, creating a thriving rural community healing and cultural center.
It would become one of growing pockets of transformed gathering spaces interconnecting planet's like-minded enlightened operational models of human-friendly living.
Imagining the best possible place, see an angel investor, progressive-minded wealthy person(s) wanting organization's riches to best help humanity, being alerted to current plight and opportunity, and the universe connecting them to 'buy' and liberate the healing realm.
The details of the actual set-up doesn't matter so much as long as the place is at last becoming a legal nonprofit enterprise...with appropriate intent guaranteeing the place forever stays a people-friendly, progressive-minded, service-oriented healing sanctuary and retreat. Again, that's been the place's DNA all along, with 78 years of essentially such service by the Stewart family.
It merely awaits reactivating.
However the universe manifests a rescue of the place, assuming enough collective prayers and envisionings in time bear fruit, those who honor Springs's heritage for being a rare, down-to-earth, service-loving operation would naturally want to help make it the best one possible.
Talk about empowering... Imagine something akin to Harbin's Church of Heart Consciousness or Breitenbush's worker-owned and -operated collective, just on a smaller, more intimate scale.
One way or another, enough focused people can manifest a new, appropriate steward...rescue it from the current 'owners'' misguided efforts once they realize their mundane, private-minded intentions simply wouldn't work in the real world's far flung spiritual community.
One might argue that the new steward should get the place at a lower price (or at least at-cost), by way of erasing the grievous karmic debt of having so long oppressed wellbeing and crimped heartsongs of untold thousands of place's once-dedicated devotees.
As place's intangible yet invaluable business asset -- good will -- was destroyed wholesale, a dollop of genuine good will on their part would help smooth things out and redeem their now-tattered honor for having aided ultimate transformation of place to its highest, flying-with-the-eagles destiny to serve humanity
Despite the nightmare the place has become to any who knew it in kinder times, this too shall pass...
One might allow oneself to get excited in anticipating Springs' possible future role as world transformation brings humanity back
into some greater semblance of balance with nature and one another.
Of course, some note how much easier it is to heal and rejuvenate at an undeveloped
pristine hot spring that one actually has to hike to to reach. Such places, as Stewarts was originally in prehistory, are uncomplicated by commercial, man-made overlays, blissfully free of karma created by man's unenlightened behavior. Indeed, some will only visit such undeveloped springs. They feel near-zero pull to developed ones with their clutter of man-made structures, off-putting clock-watching, and ouchy fees. ("Dead frog skins" was what some tribes called green paper currency.)
Maybe with likely dramatic earth changes to come, new mineral springs will surface, beckoning mankind as in days of old deep into arms of pristine nature for timeless primordial womb-like immersive healings.
Meanwhile, as we witness Mother Nature on the run in the twenty-first century (cue song), we work with what we've got. And we've got (or had and will get again) Stewart Springs...the way all who have loved place and realize its infinite potential visualize it BECOMING, each fan adding input and momentum to its ultimate manifestation following liberation from its current clutches.
We've been blessed to have it...even if now seized by mammon and, again, if current "owners'" fantasies go bust, it faces the possibility of closing down and being put back on market with no appropriate new 'owner' coming to rescue it in time, and so again getting snapped up by some insufferably sketchy, profit- or private-minded parties.
Can't have that.
Remember that contained in Chinese character for the word 'crisis' is the character for opportunity. It's worth watching over now more than ever, holding vision for future transformation under new enlightened nonprofit stewardship, with keen involvement by the community at large.
Yes, serious money -- land traded hands for $2.6 million in early 2016. But it's a drop in bucket in the larger scheme of things. Of course attracting the right deep-pocketed benefactor would be worlds easier if there were set up some sort of nonprofit Save Stewart Springs organization, but that's beyond my own abilities. Not so for others. (Then place might easily get a fast grant from someone like MacKenzie Scott.)
Thousands around the world would love to see the place evolve into a positive nonprofit mission... a thriving rural retreat center dedicated to free-spirited purification, healing, and rejuvenation...to at long last join Orr, Wilbur, Harbin, Sierra, and Oregon's Breitenbush and Jackson Wellsprings as West Coast nature-healing havens...having once and for all banished its checkered, often tragic, history of misguided intents and wonky mismanagement by the sheer will and collective vision of its myriad far-flung devotees.
Writer heard Jackson Wellspring reportedly guaranteed preserving its service integrity over time because original steward, Mrs. Jackson, had the forethought to set up binding legal charter for grounds to forever remain a non-profit healing place for public -- even if the legal steward changes. Future Stewart stewards might do well to emulate as much as California law allows. (Calling all legal whizzes...)
As emerging divine creators, together over time and with enough pure energized intent and focus, we CAN liberate the Springs to once again serve a greater humanity.
The universe is on our side. Collective vision of the place becoming a lighthearted universal healing, rejuvenating, and cultural center will prevail IF enough people who cherish the Springs INSIST on it.