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 and volunteer
assistant manager under Mary H., 1999-2002.
First posted 2013, revised periodically
Now sailing through 2023. Humanity is in the throes of global transformation, fitfully reaching an epochal tipping point in mass consciousness...
...and yet, as humanity strives to reach this new, higher level of 'normal', it's doing so, alas, currently without the age-old benefit of visits to Stewart Springs.
First the new 'owners' decided to permanently close the bathhouse and cease massage service. Then they converted the building into extra retreat and class space, tearing out the tubs (and dubbed it...Shambala House, as if anyone gives two hoots).
Could such a plan, one so disregarding the enduring, profound healing tradition of the realm once assumed inviolable, actually succeed? Are there really enough 'bourgeois-spiritual' people out there unable to connect the dots, willing to embrace a scene built on the grave of the simple love-of-service, genuine spa retreat so long venerated?
And, if not, are Pneuma's pockets deep enough to keep shoveling money into a bottomless pit, regardless -- $77./day in county property taxes alone -- without losing heart? The long standing cash flow of the place had dried up so fast, they'd begun offering lodge bookings at 40% off in May 2020, right after giving bathhouse operation the ax.
It might prove doubtful. So hardcore dedicated fans of the Spring patiently wait for the current 'owners' who effectively legally stole the place from the public to burn out on their wonky fantasies of the diversionary takeover -- called by some as no less than a crime against humanity -- before at last realizing its inherent spiritual healing nature doesn't allow such private-minded detours from a realm that's so long served as a healing sanctuary for ALL people.
That, or, remaining unrepentant over their egregious miscalculation, they end up divesting for another, totally unrelated reason.
In time they'll hopefully realize how the upper-chakkra zapping power of Mt. Shasta had maybe short-circuited their reasoning power and higher awareness, to have ever pursued such a public-be-damned, exclusive-minded, fantasyland boondoggle in the first place.
In the meantime, with the bathhouse repurposed, the place last known has been reduced to basic lodging for groups-only doing events, retreats and workshops (and they seem mighty picky about who they'll accept even at that).
Without the bathhouse spa -- former central draw for most -- it seems unlikely a viable operation could EVER gain traction. The notion of the bathhouse crazily morphing into yet more retreat and class area for anticipated hordes of affluent, awareness-challenged or shrink-profession-preoccupied visitors blissfully unmindful or ignorant of the unfolding travesty beating down their doors is too beyond the pale to imagine having a ghost of a chance of succeeding.
Such mindless action, naturally, has shocked silly the legion of former spring enthusiasts -- day trippers and overnighters alike, both regionals and international travelers -- long accustomed to relishing its therapeutic soaks, saunas, plunges, massages and sunbaths for decades.
Where could this imagined drove of newbies, all hunky-dory with the current travesty of affairs, possibly come from?
So the questions, again, are: (1) can the 'ownership's' outfit(s) actually either have enough following and connections to build up and sustain the place as a bourgeois-friendly, new-age teaching/retreat (and bureaucratic Pneuma world headquarters) and hope to snag enough undiscriminating groups to lease the grounds and lodgings to defray the steep operating and 'ownership' expenses more than a token amount...or (2) if not, do they have pockets deep enough that it doesn't matter?
Chance to redeem the Springs legacy
It might seem that -- barring having unlimited resources -- it's simply a matter of time before the present 'ownership' wakes up from their crazy diversionary fantasy, takes in a steep reality check and relents. In due course they'll either realize the folly of their ways for having disregarded the cherished sentiment of thousands of Stewart Springs fans worldwide, or not but for some other reason 're-sell' it to appropriate, public-minded stewards. Ones that fans everywhere now holding its energy visualize to manifest in due season...ones who might set things up legally as a dedicated nonprofit and so restore it to its former low-key glory as an affordable, public-minded purification, healing and rejuvenation refuge dedicated to serving the greater good.
One untainted by commercialism or private-minded fantasies, turning the place over to benefactor working with its far-flung fan base, willing to sustain its operation on a largely volunteer, work/trade basis, along with the few reasonably paid positions needed for handling everyday operations and the intricacies of bookkeeping, managing and construction.
Such egalitarian stewards might thus rescue the realm...with the help of the current absentee ones IF they realize it's in their own best interests to do so. For in so doing they'll redeem their now threadbare integrity and professional credibility at a place they too love in their own way, albeit a more than a tad less altruistic one.
Sadly, they appear to have never attuned to the establishment's extraordinary public-minded love-of-healing service tradition, its extraordinarily rare, altruistic DNA having seriously faded since the 1950s when the place left the Stewart family after 78 years of service...and then fitfully went through a succession of often dumbfoundingly inappropriate 'ownerships' -- mingled with a few that grokked the healing powers of the place and the former love of service dedication of its first stewards, and, crucially, the reverent peaceful use of the land before 'civilization' ever came along...a place where enthusiasts worked there to turn others onto the place while themselves enjoying its many blessings. see history
Envision the current holders finding -- with the help of connection-rich fans with possible leads -- a new, appropriate 'buyer'. One(s) with resources as well as can-do spirit and a progressive mindset. Ones interested in gaining it legal nonprofit status to protect it from ever getting waylaid again...thus assuring it again flourishes -- permanently -- as a modest, thriving, affordable spa and all-inclusive healing center, serving natural-healing, growth-minded people everywhere.
Barring an amazing change of heart -- or deep pockets determined and able to tide the place over with a dismal dream to morph the place into a half-baked, upscale, quasi new age teaching and lodging retreat for people with more dollars than sense -- many are convinced that enough spring devotees need only keep holding the former Stewart Springs energy and visualize a perfect future stewardship in order to manifest it.
"Enough' is the key word. Serious intentional laser-sharp visualization...no mere idle wishful thinking.
Deeply focused, positive visualizing by every Springs fan who senses the place is waiting to resurrect as the open-circuit, community-rich healing retreat it's in its nature to be. One that further builds on the solid foundation the Stewart family built up, enduring through two world wars and the Great Depression.
Being a public-spirited healing refuge has always 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, waiting to be reactivated by the right compassionate stewards with the financial means. Then the world can once again experience the profound change the land's amplifying energies and mineral waters foster, a precious gift from Mother Earth for all her children. see history
is the key
Imagine a loving universe at long last giving the 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, maybe including present 'ownership' realizing they can acquit themselves by finding appropriate new keepers to sell the place to at a fair price -- thus creating an ultimate positive legacy and, redeemed, once again be able to enjoy the place along with everyone else in the sharing spirit the place inspires.
They perhaps will have gotten over their misguided scheme of trying to detour it to suit their own specialized interests and subsidizing costs by group bookings, actually doing their part to help re-activate the now-interrupted healing medicine wheel of the realm to once again turn.
In any event, combine healing transformative energies with stone-pure intent and voila! In time a full-tilt, people-friendly, community-active healing center, open to all, to help the planet along through its current ravages, people cultivating their greater self (one of more positive outcomes of Covid crisis: learning to shelter in place without going nuts by going deep within and getting better in touch with their higher powers).
As divine co-creators, ENOUGH conscious beings, together visualizing such a reality, do can create enough power to manifest it. Conscious humanity working in unison is that amazing.
The alternative is unthinkable
If we don't achieve a critical mass of group visualization and the 'owners', if not having deep pockets enough, continue erasing the place thousands have known and loved before finally giving up due to lack of patronage and/or some other reason, THEN the entire grounds could shutter, not just the bathhouse. The front gates swinging shut and being padlocked as they did last in the 1980s, sad testimony of the tragic polarized times and inability or unwillingness to find the right parties to rescue the place (one with an admitted mongrel pedigree karmically) to once again help along the planet's well-being.
As recounted elsewhere, it was rescued before by a local-management extended family, starting in the early 1980s and on through 2004, with an unassuming low-key, folksy healing service that was, serendipidously, more or less in tune with the spirit of the founders, including the willingness to work for peanuts (which became both its initial catalyst for re-opening after being closed for years in the '80s and its ultimate handicap as taken-for-granted workers eventually became illegally exploited).
If the operation folds its tent after tiring of continually shoveling money into a bottomless pit, and absentee stewards aren't moved to find suitable new legal caretakers, 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 and the place in time get snapped up by some investment concern with even MORE outlandishly inappropriate, sketchy intentions for the domain...and the sometimes tragic, now-interrupted dream of the Stewart Springs realm could be lost forever.
We can't have that, can we?
Wanted: openhearted investor angel(s)
to rescue extraordinary realm
The place so deserves a resurrection. Remember, a Findhorn teaching center was almost begun there by Peter Caddy, of Findhorn, Scotland fame, in the early '80s. That's how rich the potential is for it to become a global transformative healing point. (see book excerpts)
Visualize a positive future for the place with person(s) looking to plow some of an embarrassment of riches into an eminently worthy cause coming forward.
Again, enough mindful visualization by enough conscious fans pulling together CAN manifest this. Fans who refuse to give validity to the sorrowful actions now afoot in the beleaguered realm as anything but temporary. Fans who have maybe always sensed its vulnerable, neglected state and so, in their hearts, each in effect becoming a steward, holding the energy to protect it from harm.
That widespread, protective love for the place can now be channeled to save it once and for all.
Stewart's is well located midway -- along with Ashland's Jackson Wellsprings -- between California's sister spring Wilbur, Orr, Harbin and Oregon's Breitenbush, for traveling spring aficionados and nature-loving lightworkers everywhere seeking safe haven while tooling the west coast, wanting/needing places to chill and push the re-set button, as the planet experiences its increasingly intense labor pains before at last delivering a new age.
Fifteen minutes off I-5, Stewart Springs is an incredibly easy stopover point for the shifting sea of humanity. Those seeking respite from the challenging transitional times and wanting to recharge on new, higher levels without having to buy into any locked, limited operational model and deal with a place's overseers more concerned with gaining power and wealth than pursuing the joy of service.
Within the restraints of the modest welling rate of the mineral water spring(s) and limited usable land, Stewart Springs' potential to become a vital, low-key happening healing retreat/workshop/rejuvenation center is staggering. A world traveler to mineral spring resorts once called Stewart Springs waters "industrial strength", the strongest he'd ever experienced anywhere. Combined with the vortex energy of the realm, the place has extraordinary potential for aiding in the transformation of the planet.
It's potential has always been there, waiting to be tapped. It's perhaps as simple a matter as the present 'ownership' realizing that the rare medicine of the land, combined with the heavy karma of the place's tragic past, precludes even THINKING about trying to exploit the realm and re-purpose it to pursue a private shtick to the detriment of the greater good. A humanity hungry for natural healing and receiving the glad tidings of nature in such sanctuaries. The current claims of the outfit of wanting to help raise vibration of the planet, disregarding in the process having destroyed the place as one that countless thousands came to know and love, will be reassessed and corrected, thus correcting a grievous miscalculation.
Stewards -- current and future -- can only (and will naturally want to) dedicate their efforts to re-building and expanding the realm's medicine wheel as a service-dedicated healing retreat and resort, open to all and especially growth-minded beings -- those who realize we are each stewards of the planet and who seek natural purification, healing and rejuvenation in the relaxed, secluded setting the Springs so abundantly provides.
Anything else is destined to fail, having the seeds of its own failure built in. Anyone investing heavily in the realm with eventual material returns in mind, even with some ostensible laudable goals attached, inevitably becomes preoccupied in trying to recoup their vested funds and getting ahead of the game, in the process watering down the potential healing power of place and greatly limiting how many can benefit from the realm's strong medicine.
The same with umbrella Pneuma's case, its intent, again, appearing instead to privately unabashedly use the place -- running at a loss if need be -- to grow its own affiliated organizations and serve as a global headquarters and enjoy themselves, to heck with the greater good.
While Pneuma itself is a nonprofit, California law allows a nonprofit to run a for-profit offshoot, which the 'Pneuma Retreat Center' indeed is. This has allowed it to gain bankruptcy protection if need be against creditors and still keep operating the place at a loss without endangering the deep pockets of the parent outfit.
Such a situation being allowed to happen is why both profit and private-shtick focus must forever be taken out of the equation...replaced by a genuine service focus. One that offers a relaxing healing and rejuvenating spa and nature-retreat lodging to a weary humanity now weathering increasing storms of change.
Cynics might wonder if such a high-minded nonprofit operation could ever get by financially, instead of becoming yet one more perpetual money drain. Of course it could. Do the right thing, follow the bliss, and the green energy follows to support it -- every time.
The place would become so popular, it would likely have to follow the setups of Breitenbush, Wilbur, Orr Springs, and, now, sometimes Jackson, in requiring reserving visits ahead of time rather than allowing the 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 almost certainly become a given.
While putting a damper on impulsive spur-of-moment visits the Springs once thrived on, often lending an upbeat, happening vibe, on the plus side such a setup would tend to make the energies on the grounds more relaxed and focused, visitors' time spent there being more valued for having tuned into the place and committed ahead of time.
Fondest Hopes Dashed
As said elsewhere, writer (and possibly a few others) had at first naively imagined there'd be a concerted effort among the new, way-absentee 'owners', management, and work traders to open collective hearts to revitalize the place, working in the infectious, can-do spirit the place can so easily inspire.
Especially on hearing how Mathew Engelhart, founder of California's modest Cafe Gratitude restaurant chain, was a partner for a while. He soon sold his interest -- and one perhaps needn't wonder why.
(He had wanted the three-sided fireplace in the restaurant gone, which, judging from their site photo on the renamed structure -- Yahooey Golumpus Lodge of Bliss or some such high-sounding tripe -- became a done deal.)
Surely we'd hit rock bottom and the only way was up.
Anticipation by some had been on seeing the Springs experience a dramatic rebirth as a thriving renaissance rural retreat after its 34 long years under an improbable, starkly profit-driven 'ownership'...one that at times seemed to barely tolerate the bohemian-leaning, counterculture-friendly patronage that had so long formed the core of the support base. Possibly it did so only because it proved great for business, reportedly grossing an annual quarter-million dollars in the last years under Foggy's reign. Possibly, to give credit where credit's do, it was because he was, beyond his off-putting, relentless profit focus, something of a rebel himself and perhaps enjoyed enabling a quasi alternative-culture-friendly scene that -- with its clothing-optional policy especially -- was so in-your-face to conventional society's often depressing mindset.
In any event, it had seemed like a golden opportunity, after two generations of the old regime, to realign the healing energies and get the place's once-powerful medicine wheel spinning once again.
In our dreams...
One looked back wistfully on the old absentee stewardship after experiencing the post-Foggy apocalypse. We had clothing-optional banned, gazebo altar erased, sweatlodge banished. Masseuse took a reduced cut and gift shop consignees' share shrank. The lobby's set out oracle cards disappeared. Over an acre of stately tall pine and cedars were mowed down, almost certainly needlessly, for a new septic system leach field. Workers no longer got free monthly baths or even employee discount; lower echelon workers still worked at insulting minimum wage...Then, incredibly, the bathhouse, heart and soul of the realm to countless, was gutted.
To call the intended repurposed bathhouse building Shambala House was like cutting down the one-time majestic groves of ancient trees in the Bay Area and naming the ensuing, mostly tree-bereft development Redwood City.
Future prospects couldn't have looked more dismal short of closing the front gates outright -- again, a possibility if current 'owners' eventually do give up for one reason or another and can't sell right away due to inadequate or inappropriate publicizing and/or holding out for too much money, perhaps eventually ending up attracting some detached deep-pockets culture vulture speculator who goes around snapping up distressed properties and then decides how best to flip for fastest profit before flying into the night in search of the next easy prey.
Things had become so sorrowful that your writer, longtime volunteer, psyched in the joy of service to a cause and charmed place so easy to resonate with, with greatest reluctance had to unplug totally from the Springs in late 2017, after 18 years of work-trade and six years building this site.
The fact that the current 'owners' Pneuma website almost from the very get-go referred to Stewart Mineral Springs as Pneuma Retreat Center boded ill indeed. It sounded early alarm bells to any fan nurturing hopes of visiting again and experiencing even the faintest glimmer of their former long accustomed enjoyment and healing benefit of the realm.
The place is at a hyper-critical juncture fraught with uncertainty. Assuming the worst rumor proves true and the place is indeed bent on trying to morph into some manner of an essentially private compound for Pneuma-related groups, subsidized by booking a few clueless public groups who can stomach their Kool Aid, then Stewart aficionados can either kiss the place goodbye...
...OR, much happier thought, keep holding its energy and visualize its redemption.
We stand at a time when, by collectively marshaling inherent spiritual forces, we can manifest a new, service-loving, legally nonprofit stewardship. One that will bring back the bathhouse and restaurant and perhaps the sweatlodge, with a merry infusion of volunteer work trade community involvement -- including dances, live music events and vital workshops -- serving the greater good -- if enough get involved to share the load and prevent any from burning out.
The choice is ours. Some call it a no-brainer. Less than the required numbers of focused fans and efforts might remain futile ghost dancing, magical thinking, waiting for Godot, dreaming the impossible dream...
...enough and it's a done deal.
As a breather from all the offputting developments, the following is a recycled writing on improvements made on the place in more recent years, plus brainstorms for possible future projects. While some updated perspective is shoehorned in, it was mostly written years before the current crisis. Make due allowances.
Recent improvements on the grounds
upgrades to match
Latter-day efforts by last 'owner', John Foggy -- who's running of place, again, looks pretty darn 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 the 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. The bridge had been previously damaged by the great Parks Creek flood of the '90s and repaired.
One could view the 2011 bridge rebuilding -- tackled by late Mendera and a dedicated Mexican-American crew, from previous legal owner Foggy's specs -- as a reflection of spirit orchestrating the resurection of the place.
Bridge over troubled waters? Well, barring periodic raging deluges sending boulders size of VW bugs crashing downstream, the waters really weren't usually all that troubled; they were often pretty mellow, actually; the analogy only goes so far...
During reconstruction everyone used the former sole
approach to bathhouse/office -- the venerable old covered walking bridge (seen here), once called Angels Bridge.
On the subtle level, this possibly re-activated energy patterns of former, more renaissance times, when, among other things, the bathhouse was protectively distanced from disrupting sounds and the fumes of motor vehicles and drivers' wound energies intruding on three sides like a bad dream.
The new policy became for visitors to park below the bathhouse and sweatlodge and stroll up the short incline, or to park on upper road and cross the covered bridge below the restaurant. Let visitors walk a bit, the lazy gats, and free themselves from road energies.
The former quasi drive-in bathhouse was self-defeating. How many spring resorts allowed noisy vehicles to park directly by the bathhouse, engines running and doors slamming and people yakking away six feet from spa goers trying to relax and meditate while sitting or lying down in a dark, womb-like sauna?!
Ours did, blessed wayward springs that it became not long after leaving the Stewart family and the mason's service, its service-dedication plug pulled and unseemly commercial considerations taking over. Having thus restored at least that measure of quietude worked wonders to relax the heart of the place on a remedial level.
One project many years under consideration before getting tabled was to install a mini hydro power generator upstream and tap Park Creek's abundant free energy, as Oregon's Britenbush does (in their case impressively supplying ALL their electricity).
This would reduce the place's dependence on inefficient and environment-degrading grid electricity generation. Still on the table was the goal to tighten grounds' aged patchwork electrical infrastructure, thus reducing energy waste and bringing place into closer harmony with nature, strengthening foundation for healing and transformation.
What might further help? (given a new, appropriate stewardship, of course.) Though a logistical challenge and requiring a serious financial outlay and long-term disruption, it would surely fine-tune energies to create a chill freebody zone by relocating the laundry room and office to a new spot -- like the open lot above the bathhouse -- and have visitors park along road and walk across both bridge approaches. 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 the often hectic operational and maintenance hub-bub. (Wilbur Springs long had its overnight guests park far away from the spa and hotel office once unloading luggage, making for an incredibly serene vibe.)
Virtually every other popular regional rural c/o mineral springs resort has its office and laundry located away or well separated from the 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. don't mix with bathers wanting a respite from such noisy busyness to slip into a blissful meditative state while locked in purifying and healing mode.
Writer's convinced that the non-ideal, now-late, bathhouse setup was more than anything (beyond new, conservative and exclusive-minded 'ownership') the ultimate cause of the eventual re-imposed nudity ban. The place, to writer's knowledge, was never clothing-optional -- other than perhaps casual de-facto skinnydipping -- before 2000, beyond the 1970s' renaissance era under the Goodpastures.
Another complication to changing the 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 comparing apples to oranges. Not that the bathhouse couldn't become more streamlined and self-serve. But it would go against the grain of the place's long tradition of "Allow me to draw your bath, kind lady," working-it solicitude and infrastructure setup that offered private baths rather than communal pools.
(This obviously also worked against ideal clothing-optional environment, visitors feeling put off by having to constantly switch 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 the relative scarcity of mineral water precludes ever making the place self-serve, short of some high-tech rationing system, as precious liquid must be carefully dolloped out. One tech solution: once a set limit is reached, taps automatically shut off until reset by the attendant for the next soaker, a sign lighting up, reading "No more water for you!" But just by moving office, laundry and massage meet,while keeping current attendant system, the 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 the above sentiment? Especially after she brokered the deal to the current 'owners'...who apparently likewise hold its sacredness high. So high, they didn't want anybody to enjoy it besides themselves and maybe a few select groups, willing to pay a pretty penny for the privilege.)
As mentioned elsewhere, the place has been trying to shake free of its 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.
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. One that belongs to no one and is adopted by everyone, regardless of who "owns" or manages it at any given time. Sensing its sweet lost dream, nature-loving visitors of spiritually receptive bent and free-
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)
spirited leaning, spare time on their hands, were happy to plug in and help the place along...sometimes for green, other times in exchange for baths and saunas, some for a combination of the two.
Or at least take a pronounced proprietary interest in the place...as it had lacked a living-on-the-grounds legal steward for over 40 years. The Stewart family had seasonally called the place home during the operation's first 78 years, as did a few later stewards.
But last known, there wasn't any manager actually staying on the grounds. (Wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't even a resident caretaker. First an absentee owner, then remote managers. Finally, nonexistent guests might've seemed the inevitable result.) Wilbur Hot Springs, in contrast, until recent years had the same managing couple calling the place home for over 24 years.
One could unaccountably feel pulled to want to help the place along. Financial reward was seldom a motive.
Take the writer. With time on my hands (and as it turned out apparently part beaver), I felt a spontaneous pull one day to build up a diversionary rock dam in the creek portion below the bathhouse. With the aid of my O/C and a love working in nature, I eventually created the place's first cold plunge in ages.
Built and reinforced over the course of several summers, starting in late 1990s and in time gaining seasonal, mostly-volunteer help from others, it lasted (with breaches needing repairs now and then) until late 2012. A raging deluge from the 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 the 1970s, having no pool meant would-be plungers were often forced to wrestle strong currents threatening to carry them downstream and slam them onto rocks (as actually happened more than once) if they didn't cling for dear life to friendlier rocks while submerging -- sometimes succeeding, once breaking a person's ribs while attempting a rebirthing (!) That, or be hard-pressed in low-flow season to ever find a spot deep enough to immerse short of awkwardly lying flat in the shallows, pointy rocks sticking into the back or belly.
Maybe the thinking of management operation -- often a bit spartan and indifferent around the edges, due to a starvation budget and absence of any more mindful stewardship and vision. st least none supported by the legal absentee steward -- was that a cold plunge wasn't really needed -- or, more likely, even considered.
That, or efforts to keep a plunge pool were abandoned due to periodic rampaging creek floods all too soon erasing any determined efforts...along with the steps leading down into the waters. Writer once found a concrete step slab in the creek while moving rock about for the dam. It had apparently been torn loose by a creek rampage, reportedly happening almost right after a cement pouring, the ambitious project done no doubt with fond hopes of permanence. Nature often seemed 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 the maintenance and repair of the dam and further zenning of the plunge area...including long-needed stone steps leading into the plunge. After writer stepped aside due to health concerns (hernia), Mario took over, doing great shakes braving icy water in a wetsuit and painstakingly moving up to one-ton rocks about with a come-along, rebuilding and deepening plunge to the 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 plunge would be a futile effort, despite writer's assurance that one dam actually lasted for 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 had ephemerally made the plunge a genuine, dive-able swimming hole for summer goers to luxuriate in.
Myriad others made similar strides to the place 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 being so smitten by the place. One dedicated bath attendant and yoga teacher, Dustin, several years ago on quitting no doubt spoke
Longtime masseuse Debbie Davis >
for many former minimum-wage-plus-two-bits worker bees when lamenting, in supreme irony, "I love this place but can't afford to work here anymore."
Another former attendant, Seth, felt inspired to paint the bathhouse ceiling's soothing sky and clouds motif that would grace the bathhouse many years...until unaccountably being painted over. Probably the sky-scape was deemed too outlandishly California in the eyes of the new 'owner's' conservative taste. And Nathon, who later celebrated his 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 the cheery light wood tone hiding beneath. And gardener Russell transformed the grounds with the greatest profusion of colorful flowerbeds in decades, much to the delight of visitors and staff alike.
Of course, being a for-profit enterprise could often create off-putting commercial headwinds that one had to get beyond -- visitors and workers alike -- before being able to tune into the place's innately powerful healing properties.
< Once-happening peoples' altar, inside the spring gazebo, now empty and forlorn. It was at first replaced by a cheery sign warning No This, No That, Violators Prosecuted, ostensibly posted to discourage the curious from climbing over the railing to check out the adjoining, untapped red springs (very modest seepage)
Indeed, some past managers and employees seemed to have kept almost solely focused on the place as a cash cow and job security, dismissing all else as woo-woo ka-choo, new age nonsense...but then dutifully paying lip-service to it when it served their purpose, dreaming up catchy p.r. sizzle like "Indulge your Soul" to try luring newbies. No better able to tune into place's healing energy or resonate with its notable light work tradition, and under constant pressure from the 'owner' to max profits, they could -- and frequently did -- go on stupifyingly outrageous power trips, displaying curt, blatantly rude, sometimes even 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 for thinking they'd found a place of long-reputed relaxed purifying and healing dedication (or knew it in kinder times and assumed it was the same until being shocked senseless to learn it wasn't).
Dead man walking
This was largely the product of the former, remote 'ownership' attracting a 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.
The result seemed to be building an 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 modest means and unassuming, down-to-earth ways of working with nature.
Any would-be laudable efforts were in part (as mentioned in 12-part rant, aggravated by late co-manager Ted D. dealing with Stage 4 liver disease throughout his entire ten-year run, lasting from 2006 till his death in 2016. And in part because there was always so much work to be done to keep the 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 modest 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 any 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, not to set foot on property again until old management was gone.
Now its gone...but, alas, might as well still be there.
For the former, frequently alternative-culture indifferent/hostile and bourgeois mindset was only magnified -- to the point of widespread shunning of the place by countless of the place's most dedicated supporters.
Of course, overseers and staffs at a nonprofit, or even what might be called a conscious capitalistic spring resort, 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 any narrow preoccupation generating green, gaining intangible rewards in spirit and inner fulfillment as well as an (ideally) live-onable paycheck.
In any event, intent and awareness are always the bottom line regardless of business model.
The innate profound healing energies of Stewart's in time often won over such disconnected workers. Work efforts became a 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. His 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 I 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 watched a movie of his last night. "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 the window as he walked off. "I just knew the first thing he'd do if he bought the place would be to 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 not exceeding 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, the 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, especially if the 'ownership' chose to over-work and under-pay employees.
Places like Springs are needed more than ever now, what with the pandemic recently having tried humanity so sorely, the social/political order deeply polarizing, and once cherished democratic principles seriously unraveling. Places like Stewart's can offer natural medicine to help heal and enable humanity to better cope with the times' trials and tribulations (what some view as only the birth pangs of a new humanity wanting to be born).
The one-winged angel could not fly! >
Longtime, now reportedly gone, flood-damaged creek island statue, one wing missing, symbolized all too well the mismanagement of Stewart Springs in recent decades. Place wanted to soar as a public-minded, culturally-diverse healing refuge but instead remained earthbound, held hostage by often inappropriate, far-absentee legal stewards
Growing numbers are awakening, albeit many in fitful leaps and bounds dedicating lives to healing and unfolding higher selves and the joy of service. Again, as society reaches some semblance of 'new normal', sojourners seek such sanctuaries on the road, ports in the storm, safe havens from the fading yet still dominant dark forces gripping our fair planet. Having accessible places amid nature to push the re-set button, rejuvenate and re-connect with special nature forces -- is absolutely crucial.
That's why it's so tragic that new 'owners' seemed utterly indifferent to erasing the popular culture and time-honored ways of the Springs in the course of pursuing their rankly diversionary, uber inappropriate re-purposing schemes.
A new stewardship -- a match made in heaven via conscious group envisioning, unfolding in due course -- would redeem the place and the beloved realm at last become a modest, full-tilt healing spa, retreat and cultural center.
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 the place (or found her useful to stay on until unfolding their own dubious plans) as they seemed way too content to have her continue on, running the 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, so unspeakably contrary to the place's original kindly operational spirit.
There's a clue, Sherlock.
Changes under a future, open-minded stewardship
With the advent of more affordable solar electric panels -- worlds cheaper today than in 2010 -- along with a breakthrough in denser, long-lasting storage batteries like Tesla's, Stewarts could borrow a 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 a solar-operated stirrer for the mineral water reservoir to keep the 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 of 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 the bathhouse roof or nearby, though possibly marring rustic charm a tad, would reduce propane use when the sun can assist heating process for free, with zero pollution.
Electric service carts for housekeeping in the warm season could go a long ways to keep the grounds energy settled, as anyone who ever witnessed their whisper action at Harbin (or any golf course) can testify.
Building a faux-natural hot fresh-water pool -- even a simpler, ambient temperature one (mineral water's far too limited to permit a communal mineral pool) -- somewhere within earshot and sight of the creek would greatly boost communal energy and enable elders and the handicapped easier access to the creek water -- if not the creek itself, creating solid, railing-ed steps -- further aiding and abetting more people's enjoyment and benefit of the place.
Adding a steam room, as 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 a 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 the beneficial minerals being absorbed with every breath, the same as with every moment spent soaking in such waters. Dry saunas are great, but so are steam rooms and saunas that allow pouring water over hot rocks. Stewart visitors had long been frustrated that one couldn't throw water on the stove. Even though enchanted by the fire view through the glass door, it rendered throwing water on it begging for disaster.
If not earmarking the area up from the bathhouse for new welcome center/front office, instead one could possibly build a gazebo and plant grass where visitors could then congregate and maybe have acoustic music concerts, poetry readings, group meditations and such during nicer weather. It wouldn't take much expense, with volunteer local supporters merrily pitching in on a work-trade basis -- given a 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 the vision see the current 'ownership' mismatch in keen perspective, the current seizure might ultimately prove no more than a brief regressive blip in its long-term evolution before the place again amps up pioneer founder Henry Stewart family's humble 78-year service tradition...one echoing that of his Native American rescuers, that the land be forever honored as sacred and dedicated to the purifying, healing and rejuvenating of ALL in the loving arms of nature.
betrayed longtime spring devotees
Once more we've experienced absentee Stewart Springs stewards. (Some former legal stewards lived right on the grounds.) It was 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?
The new 'ownership' reportedly told the outgoing manager that it was committed to plowing back into the place every cent of profit it 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 across the river and down from the cabins.
As told, it tragically involved clear-cutting an acre or more of mature trees. Though the project was -- if actually undertaken -- an enormous drain of funds (early estimate was $130,000.), it was perhaps the karma of the 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 after being invited in by new owners, wanting to be totally compliant with the powers that be, possibly on the advice of the outgoing manager, and of course then likely threatened with operation closure if the problem wasn't duly remedied. (But maybe the project was halted after the first, dwindling bathhouse visits, then mandated virus closure, all combining to make a drastic decision to simply permanently close bathhouse, problem solved, no longer sweating over not being up to code.)
The roguish charm of the Foggy reign was that he was rebel enough to try staying under radar of cumbersome, nit-picky county health and building regulations, thus keeping operational costs down and the various change efforts more relaxed -- but in this case at the unfortunate expense of polluting the creek with bathers' diluted toxins, bath oils, etc. But, again, surely there was some more ecological water-treatment solution out to problem out there, if parties were willing to research a viable creative option and then over time gain a county code variance.
Another change with 'owner' turnover -- for what it's worth anymore -- was the staff reportedly no longer working for 25 cents over minimum wage (though writer heard a report to the 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 out, seeing the writing on the wall, her conscience disallowing working there only to aid and abet the betrayal of the place's cherished tradition of offering healing service to humanity.
Sky's the limit
If and when the place eventually returns to original pure-love-of-service mode under new stewardship, such as currently distinguish sister springs like Oregon's resident owned-and-operated Breitenbush, there's a world of room for further zenning the grounds and amenities and majorly mellowing service operations, once unseemly focus on generating profits is taken out of the equation, instead merrily running as a nonprofit charitable public benefit serving the greater good.
What's needed now, more than anything, is every frustrated aficionado of Stewart Springs envisioning the current legal title holders GONE...giving up, ideally with spirits chastened after coming to mutually acceptable terms with a new enlightened stewardship, but, however it comes down, GONE.
When the current mismatch is through with its wonky fantasy, perhaps gaining awareness that they'd created an insurmountable mountain of bad karma for themselves, but maybe giving up for totally unrelated reasons, THEN countless fans' focused vision will have cleared the way for manifesting a new, appropriate stewardship...
...one reflecting the venerable institution's DNA and dedicated to working hand in hand with nature and the community at large to create a rustic Mt. Shasta cultural retreat and healing center that's at long last again in alignment with the founding family's down-home spirit of humble service.
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, while holding the place's innate energy, to make it happen.
Bend time, perhaps visualize it as already here and hovering over the grounds, gaining strength and clarity with each passing day...ready to descend and hit the ground running at the right moment to at last restore the healing realm to serving the greater good.
Damn-age (almost) done
Future stewards will naturally restore and re-open the bathhouse -- and forge a viable new c/o policy with mindful intent, creating the respectable climate crucial to furthering the place's innate transformational potential.
The Karuk-led sweatlodge could be re-instated with grand ceremony and celebration -- that is, if still interested after having gotten the latest bum's rush from their ancestral land and the group hasn't found a new permanent ceremonial spot to group's liking by then. (Word is that they did, somewhere along a creek.)
With the future stewardship embracing the idea, fans might form a think-tank of loose-knit Friends of Stewart Springs to brainstorm most readily doable projects, strong on work-trades and donated materials. Employ the far-flung talents of those living in the region or visiting awhile, creating a thriving cultural center.
It would become one of the growing pockets of transformational gathering spaces interconnecting the planet's like-minded, enlightened operational models of human-friendly living.
Imagine the best possible place, see an angel investor, a progressive-minded wealthy person(s) wanting to put their wealth into things that will help humanity,
Perhaps 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 that the benefactor can resonate with...but with the appropriate intent guaranteeing that the place will henceforth stay locked into being a people-friendly, progressive-minded, service-oriented healing sanctuary and retreat. As said many times, that's been in the place's DNA all along.
It merely awaits reactivating.
However the universe manifests the rescue of the place -- given enough collective prayers and envisionings in time bear fruit -- those who honor Springs's heritage as the rare, down-to-earth, service-loving operation it's been, set in the midst of powerful natural healing land and water forces, would naturally want to make it the very best one possible.
Talk about empowering... Imagine something akin to Harbin's Church of Heart Consciousness or Breitenbush's worker-owned and -operated collective, only on a smaller, more modest scale.
One way or another, enough focused people can indeed manifest a new, appropriate steward to rescue it from the current 'owners'' misguided efforts once they realize their private-minded intentions for the place are egregiously inappropriate and is ultimately only hurting their own service shtick.
Despite the nightmare the place has become to any who knew and loved it in kinder times, this too shall pass...
One might even allow oneself to get excited imagineering the Springs' future role as world transformation brings humanity back into a greater semblance of balance with nature and one another, or earnestly tries to.
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.)
As emerging divine creators and stewards of the planet, together we CAN, over time, with enough pure energized intent and focus, manifest the change. We can liberate the Springs to once again serve greater humanity.
The universe is on our side. The collective vision of the realm again becoming a lighthearted universal healing, rejuvenating, and cultural center will come to pass...
...IF enough people who cherish the realm INSIST on it.
One might argue that the new steward would ideally get the place at a lower price (or at least at-cost), by way of erasing the grievous karmic debt of having so long held back the accustomed wellbeing and crimped the heartsongs of so many untold thousands of the place's devotees.
As the place's intangible yet invaluable business asset -- good will -- was destroyed, a dollop of genuine good will on their part would redeem a now-tattered honor for thus having aided the ultimate transformation of place to its highest, flying-with-the-eagles destiny to serve a greater humanity.
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 will get again) Stewart Springs...the way all who have loved place and realize its infinite potential and visualize it BECOMING, each fan adding his or her input and momentum to its ultimate manifestation following the liberation and redemption from its current clutches.
Remember that contained in the Chinese character for the word 'crisis' is the character for opportunity. It's worth watching over now more than ever, holding the vision for its future resurrection under new, enlightened nonprofit stewardship, along with the involvement of a willing community at large.
Yes, some 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. While attracting the right wealthy, public-spirited benefactor would be worlds easier if there were already set up some sort of nonprofit Friends of Stewart Springs organization, this is presently beyond writer's abilities. Maybe not so for others, plugged into various social media? You, perhaps? It'll obviously take a group effort, everyone getting on more or less the same page, to pull it off.
Thousands around the world would love to see the place evolve into a nonprofit healing service, one greater than ever... a thriving rural retreat center dedicated to natural purification, healing, and rejuvenation...one that would at last join northern California's Orr, Wilbur, Harbin, Sierra, and Oregon's Breitenbush and Jackson Wellsprings as yet another of the West Coast's nature-healing havens...having once and for all banished its checkered, often tragic, history of misguided intents and wonky mismanagement by sheer will and collective vision of its myriad far-flung devotees. (As noted elsewhere, the Springs in the middle 2000s was invited to join a reciprocal discount arrangement with Orr, Wilbur and Harbin for management visiting each others' places, but Springs management never even responded.)
Writer heard how Jackson Wellspring guaranteed preserving its spa service integrity only because its original steward, Eugenia Jackson, had the forethought to set up a binding legal charter in 1923 (Happy Centenary!) for the grounds to forever remain a non-profit healing place, a 'natatorium' for the public -- even if legal ownership changes. Future Stewart stewards would do well to emulate this, as much as California law might allow. (Calling all legal eagles to research the most feasible route to go...)
An Independent Stewart Springs watchdog, tribute & blog site since 2011