& in-depth scoping
What the #@%! Happened to
New 'owners' erased popular culture,
privatized realm for own quasi new-age shtick;
subsidizing costs by inviting select group bookings
No nudes is good news;
Place closed to individual visits;
Bathhouse tubs and sauna torn out
"Surprisingly [Stewart's] has not been bought out and turned into a high dollar 5-star resort spa. Interesting, that, because several times that has been looked at, but something seemed to intervene. Its almost like the amazing dual springs are meant to be for all the people, especially the ones drawn there for spiritual refuge and healing rejuvenation. "
-- James Tyberonn
"In the circle of life are the laws of nature. If you stay in that circle everything will be OK. Outside that circle are the laws of man. If you only follow those you are in trouble."
--Russell Beebe of Ojibway tribe
by Stu Ward
Longtime Springs volunteer, suspended all support 12-2017. First posted late 2017, this former-insider spiel is revised or tweaked every now and then for continued relevancy. Remaining are some skeletons of earlier sussing of 'owner' intent and public use when bathhouse was still open. Make due allowances.
Writing's arbitrarily split into 12 parts.
Simon says "Take three giant steps backwards":
Clothing-optional bites the dust, then sweatlodge, then time-honored spa
Stewart Mineral Springs has long held a special place in the hearts of countless mineral spring and rural retreat fans around the world.
Many of its most ardent fans and supporters felt that the clothing-optional ban, enacted in November 2016, the first of long string of abysmal changes, in itself marked such a profoundly wrong-headed, giant step backward that it defied all understanding.
Later, words couldn't even begin to register the dumbfoundment over kicking out the grounds' sacred sweatlodge, ostensibly done to gain affordable fire/liability insurance coverage, though the lodge was reportedly informed that the owners had their own shaman and so no longer wanted theirs on the grounds.
Then, upping fan outrage clear into the ionosphere, after being unable to successfully switch bathhouse operation to mandatory cover-up after 17 years of (mostly) mindful radical body freedom, the absentee stewards simply gutted the inside of the bathhouse, intent on repurposing the hundred-year old building to suit their own exclusive-minded purposes...
...and the realm's 147 year-old healing spa tradition, benefiting a global community, be damned.
Later, depressing developments included officially changing the place's name to Pneuma Retreat Center and disallowing individual (if now spa-less) visits beyond picky group bookings.
Writer, a local work-trade volunteer who'd been psyched to create and maintain the bathhouses's cold plunge on a informal work-trade basis for 17 years, had for the first two years kept a Pollyanna hope that the outrageous first misstep of banning radical body freedom would prove to be only a de-facto breather...a chance to let the dust of old management-unsupported clothing-optional scene settle before an enlightened all-new management forged a new, more aware, integrated clothing-optional policy...
...one inclusive of the place's diverse visitor base...one that would, naturally, attract management and staff as much or more motivated to foster a spirit of genuine service rather than just plugging into yet another gig to cover rent or mortgage .
The thinking was that, with at least a tenuous openmindedness by the new, way-y-y absentee group 'ownership' (some live thousands of miles away), once gaining a deeper understanding of the place and druthers of the once-substantial, bohemian-leaning support base it would reinstate clothing-optional post-haste. (Until, that is, learning one 'co-owner' reportedly owned a popular mineral springs resort in Mexico that is, most assuredly, NOT clothing-optional...'Ayy-yy carumba! No nudistas aqui, por favor!')
The realm would then be brought back into alignment with the time-honored tradition of every other popular rural mineral springs resort in the greater northwest U.S., all of which allow some measure of mindful nudity in order to foster optimal purifying, healing and rejuvenating...often triggering profound body-mind-spirit reintegration and a re-awakening of feeling of genuine self in the process. Similarly, the reported rate increase was seen as done only to absorb covering paying workers better than the two bits over minimum wage that was doled out by Stewart's former, longtime, sometimes penny-pinching absentee steward.
Nope. Naive me. It took the further calamities of removing the gazebo spring-house altar, slashing masseuse's and gift shop consignee's take and, coup de gras, kicking out the sweatlodge, to realize something was indeed rotten in the state of Denmark. With profound sadness, writer broke away from the place that had been a home away from home for decades, vowing never to set foot on its grounds again as things stood -- the same as countless other now-estranged devotees of the long-cherished realm.
As it turned out, while maybe management positions indeed started getting better pay (more motivation to do what they were told, no questions asked), any poor schmuck holding, say, a grounds handyman position, a job certainly requiring valuable skills, was reportedly still sweating away at California's minimum wage, then a poverty-level pittance of $10.50 an hour.
The first new 'ownership' in 34 years, as of 1-19-2016, had seemed such a slam-dunk perfect time -- golden window of opportunity -- to forge a dramatic rebirth of the realm... one infused with dedicated energy bursting with fresh focus and positive, grounded perspective, no longer clouded by the chronic past profit-hungry preoccupation, with all its chaotic snafus, disconnects and assorted downers...
...at last gone a dire situation sometimes so abysmal it could seem the place was maybe vying for the 'Most Dysfunctional Management' award in some bizarro alternate universe.
So what happened? What kept the grand re-set button from getting pushed, restoring the realm to its natural peaceful state as the thriving, open-minded healing retreat spa it's always longed to return to, altruistic qualities locked into its very DNA?
Wanted: workers willing to work cheap
Why instead did place become the horrible, jaw-dropping, slow-motion train wreck it is now? A cultural collision felt around the world. First, again, by banning clothing-optional and reverting back to a retread pre-millennium mindset rife with oppressive body shame and false modesty smacking of the depressing conventionality so many came to the Springs in part to get away from. Then removing the gazebo altar of countless prayer and love offerings -- almost like tearing down a living church.
Then -- absolute last straw -- telling Karuk medicine man Walking Eagle to walk away, ending the lodge's some 45 years of open-to-the-public ceremonies,, weekly sweats on First People ancestors' healing lands, lands held sacred by regional tribes for time untold.
Tearing out the tubs in the bathhouse later was only a post-apocalyptic tragedy. One showing, lest any doubts remained, that the "owners'" true intentions for "their" new place were misguided and clueless beyond belief.
Whether one participated in the sweatlodge or not, its loss was incalculable. It represented both the last cultural link to the renaissance days of 1970's progressive Goodpasture family's stewardship as well as to the prehistoric, reverent use of the land.
The lodge, along with the re-introduced c/o policy, had enabled keeping a modicum of bedrock diversity and quasi bohemian-friendly spirit thriving at the Springs. And, crucially, it served to continue neutralizing the horrible karma of the place created by 1870's massacre of natives on and around the very grounds.
Enter the Dragon Lady with Gilded Visions
& Marching Orders from Former All-Business Boss
It's said the cause of anything is everything, and the cause of everything is anything.
Without going deeper here into the historic cause and affect that made Springs the way it is now (explored in History and latter part of part 4 in Yet More Rants & Raves,), what happened in recent times was the former, 12-year general manager Rowena P.'s long-nurtured vision of "Refining the Culture."
It was perhaps the predictable result of relentless pressure from former San Francisco absentee 'owner' John Foggy to
keep generating ever greater profits. It became her mantra, spoken reverently with glazed eyes, as she and accomplice, late operations manager husband Ted D., seemed perversely determined to try turning the unpretentious healing place, steeped in rustic, down-home tradition -- a simple dedicated spa with no-frills lodging and event space -- into some improbable wannabe upscale resort. Not too unlike the one we have now, embracing a shadowy Babylon world's bass-ackwards, bourgeois, control-freak mindset all dressed up in smiley face for public consumption.
The fantasyland vision Field of Schemes was fed by money-siren whisperings of "If you ban it, they will come" -- It being the place's former altruistic spirit of bohemian-leaning, free-spirited, sometimes holy-stoned, culture. One with a tenuously abiding embrace of lifestyle diversity and universal spirit, including weekly Native American sweat lodge, medicine card readings -- and mindful nudity, in suitably unsuitable areas of the bathhouse, sundeck and creek.
Again, the clothing-optional policy had offered countless people the invaluable chance to, if they chose, publicly shake free of a possible lifetime of body suppression, shame and false modesty...in other words, any and all unhealthy and neurotic body self-consciousness. Visitors became free to be their real, undisguised, essential selves again as when newborns and toddlers, awakening and reintegrating body, mind and spirit to a new, more holistic levels. The policy, when consciously upheld by daily group energies despite little or no support from management, instead offering only mere tolerance, fostered a worlds more relaxing, effective and often life-changing spa experience. (For some, like writer ages ago, it took getting beyond an initial intense freak-out stage before regaining a semblance of liberating, non-self-conscious, freebody awareness.)
As it turned out, the new 'owners' seemed to like the old-culture-destroying refinement idea just fine, thank you. Their unspoken message once showing their true colors became: 'Cover your asses, you shameless heathen.'
It came as no great surprise, as she herself had brokered the sales deal, reportedly for a 10% cut. Some might view this as the ultimate sell-out, having milked over an extra quarter-million dollars off the place by handing it over to the first ready-cash buyers coming down the line, ones with (at first) well hidden intentions at such grievous odds with the original spirit of the place...a spirit, again, always hiding below the surface, clamoring to re-emerge.
Writer later heard a rumor the operation's reported revenue levels had been exaggerated during sale negotiations. If true, perhaps a shady ploy was felt needed to cinch the most lucrative deal possible with the eager but largely uninformed buyers. If so, it might explain why the vibe of current stewardship at times could seem so sour and put out, as if having severe buyer remorse, realizing their intense coveting of the place had stymied exercising any better due diligence, and they were left trying to make the best of a bad deal.
In any event, que lastima.
The founder of Cafe Gratitude, a small, popular California vegan restaurant chain, Mathew Engelhart (author of Sacred Commerce), was initially a co-owner. Many thought this a promising sign indeed... that the place was at last actually going to experience a grand turnaround in consciousness and dedicated healing service to the wider public. But he soon sold his interest. One perhaps doesn't haven't to wonder much why, in light of the sorrowful developments that went down since he bailed.
Maybe the former manager did some big song and dance about the lucrative, untapped potential of place, inflated figures and all -- "The upside potential's enormous!" Then simply took the money and ran. Possibly she'd railed how "Everyone hates clothing-optional except for a few low-spending, kinky locals; it's killing business, I tell ya..."
Then again, maybe she didn't have to say anything, the place all but selling itself.
Rumors abounded as to what they were actually up to.
One was that they were determined to ratchet up a bigger spending, ostensibly more respectable (i.e., unabashedly bourgeois) visitorship, including sundry therapists and practicing psychologists
Maui's little beach irregulars in group photo
who could afford Pneuma's pricey two-year course programs to gain credentials to integrate its transpersonal psychology approach into therapy practice and/or in turn teach others how to better tap into the lucrative high end of the healing field.
Seemingly towards that end, for a while they appeared busy incubating a wannabe tony resort. Former weekly regulars had earlier witnessed the bathhouse's two new fancy tiled tub rooms, replete with shiny, ostentatiously fancy faucet fixtures. So blindingly shiny, they reminded writer of a Marine Corps honor guard's steel helmet. And the bathhouse was no longer referred to as simply 'the bathhouse.' It became (briefly) "The Wellness Center." And the humble, bare-bones A-frame? Upgraded to "The Chalet."
In the immortal words of Annie Hall, "Well, la-de-dah."
Another rumor: that they were only homogenizing the place by erasing an undesired countercultural imprint -- sweat lodge, mindful nudity, gazebo's love altar and all -- in hopes of attracting more everyday, less discerning, travelling mainstream hordes. Those who'd buy a watered-down spa experience and the relatively cheap out-of-town lodgings en masse, those who'd better reflect their conventional mindset. (And, hearty souls, wouldn't mind if, in cold weather, the heating in lodgings was trey sketchy. That, or they'd be too numb to even think of demanding a refund the next morning in the office...if the office was even open before having to leave.)
Either way, time revealed the overarching, outlandish intent -- if not all along, then in midstream, after fans accustomed to mindful bathhouse nudity rejected mandatory cover-up -- was no less than upending the entire place's long devoted operation...just to accommodate their own private shtick: first and foremost to serve as world headquarters, retreat and teaching and indoctrination center for the Pneuma Institute -- again, apparently a peculiar amalgam of conventional Judaeo-Christianity and transpersonal psychology, with strong focus on mindful breath as a new psychotherapeutic aid.
Unwitting enablers early on had included several longtime annual workshop retreat event organizers. It seemed perhaps they loved the place more for being their own money generator. It struck some that they appeared either indifferent to or dismally unaware of how restrictive and oppressive the operation's seismic shift had suddenly become for the place's one-time myriad fans, the very ones who'd largely driven its former level of operation through the roof.
Similarly, some visitors got so hooked on the place that they were willing to suffer the various and sundry outrageous new restrictions IF it meant getting another long-accustomed Springs fix. They were determined not to let such things keep them from spending more time with their dear old friend, now in dire straits. With a dismissive, "Sure, it's unfortunate, but what can you do? -- management will NEVER get it right" attitude, they suffered the new slings and arrows...or went into denial, driving from mind the fact that through their continued patronage -- even if just once a year -- they were effectively helping a public indifferent occupational force further tighten its stranglehold over the former public-friendly, quasi free-spirited retreat.
But some wondered how long the public (if even still interested) might still be welcome at all at the place, such as it was, especially once the bathhouse spa service evaporated into nothing...
...which brought up yet another dismal rumor: that some long-range plan was afoot to eventually close the gates to the public outright. Maybe only after years of suffering them to help finance the changes -- and perhaps give time for people to get so disenchanted with the place they no longer cared what the hell they did with it.
In this scenario, obviously no one would have a chance to even try to enjoy, let alone gripe about, such calamitous changes. The place would become exclusively for private use by the 'owners' to enjoy for themselves, hold their Pneuma workshop courses, retreats and intensives, and host related international social gatherings, workshop classes, intensives, maybe embark on one of their oft-rumored ayahuasca trips (even while condemning cannabis use)...
...maybe, again, allowing in a few select outside workshops, those who could stomach -- maybe even embrace -- the rock-ribbed regime (even without a spa), to help cover insurance, management, utilities -- and the place's new sky-high annual county property taxes. Based at roughly 1% of the latest sale price ( $US 2.6 million), it's now about $28,000/year. That's over $500/week, or $77. every day of the year. (Like having to feed a parking meter thirteen quarters an hour every hour around the clock, to keep the county from towing the place away by tax default.)
Is it any wonder they reportedly filed for bankruptcy protection early on from creditors, maybe employing the age-old corporate trick of setting up a separate offshoot entity that the mother corporation couldn't then be held legally liable for its debts and deep pockets tapped to make things right?
became suspect overnight
It turns out that a nonprofit like Pneuma is allowed to own a for-profit business under California law and then pay regular taxes on it. Perhaps they had no real incentive to work the place more, taking a tax write-off somehow by legally juggling against some more profitable operation of one or more of the 'owners', (or, again, declaring bankruptcy to shake off creditors), thereby enabling the luxury of remaking the place into their own, mostly private scene with little to no concern of ever making their nut, as does any regular sink-or-swim business operation...or even your more on-the-ball nonprofit with an ounce of fair minded integrity.
Regardless, in every scenario the remedial first step was to purge place of the riff-raff; exterminate the freaky infestation of countercultural-friendly who leaned toward freedom-loving, status-quo scoffing, alternative-lifestyle-embracing ways...in other words, basically anyone who liked to skinnydip, nude sunbathe or sauna nekkid, or was open-minded enough to finally give them a try in the appropriate and supportive atmosphere Stewart Springs provided.
Such unacceptably unconventional ways (yet, for countless, sensible and organic) -- rejecting things over-structured, unduly profit-minded and/or life-affirmation challenged -- were deemed strange, distasteful, offensive, even dangerous, for the shocking refusal to worship Mammon and pay obeisance to the arbitrary power and super-organized sensibilities of the ambitiously tight-wound ...along with the would-be gullible, well-healed patrons who were willing to buy into their narrative of being so nobly dedicated to spiritual uplifting and planetary healing.
It became a no-brainer to scrap the popular longstanding clothing-optional policy, get rid of the springhouse gazebo's prayer altar end the longstanding weekly First Nations sacred sweatlodge ceremony...
...plus -- before it had become blindingly obvious that fans weren't buying into their new, 'respectable' bathhouse operation and so closed down spa operation permanently -- chipped away at the longtime Locals Day deal so as to render the price break meaningless; raise rates in general twice; and up the takes on massages and consigned gift shop items. (Again, bear in mind their umbrella outfit's a nonprofit. How's that for irony? It proves that intent is always the bottom line, not profit or nonprofit status alone.)
Getting rid of the place's former quasi bohemian, spiritually diverse, egalitarian vibe was the name of the game. Adding further insult to injury, workers -- those who didn't quit in loathing the second day out -- trying to endure the new oppressive regime to put food on the table (or, again, those who never really got the place), no longer received a free monthly mineral bath. It had been a thoughtful perk offered for decades, a reward for dedicated efforts that kept workers in sync with the spa refuge's reason for being -- and otherwise not affordable at the previous 'ownership's' starvation wages.
The invisible 'co-owners' appeared maddeningly indifferent to how the ordered changes had systematically erased the former popular culture so lovingly built, nurtured and supported over decades by myriad nature-loving Springs devotees and genuine-spa supporters both near and far.
For, again, it was the former fans who had largely funded the place's upgrades by enthusiastic repeat visits over the decades plus turning flurries of friends and relations onto it. It reported a robust annual quarter-million dollar revenue towards the end of the old 'ownership' (again, assuming this figure wasn't a calculated exaggeration to try getting a higher sale price).
Business is business
But hey, business is business. It's our baby now and we'll do whatever we damn well please with it, so nyaah; possession's nine-tenths of the law, ya know. (and perhaps under breath: and the sooner we turn all you yahoos off to it, the sooner we can quit having to suffer your tiresome howls of protest and grit our teeth trying to make nice just to keep a few paltry dollars rolling in before we finally pull the plug. Then we can enjoy it all for ourselves, heh-heh, hah-hah, hee-hee, ho-ho...)
If the rumor of plans to totally slam the gates to the public (rather than the current 95% shut status) is indeed true, then at first blush it might appear that a legion of fans are screwed.
That is, if 'owners' actually think they could close such a priceless public treasure and still enjoy it with even one nano-particle of spiritual integrity after condemnation by an entire global community for trying to bogart the realm that provided dedicated purification, healing and rejuvenation service to the greater public for the better part of 147 years.
A Japanese-American acquaintance once told writer he was shocked how such a great natural treasure as Stewart Springs wasn't a protected public spa, as is sometimes the case in his old homeland with its own historic developed rural mineral springs. Others assumed the place was a public trust or something; it just has that kind of vibe. A place forever dedicated to benefiting the well being of greater humanity.
Any cynics suspecting this is what was happening might grumble, "Well, why not just shut the damn gates now and be done with it?" The fact they haven't (last known) provides some hope it isn't true, one supposes...that the extent of the closely-guarded intent (or playing it by ear effort) is only to try upscaling and/or sterilizing place, without the time honored spa...
...that is, unless they simply want to keep trying to milk various unwitting groups who think everything is hunky-dory to fund some ultimate privatization goal...until one day the imposing front fortress gates indeed swing shut and clueless trekkers are then greeted by signs growling:
Private Property - Keep Out - Violators Prosecuted
No Peak Experiences for You
Parapets Manned 24/7
Transcend Yur Sorry Naked Butts Elsewhere
(Okay, so the parapets probably wouldn't be manned all the time, but you get the drift.)
Envisioning perfect future stewardship
Assuming the last rumor isn't their actual intent (and maybe even if it is)...if everyone who has ever loved the place boycotts it (worlds easier with bathhouse dismantled and no non-group visitors allowed), while raising awareness and spreading word of how the place's former cultural spirit was systematically suppressed ,and eventually the dedicated spa service was junked outright, just to suit a private agenda, how new 'owners' re-worked 'their' property to double as Pneuma world headquarters, in the process strangling to death the historic, cherished healing retreat...
...if enough now estranged Stewart aficionados did this -- while, at same time, visualizing a positive future stewardship redeeming the scene -- THEN the current 'owners' might never generate a critical level of patronage or, if choosing to simply slam gates totally to the public, ever manage to have one iota of peace of mind in their private efforts to promote their pricey, slow-cure healing methodology while luxuriating in the stolen Shangri-la.
Instead (here giving them credit for having heart), they'd rightly feel like doo-doo. This -- on top of their coveting the place having blinded their better judgement and now experiencing extreme buyer remource -- hampering the overall ability of the outfit to actually help people feel better and in closer communion with the planetary oversoul, such global consciousness-raising claiming to be the overarching mission of the Institute.
They'd eventually come to their senses and try to redeem their now-tattered honor by transferring the grounds to appropriate stewards at a fair price.
In photo: former zenned-out mandala pattern of bathhouse floors, including sauna. Old boards were torn out around 2012 due to longstanding moisture rot. Management and/or owner were unwilling to take the time, expense and effort to replicate the longtime meditation-friendly touch that had helped make place so exceptional.
Over time, the private-minded occupiers might feel the far-reaching popular wrath putting a supreme jinx on any such plans for the once and future enchanted realm to serve as their own private headquarters/retreat/
classrooms for the shrink industry and to host quasi new-age events, private celebrations and training-wheel spiritual workshops.
They'll realize that the widespread public condemnation -- reflecting the mountain of squirrelly karma their diverted scene has been piling up ever since the legal transfer in early 2016 -- is, in the grand scheme of things, neutralizing the effectiveness of any good works the outfit had hoped to pursue.
The remedial first step was staying away in droves. Annual workshop and performance events that had gone on forever there (notably Zavada's and DeLong's) have by now faded away, as would-be participants and event bookers realized they'd unwittingly been drinking the Kool-aid, supporting a shockingly inappropriate use of the place by remaining so dependent on it, oblivious or indifferent to how the operation's former relaxed atmosphere had been unceremoniously pushed off a cliff.
Such workshop/retreat organizers would then, rather than aid and abet further cultural destruction -- that is, if any could possibly still still be attracted to it after their having taken a wrecking bar to the bathhouse -- find new places for a while (maybe Flowing Waters, just down the hill), until legal title changes again -- with visualized appropriate stewardship bringing things back around, at long last making things right.
Their joining in unity with the de facto boycott and spreading awareness of the unacceptable scene can hasten the day the universe manifests a new, nonprofit operation under energized, service-dedicated steward(s). Then mindful visitors might once again build up a new infectious, thriving cultural renaissance at the mystical realm so beloved.
Too, would-be followers and supporters of Pneuma and adjunct group-ownership outfits and causes might sour once connecting the dots. They'd realize how its bureaucratic mucky-mucks had essentially enacted cultural genocide -- what one stunned fan, not mincing words, called "a crime against humanity."
They'd be shocked to learn how the general public, notable among them the myriad nature friendly, seeking out elusive genuine rural healing spas, were thrown out into the cold...how the former nature-attuned lifestyle of thousands suffered frostbite, a long accustomed body-mind-spirit health regimen suddenly gone with the wind.
Redeeming frayed honor
Barring a miraculous change of heart, current property holders could -- saving grace -- work to neutralize their gnarly karma by, again, being mindful enough to re-sell at a fair price to appropriate new stewards...those who'd be interested in transforming the place into a legal nonprofit healing center and engage the community to plug in with its diverse gifts, talents and resources. Current holders might perhaps even take a loss by way of penance for all the destroyed good will, or at the very LEAST sell at cost, allowing for the expenses of upgrades made.
The international outfit, relocating to a place unhindered by the mountain of bad vibes of their own doing, free at last from the consequences of past unwise actions, could then regain a measure of now-mortgaged integrity and credibility...and ultimately gain something of an offhand POSITIVE role in the realm's age-old healing legacy. (And, of course, they'd once again be free to enjoy it along with everybody else -- perhaps even learn to embrace their now-suppressed inner bohemian...or at least no longer mind if others do.)
If the third rumor -- eventual privatization -- is indeed the case, they'll soon realize, if they haven't already, that such action is NOT doable in the real world.
...not in the long run, not without disastrous, mindbogglingly self-defeating consequences.
For the global wrath and disdain would all but guarantee their inability to ever enjoy the legally stolen place with any peace of mind. It would leave them feeling like shallow-water pretenders, having zero credibility in trying to push their shtick -- purportedly dedicated to increasing spiritual awareness and heart awakening -- at the cost of destroying the spirit-attuned, open-minded atmosphere and spa services that legions of former fans and supporters had built up over long decades.
Stolen paradise is hell
A foundation built on the sandy grave of destroyed popular culture cannot support anything without reeking to high heaven.
If indeed they bought the place only to mold it to double as their headquarters and specialized semi-private retreat and teaching center, subsidized by the general public, having zero interest in ever running a spa (beyond the attempted and rejected superficial level) -- then they've a huge reality check in store. They'll at some point -- if there's a God in heaven -- be duly chagrined and relocate, after 'selling' the place to one(s) who WILL honor and restore the realm's healing spa tradition. Ones who recognize it as a blessing and gift for all people, and once again enable mankind to follow their path towards greater well being while harmonizing with nature and its healing forces.
As said, the former management had finally stepped down in late November 2017, but only after two interminable years of surreally remote management post-sale from hundreds of miles away, during which time unempowered on-grounds staff rubber-stamped rigid changes mandated through her from even more distant 'owners'...most of them THOUSANDS of miles away.
First remote 'owners', then remote managers. Both out of sync with the place's dedicated tradition. No great surprise then that the lamentable situation eventually made for remote visitors (that is, NO visitors).
It was hard to imagine the writer was alone in the blind hope that with stewardship change would at last come a new progressive-minded management...bringing a transforming climate with generous infusion of grounded, aware focus...as cultivated by most every other popular rural spring resort in the wider region of northwest United States worth its salt.
Surely we'd hit bottom and the only way was up.
Nope. Nowhere near bottom. Writer was obviously like an Egyptian fish, living in denial, refusing to realize the new 'stewards' had zero intention of ever returning the place to its former glory ...or even the remotest facsimile thereof.
Instead, they were jonesin' to strip it down and build it back to better suit serving their own private interests...
...an egregiously misguided use, indifferently, stupifyingly divorced from the historic roots of the realm. One that had served for most of its 147 years as a service-dedicated, nonprofit-in-spirit, purifying, healing and rejuvenating retreat. One open to the greater public for the whole bloomin' world to enjoy and benefit by...
...a place untold thousands cherished as one of nature's extraordinary, rare, mystical healing realms.
believing end justified means
The last, longtime head manager set a sterling example of such desired refinement...not. On days she was in the front office -- before being advised she, er, perhaps wasn't always the most gracious welcomer -- depending on mood, then, unless in rare public mellow space she'd offer either stony indifference; her best forever-put-upon, how-dare-you-invade-my space-and-make-me-have-to-deal-with-you scowl; or, if REALLY pissed, unleash her patented fire dragon outburst in the twinkling of an eye, biting off the head of the latest unsuspecting arrival for no apparent reason whatsoever.
Her late co-managing, slowly dying husband Ted -- whose dire health condition was no doubt largely the cause of such rude freak-outs -- in turn would display a frosty, all-business cordiality when still on his feet...as if perhaps practicing for serving some richer clientele. He'd almost grudgingly (but quickly, nonetheless) take one's money, apparently resenting having to wait on such low-brow traffic when he'd so much rather be sucking up to refined big spenders and have their money-to-burn lifestyle rub off on him...
...or at least have more time alone to cope with the terminal illness, being put out for having to deal with a demanding paying public but suffering the sorry situation as the price one had to pay for having ready access to the purifying waters that, if not reverse, at least postpone, his catastrophic liver failure.
A former little known fact: at the beginning of the tenure his partner sought the purchase of a live chicken down the road to make a sacrifice in hopes of auguring greater success and prosperity for the operation. Sounds a tad self-defeating, no? Violently ending a life as a means of helping an operation ostensibly dedicated to healing and perpetuating life? Didn't quite compute.
Even allowing for the sometimes pronounced wayward inclinations of the old regime in recent decades, by then more than ever things had gotten seriously out of whack...to the point that long-time devoted fans drove down the hill stunned, shocked, devastated at the dismal sea change, as if they wanted to wake up from a bad dream, in jaw-dropping disbelief such a long cherished healing place could ever be so willfully destroyed by anyone, for any reason.
Bland leading the bland
Of course, constantly working with a teeming public could be a bear, even under best of circumstances. But with right-intentioned stewardship at the helm, rather than chaotically wiping-out -- spilling blood out the gate for luck and ratcheting up a graceless siege mentality -- one learned to surf the energy waves, not trying to control or resist them, embracing even the monster waves and working with a can-do team spirit, keeping things flowing in positive current, with a minimum of snafus. Oregon's Breitenbush Springs, among others, has proven that a positive, practical business approach can work wonders to run a successful mineral springs resort.
Such basic hospitality-biz 101 was of course ignored beyond a superficial level, in seeming indifference to and/or abject ignorance of the place's former glory as a service-loving rejuvenation retreat dedicated to serving the wider public.
There was no longer any there there.
The place seemed to be running on the fumes of its natural-setting, charming quaint structures and lingering solid reputation -- and the new synthetic fuel of more bourgeois-minded looking to slum a bit at a rural spa getaway; plus any members of the old base willing to turn a blind eye in order to get yet another fix, blocking out the cold reality of in so doing supporting the wrongheaded turn of events.
For rather than provide genuine service, first and foremost, as the place long did -- with quiet integrity, hospitality, and open spirit (the last time full-tilt in 1970's, under the Goodpastures) -- the new 'owners' continued milking it, now to support their own repurposing, private-minded, public-be-damned schemes.
Not much hope for many transcendent experiences in that...except for perhaps spirit-aware newbies; general public students with money to burn, wowed by the grounds and appreciating their super-structured, intellectualized approach; and perhaps practicing professional therapists who've been drowning in over-analytical, negative-dwelling methodology, often becoming hopelessly depressed themselves in process, desperate to incorporate some more positive approach into their cushy practices that typically bring in over $136,000 a year.
(Fact: a recent study revealed how over 40% of long-term psychotherapy cases didn't improve patient's condition and sometimes worsened it.)
made place unbearable
While banning c/o under the timeworn reasoning of wanting the place to be "more family-friendly", to countless its overarching intent instead seemed to be wanting to make the place more bourgeois-friendly -- to the point the more impressionable and cynical-minded might view it as having aspirations of becoming a peoples'-culture alienated clip-joint for people with more dollars than sense, a lost-in-space, keep the riff-raff out, man the parapets, highfallutin' hideaway for haughty hosers of humble, high-minded hordes...
..that, or some similarly profit-focused operation catering to the undiscriminating masses...non-connoisseurs of genuine healing mineral springs and spa culture, happy to dabble with something different and trendy in a nice setting and are okay with threadbare, under-heated lodgings and a repressive, puritan-minded c/o ban and scrapping a 140 year-old spa tradition; clueless and energetically disconnected...zipping in, dropping lucre, and herded out in one fell swoop. (Before the bathhouse closure it was, "Sorry, it'll cost extra to sauna after check-out time.. well, we don't CARE what other places allow...Next?")
...or actually intent on swinging the gates shut, perhaps hoping to follow suit of the St. Germain compound, north of Dunsmuir, for ages also open to the general public as a similarly historic Shasta Springs, now strictly a private-use, walled-off, gated compound except for a token one day a year, last known.
Writer would love to be proven wrong, but developments aren't assuring.
There appears no way they can redeem themselves now, short of becoming fully aware how self-defeating their actions have been on the karmic level...and, duly chagrined, re-locate...and, saving grace, salvage their credibility by finding the right person(s) to 'sell' it to at a fair price.
One with an appropriate mindset, enthused by the idea of sharing the sacred land on a nonprofit, service-minded basis with any and all seeking affordable, down-to-earth purification, healing and rejuvenation.
(Any so-inclined Springs devotees might do well to bestir themselves and tap possible connections to work to manifest such future stewards and study the procedures of how others like Harbin and Breitenbush have successfully turned a mineral springs resort into a popular nonprofit healing retreat while having built the legal framework to satisfy the regulatory powers that be.)
of the Springs
On the community level of having plenty of there there -- the place being a veritable cornucopia for personal transformation -- it had, sadly, devolved from 40 years ago, when the 1970's Goodpasture stewards actually lived on grounds and served as engaging and down-home hosts. Now it's one in which no one besides an opaque management and a possibly nondisclosure-signing staff knows who exactly the new, 'stewarding-by-remote' owners' even are.
Not until after four years, on May 1, 2020, was there even one peep of direct, relevant communication offered to the legion of once-faithful visitors, through websites or (as far as known) even posting in the office. Only after two years did they matter-of-factly announce one day their intent to make over the place to double as Pneuma's world headquarters and retreat center...but only on their own site...and then had the effrontery to refer to Stewart's as Pneuma Retreat Center. (And then pen a website notice dripping with crocodile tears of the 'painful' decision to close the bathhouse forever.
It struck the writer as akin to an executioner empathizing with the condemned's right to live just before going ahead and taking his life, regardless. As if they knew they were in the grip of something so incontrovertibly wrongheaded, so dumfoundingly ill-suited, so egregiously unseemly, that it defied words without help of Roget's...yet, being financially and professionally committed, they proceeded, love of their own little private shtick trumping any love for humanity.
There was zero outreach to the former myriad faithful. What could they have said at that point, anyway? One brief site statement, essentially saying "We're sorry we changed the Springs, but hope you can still enjoy it" rang just a tad hollow.
Unlike some regional sister springs, transparent in operation and upfront in communication with both staff and visitors, the decades of nontransparent 'owner' vibes at Stewarts had set it apart in a bad way. The former opaque, locked-down Batmobile management under the old 'owner' continued its un-merry way, new 'owners' invisibler than a cloaked Klingon warship ready to strike, keeping all in the dark except those who needed to know...
...and, obviously, those who had loved the Springs most didn't need to know squat.
The wizard was well hidden behind the curtain...had the gold and made the rules...issuing thunderous God-like pronouncements of new oppressive policies to suit their own, private-minded fancies.
No doubt they felt they earned the right after shelling out some $2.6 million. But time and public response might prove such a material- world's conventional assumption dead wrong -- even if, again, total privatization isn't the ultimate goal, and maybe even if it is.
With most any other business, sure. But not a historic sacred healing ground with a generations-old, public-dedicated tradition of serving as a non-profit in spirit, a peaceful purifying and rejuvenating retreat locked into a time-honored mission of helping heal all who discover its healing waters.
Such public-minded healing and rejuvenating institutions are needed now more than ever by myriad mindful travelers seeking respite from the rigors of the road -- often feeling discombobulated by intense urban/suburban/rural realities and the still-dominant, oppressive energies yet troubling God's green earth -- seeking the sweet relief that such places humbly provide.
And, crucially, one in which there is a constant need to continue erasing the karma of the horrific massacre on and around land in 1870's (history) by keeping focused on genuine healing service, rather than hellbent on exploiting nature's gifts for expedient gain and/or grounds diversion to private-minded use.
While the modest price increases to visitors and decreased take for gift-shop consignees and contracted masseuse staff would've been understandable, maybe accepted, IF it went to cover more decent work wages for all, beyond a point it became uncool. At some point it became obvious that they were only scrambling to try to mitigate the enormous debt load they'd taken on, heedless of how price increases hurt fans. It was terminally dispiriting, putting an even deeper pall over the place. For while there was a bigger staff, some in management roles at good pay to enact and enforce the oppressive changes, others still toiled at slave wages.
Former faithful visitors vanished in droves. Not the best formula for success or proper focus to serve the greater good. Better to still have the former skeleton staff working for peanuts because they loved the place and turning others onto it more than earning any paltry paycheck.
All who have long treasured the realm and the growth-minded culture it evolved in recent times now play Toto, pulling back the curtain and revealing the misguided attempts to detour the place from its longtime public trust focus, while at the same time visualizing a future perfect stewardship rescuing the realm.
Otherwise, if former fans give up on it, like it's gone forever, and ignore their own, often largely untapped, inner divine powers to effect transformation through spirit-led positive visualization, then the 'owners' might, despite themselves, establish some permanent beachhead and forever hold the retreat hostage without ransom.
Do enough people who have cherished the realm find such a fate unacceptable?
An Independent Stewart Springs watchdog, tribute & blog site since 2011