& 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 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 is 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, was but the first of long string of abysmal changes. One that, even by itself, marked such a profoundly wrong-headed, giant step backward that it defied all understanding to spa freebody enthusiasts everywhere.
Later, words couldn't 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 entire 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 reportedly 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 the first two years kept up a Pollyanna hope that the outrageous first misstep, banning simple spa 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 and 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 simply to cover rent or mortgage.
The thinking was that with at least a some open mindedness shown by the new, way-y-y absentee group 'ownership' (some living 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 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 long doled out by Stewart's former 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 very 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 now stand -- 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 seemed 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, such altruistic-leaning 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 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 for many -- 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 indigenous ancestors' healing 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 are misguided and clueless beyond belief.
Whether one participated in the sweatlodge or not, its loss was incalculable. For it represented both the last cultural link to the renaissance days of 1970's progressive Goodpasture family's stewardship, as well as to 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
It's said the cause of anything is everything, and the cause of everything is anything.
keep generating bigger 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 long steeped in rustic, down-home tradition -- a simple dedicated spa with no-frills lodging and event space -- into some improbable, wannabe upscale resort. On one level perhaps not too unlike the one we have now, which seems to embrace 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 even holy-stoned, culture. One with an at least 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 lifetime of body suppression, often including shame and false modesty...in other words, any and all neurotic over self-consciousness about one's bod. Visitors were free to be their real, undisguised, essential selves again, as when newborns and toddlers, often awakening and reintegrating body, mind and spirit on new, more holistic levels. The policy, when consciously upheld by daily group energies -- despite little or no support from management (which instead offered 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 any 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 was: 'Cover your asses, you shameless heathen.'
It came as no great surprise, as she herself 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 up the road, ones with (at first) well hidden intentions at 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 protracted sales negotiations. If true, perhaps such 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 buyer remorse, realizing their coveting of the place had stymied exercising any better due diligence and so they were left trying to make the best of a bad deal. (And when banning clothing-optional during one's spa regimen went over like a lead balloon, causing visitor volume to evaporate overnight, they maybe thought, Well, we'll just end bathhouse service for good then; that'll show 'em who's boss).
In any event, que lastima.
Believe it or not, the founder of Cafe Gratitude, a small, popular California vegan restaurant chain, Mathew Engelhart (author of Sacred Commerce), was initially one of the new co-owners. Many thought this a promising sign... 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 had done 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 practically selling itself.
Rumors were plentiful
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 Pneuma interested therapists and practicing psychologists
Maui's little beach irregulars in group photo
Seemingly towards that end, for a while they appeared busy maybe 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. (They were so blindingly shiny, they reminded writer of a Marine Corps honor guard's steel helmet) That they were renovated at a snail's pace, well over a half year, was maybe an indication of how disconnected the new owner's were from wanting to serve the wider public, the great unwashed masses and continue the phenomenally popular, age-old spa service. 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 -- assuming 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 long accustomed to mindful nudity rejected mandatory cover-up -- was no less than upending the entire place's 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, Central and South American shamanism and transpersonal psychology, with a strong focus on mindful breath as a new psychotherapeutic aid.
Unwitting enablers early on 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, in denial of, 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 level of operation through the roof.
Similarly, some visitors had gotten so hooked on the place they were willing to suffer the various and sundry outrageous new restrictions IF it meant getting one more long-accustomed Springs fix. They were determined not to let such things keep them from spending more time with their dear old friend now such 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, again, 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 spa retreat.
But some wondered how long the public (if even still interested) might still be welcome at all at the place, such as it is, 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 (which, as of late 2023 has more or less come to pass) obviously no one would have a chance to even try to enjoy, let alone gripe about, such calamitous change. 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 reportedly condemning recreational cannabis use)...
...maybe, again, allowing in a few select outside workshops, those who can stomach -- maybe even embrace -- the rock-ribbed, buttoned-down 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. (That's 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 for tax default again, as happened in the early '80s.)
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 whose debts the mother corporation couldn't then be held legally liable for 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 any 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 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, sauna nekkid or was open-minded to such, enough to finally give them a try in the appropriate and supportive atmosphere Stewart Springs amply provided.
Such unacceptably unconventional ways (for countless, sensible and organic) -- generally 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 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 the public wasn'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 initial name of the game. Adding further insult to injury, workers -- those who didn't quit in shock and 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 were systematically erasing the former popular culture so lovingly built, nurtured and supported over decades by myriad nature-loving Springs devotees and genuine-spa supporters far and wide.
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...)
For, again, it was the former fans who had largely funded the place's upgrades by enthusiastic repeat visits over the decades along with 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 bandied about just to garner a higher sale price).
Without going deeper here into the historic cause and affect that made Springs the way it became in recent decades (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
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.
If the rumor of plans to totally slam the gates to the public (rather than the current, effective 99.9% exclusion) is indeed true, then at first blush it might appear a legion of fans are screwed.
That is, if 'owners' actually think they can close such a priceless public treasure to the public and still enjoy it with even one nano-particle of spiritual integrity after condemnation by an entire global community for trying to bogart for themselves the realm that has served the greater good 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 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 the place, without the time honored spa...
...that is, unless they simply want to keep trying to milk unwitting groups who think everything is hunky-dory...until, tiring of trying to make nice with a public that increasingly realizing they're totally blowing it, 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 a perfect future stewardship
Assuming the last rumor isn't their actual ultimate goal (and maybe even if it is, assuming they even have one)...if everyone who has ever loved the place boycotts it while raising awareness and spreading word of how the place's former cultural spirit was systematically suppressed -- and eventually long dedicated spa service junked -- just to suit a private agenda, how the new 'owners' re-worked 'their' property to double as Pneuma world headquarters, in the process strangling to death the historic, cherished healing spa retreat...
...if enough estranged Stewart aficionados did this -- while, again, holding the energy and visualizing a positive future stewardship redeeming the scene -- THEN the current 'owners' might never generate a critical level of patronage or, if deep pockets enough to simply slam gates outright to the public regardless, manage to have one iota of peace of mind in their private efforts to promote their pricey, slow-cure healing methodology while luxuriating in their stolen Shangri-la and for some reason beyond possibly lacking social conscience feel the desire to let go of it.
Instead (here giving them credit for actually having social conscience), they'd rightly feel like doo-doo. This -- on top of their coveting the place having blinded their better judgement and likely experiencing pronounced buyer remorse -- hampering the overall ability of the outfit to ever 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, after all.
They'll eventually come to their senses and try to redeem 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 will feel far-reaching wrath putting the jinx on any such plans for the (hopefully) once and future enchanted realm to ever successfully serve as their own private headquarters/retreat, with
classes for the shrink industry and hosting quasi new-age events, private celebrations and training-wheel spiritual workshops.
They'll realize the widespread public condemnation -- reflecting the mountain of squirrelly karma their diverted scene has created since the legal transfer in early 2016 -- is in the grand scheme of things hampering any good works the outfit ever ostensibly hopes to achieve.
Former devotees, no longer welcome, stayed away in droves even before their scrapping spa service. Annual workshop and performance events that had gone on forever there (notably Zavada's and DeLong's) have long faded away. Would-be participants and event bookers realized they'd been unwittingly drinking the Kool-aid, supporting an egregiously inappropriate use of the place by remaining dependent on it, oblivious or indifferent to how the operation's former relaxed atmosphere, flowing like the creek merrily coursing through it, was unceremoniously pushed off a cliff.
Such workshop/retreat organizers by now, rather than aid and abet further cultural destruction, have hopefully found new places (maybe Flowing Waters, just down the hill) in the meantime.
Whether or not the current 'owners' ever come around on their own, conceding they've made one stupendously egregious miscalculation, energetic forces, especially leavened with positive visualization and forgiveness, might hasten the day the universe convinces them it's a good thing to move on and manifests a new, nonprofit spa and retreat operation. One under energized, service-dedicated steward(s). As a fresh stream of mindful visitors again build up an infectious, thriving scene serving the greater good as an oasis for any seeking healing nature's way, while embracing the land's medicine.
And a weary world will once again be a little better off.
Even would-be followers and supporters of Pneuma and adjunct group-ownership outfits and causes will sour once connecting the dots. They'll realize how its bureaucratic mucky-mucks have essentially waged a cultural genocide -- what one stunned fan, not mincing any words, called nothing less than "a crime against humanity."
They'll be shocked to learn how the general public, notable among them myriad nature friendly, seeking out elusive genuine rural healing spas, were thrown into the cold...how the former nature-attuned lifestyle of thousands has been suffering frostbite, their long accustomed natural body-mind-spirit health regimen seemingly 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 (assuming here, again, they're mindful enough) by selling the property to those who are interested in transforming the place into a legal nonprofit healing center. People who can engage the community to plug in with their diverse gifts, talents and resources. Current holders might perhaps even take a loss by way of penance for all the destroyed good will caused, or at the very LEAST sell at cost, allowing for the expenses of upgrades made.
The international outfit, its headquarters then relocating to a place unhindered by the mountain of bad vibes of their own making, free at last from the consequences of past unwise actions, could 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, be free to still enjoy it along with everybody else -- perhaps even learn to embrace their now-suppressed inner bohemian...or at least no longer mind so much if others do.)
If the third rumor -- eventual privatization, regardless -- 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 that an apparent state of denial is keeping them from realizing is happening on a mind-boggling scale.
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 a shtick purportedly dedicated to increasing spiritual awareness and heart awakening -- at the cost of destroying the spirit-attuned, open-minded atmosphere and spa services legions of fans and supporters built up over 145 years, one at least distantly echoing indigenous pre-history cooperative use of the healing realm.
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 have a specialized semi-private retreat and teaching center, ideally subsidized by the general public, having zero interest in ever running a spa (beyond on the attempted and rejected superficial level) -- they've a monumental 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 to be shared with all mankind, and once again enable people to follow their path towards greater well being while harmonizing with the land's transformative and healing properties.
And, barring their having the requisite social conscience and spiritual awareness for such mindful transfer, the universe could still cause them -- for totally unrelated reasons, like the place becoming too much a luxury, not paying for itself -- to want to abandon their occupation of the de facto public charitable institution and relocate elsewhere, selling to whoever makes a winning offer.
Holding one's breath
As said, the former management finally stepped down in late November 2017, only after two interminable years of surreally remote management post-sale from hundreds of miles away, during which time the unempowered on-grounds staff rubber-stamped rigid changes mandated through her from even more distant 'owners'...most living 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 hope that with stewardship change would at last come a new progressive-minded management...bringing a transforming climate with a generous infusion of grounded, aware focus...as is cultivated by most every other popular rural spring resort in the wider region of northwest United States that's worth its salt.
Surely we'd hit bottom and the only way was up.
Nope. Nowhere near bottom. Writer was 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 just to 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 truly 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...
believed 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 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, 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 eventually serving some richer clientele. He'd almost grudgingly (but quickly, nonetheless) take one's money, as if 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 his terminal illness, being grievously put out for having to deal with a demanding paying public but suffering the sorry situation as the price he had to pay for having ready access to the purifying waters that could, if not reverse, at least postpone, his catastrophic liver failure.
...a place untold thousands have cherished as one of nature's extraordinarily rare, mystical healing realms.
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, under the new regime, more than ever, things would get a hundred times more 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 wanting to wake up from a bad dream, in jaw-dropping disbelief such a long cherished healing place could be so willfully destroyed by anyone, for any reason.
Bland leading the bland
Of course, constantly working with a teeming public as Ted and Rowena did could be a bear, even under the 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, but 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 loved by the public.
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.
Not much hope for 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 the process, desperate to incorporate some more positive approach into a cushy practice that on average brings in over $158,000 a year in the U.S.
(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 to make the place "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've started viewing 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 the 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...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 on the northern outskirts 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 reassuring. There appears no way they can redeem themselves now, short of becoming painfully aware how self-defeating their actions have been on the karmic level...and, duly chagrined, re-locate...and, saving grace, salvage some credibility by finding the right person(s) to 'sell' it to at a fair price. (That, or if remaining cluelessly unrepentant, for some other reason feel pulled to sell and move on.)
The right person(s): investors/benefactors with an appropriate mindset, psyched by the idea of sharing the sacred land as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) public benefit charity dedicated to serving as an affordable, down-to-earth purification, healing and rejuvenation retreat, long its priceless legacy.
Any so-inclined Springs devotees would do well to bestir themselves and tap possible connections to work to manifest such future stewards. Study the procedures of how others like Harbin and Breitenbush successfully turned a mineral springs resort into a popular nonprofit healing retreat. Learn exactly how they built the legal frameworks to satisfy the regulatory powers that be and eliminate the daunting tax bite of for-profit enterprises.
Is there anyone out there with financial means interested in advancing this vision into manifestation? Or does the reader maybe know of someone who might be?
The more people are involved, the more critical momentum we can generate to actually make it happen. Lawyers versed in establishing nonprofits and people into public media are especially needed. Plus, critically, a bohemian-minded benefactor with an embarrassment of riches who is psyched at the idea of pursuing such a grand adventure of creating a good-karma legacy by redeeming the beloved place for the greater good once and for all.
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 the grounds, serving as engaging, down-home hosts. Now it's one in which no one besides an opaque management and a possibly nondisclosure-signing staff knows who the new, 'stewarding-by-remote' owners' even are (or maybe even care: a job's a job).
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 news releases or websites or (as far as known) even posting in the office beyond something in microscopic print. 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...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 before going ahead and whacking his head off. As if they knew they were in the grip of something so incontrovertibly wrongheaded, so dumfoundingly ill-suited, so egregiously misguided, it defied words...yet, being financially and professionally committed, they proceeded, love of their own little private, lucrative shtick obviously trumping any love for the great unwashed masses.
There was zero outreach to the former myriad faithful. What could they have said at that point, anyway? Their one brief site statement, essentially saying "We're sorry we changed the Springs, but hope you can still enjoy it" rang more than a bit 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 loved the Springs didn't need to know diddly 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 private-minded schemes.
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, maybe even if it is.
With most any other business, sure. But not such a historic sacred healing ground with its generations-old, dedicated tradition of serving as a non-profit-in-spirit, peaceful purifying and rejuvenating retreat, locked into a time-honored mission of sharing its healing waters and mystical land with the greater public.
Such public-minded natural wellness institutions are needed now more than ever by myriad mindful travelers, seeking respite from the rigors of the road -- often feeling discombobulated by the intense urban/suburban/rural realities and still-dominant, oppressive energies yet troubling our fair planet -- seeking the sweet relief such places so amply offer.
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) -- where things first went wrong -- by keeping focused on genuine healing service rather than hellbent on exploiting nature's gifts for expedient gain and/or the grounds being diverted and bogarted for private use.
While the modest price increases to visitors and decreased take for gift-shop consignees and contracted masseuse staff would've conceivably been understandable, maybe even accepted, IF it went to cover more decent work wages for all, that wasn't the case.
At some point it became obvious that they were only scrambling to try mitigating the enormous debt load they'd taken on, heedless of how price increases hurt spring devotees. 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, in effect bribed to enact and enforce the oppressive changes -- others still toiled at slave wages.
Former faithful visitors vanished in droves. Not exactly 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 to earn any paltry paycheck than better paid but clueless workers further eroding the healing spirit of the land.
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 (see History) while at the same time visualizing a future perfect stewardship rescuing the realm to again serve the greater good as the extraordinary rural spa and retreat it had long been.
Otherwise, if former fans give up on it like it's gone forever and ignore their own inner higher powers to effect transformation through spirit-led positive visualization, then maybe it will be. The 'owners' might, despite themselves, actually establish a permanent beachhead and forever hold the one-time people's retreat hostage.
Do enough people who have cherished the realm find such a possible fate unacceptable?
An Independent Stewart Springs watchdog, tribute & blog site since 2011