All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
News & Op-Eds
News & Op-Eds
(For initial take article on ownership change
click here and scroll down past conclusion of lengthy editorial that begins here)
Springs's Healing Potential
Brought Body Acceptance,
Body Freedom Issues to Fore
by Stuart Ward
First posted August 20, 2016
Updated now and then. Mostly written before bathhouse closed. Some thoughts, like appeal for owners to reinstate clothing-optional (long abandoned), are left as skeletons of former hope. A bit dated, not reflecting 'owners' being FAR more than simply uncomfortable with body freedom (i.e., not wanting to deal with public-friendly spa in any guise), it still offers relevant overview of a controversial subject: personal body freedom and Stewart Springs's former enlightened and liberating policy on the matter.
Honeymoon period with new, absentee Stewart Springs 'owners' -- first in 34 years -- was a brief one indeed, ending lightyears ago for countless of place's most ardent fans with game-changing decision to nix bathhouse nudity beyond private tubroom and shower after 17 years of offering established appropriate clothing-optional zones in and around bathhouse.
Change became effective November 1, 2016...in doleful synchronicity of societal energies going uber-weird, exactly one week before t-rex snagged election.
Some were glad -- those not in fuller alignment with dedicated purpose of any rural mineral springs resort worth its salt: profound spa purification, healing, and rejuvenation amid natural elements -- unhampered by interfering man-made cloth if one so chooses.
Also those who might've enjoyed mindful nudity in a chill environment but found Stewart's scene so sketchy at times -- in free fall for being unsupported by profit preoccupied, health-plagued management, whose lack of mindful overseeing effectively let untoward behavior creep in -- that they actually welcomed the policy change.
Stunned Springs aficionados were sure there was critical need to re-think the body-oppressive policy to one of newly-focused intent in order to foster a more workable, all-lifestyles-inclusive approach if hoping to accommodate greatest diversity and volume of visitors...
Shades of last century's ban on nudity revisited.
Springs signs rescued from trash in 2000 echo newly recycled body oppression
...that is, if owners wanted to avoid further alienating not-insubstantial portion of once-loyal Stewart Spring visitors for having banned the place's key magical element, long enjoyed by countless in the course of spa visits: mindful, simple bodyfreedom, distinguishing place from your dime-a-dozen, clothes-minded spring resorts that effectively marched in lock-step with society's deep-entrenched, schizophrenic body alienation.
For 17 years the sauna, outer deck, and cold-plunge area were all merrily clothing-optional. One had the freedom to be mindfully nude if preferred. But both uncovered and wrapped were fine.
Countless appreciated the option...not only to better physically benefit by deeper contact with natural elements and enhance spa experience, but also to have the opportunity to cultivate greater body acceptance and savor the liberating exhilaration radical body freedom so easily generates...able to test the waters of public nudity after a lifetime of spirit-crushing, body-discomforting mandatory pubic cover-up amid Stewart's sheltered natural environment. Others, long embracing simple nudity in appropriate places and weather conditions, reinforced
their chosen lifestyle while coursing through Springs' spa sequences mostly unencumbered by needless cover.
Yet others, though taking pass on the option, had tacitly approved of it being made available for those who DID value such freedom to go au natural a bit...just so long as the social climate remained respectful. Though there were times when a dense, sensory-deadening textile vibe dominated and any clothes-free were viewed as kinky and shameless (in negative sense of word) -- and there were other times when indeed some went on bold body-objectifying, voyeuristic or flipside, woo-hoo-look-at-me-I'm-starkers-baby-whatcha-think? exhibitionistic route -- as often as not, and despite lamentable lack of management support, the nude and the wrapped got along in mutually tolerant, if sometimes a tad awkward, co-existence.
So it came as an incredible shock for countless when Springs's generation-long policy of selective body freedom -- so profoundly conducive to enhanced relaxation and healing -- was suddenly pushed off a cliff.
While half-year advance notice was given by word of mouth and via tiny-print notices taped to door windows, it all seemed too unreal to be true.
Who would possibly want to cram the magic genie back in the bottle, and why?
They never even bothered to seek one bit of informed feedback from longtime patrons, either locals or regional and global travelers, who together constituted the backbone support of the establishment.
It was a clear case of 'Whoever has the gold makes the rules; deal with it.'
Trey oppressive mandatory cover policy was, as it turned out, only early-warning harbinger of the greater seismic shift to come, a year later, with eviction of the ceremonial sweat lodge of some 45 years' standing, plus taking down the love and prayer altar in the old spring-source gazebo by creek.
Banning c/o -- paradise lost, heaven to hell in three seconds flat -- was done ostensibly to make place "more comfortable for all." Right. All body-alienated, bourgeois-minded on automatic pilot, unthinkingly locked into personal freedom stifling conventions...not wanting to be reminded of the body-oppressed prison cell they'd become so at home in they'd forgotten -- or didn't care -- that they held the key to get free of it...dully preferring being institutionalized, as it were, needlessly living in prison of cloth even when going bare madeWORLDS more sense both for comfort and greater sense of well being and, in case of any spa visit, dramatically enhanced purification and healing potential.
Age-old habit hard-wired in humanity
Alas, it seems people over long millennium got so used to mandatory body covering (oddly becoming planet's only perma-dressed species), finding such accustomed security and comfort in it that fear of losing it -- even when not needed for protection from elements or dealing with often still-strange and hostile world -- totally eclipsed the pronounced discomfort it created, muting body's keen, fine-tuned sensory awareness. Even when in natural supportive
environments that -- especially in nice weather and always in a sauna -- invites shedding of needless cover...needless but for intolerant attitudes and dull body alienation of prevailing clothing-numbed, majority thinking.
Covid-19 and body freedom
Something else to ponder now, what with Covid-19 virus: While today's mandatory public dress no doubt had countless contributing reasons for evolving over long millennia -- modesty, protection from elements, unfriendly others, TOO friendly others, vanity, playing dress-up, work safety, moral guilt trips, ad infinitum -- it perhaps is also in part a holdover of periodic pandemics raging throughout history and pre-history.
Seeking an extra layer of hygienic protection through covering in public over time -- especially for contagions spread by touch -- was undoubtedly yet another factor in the slow segue to mandatory public cover-up, like masks fitfully became recently...to the point people began to "feel naked" , too vulnerable, too bare-assed (i.e., embarrassed) without clothes 'protecting' them. Such once-valid protection concern over time then got locked into humanity's cultural DNA and collective subconsciousness -- plague or no plague -- along with countless other contributing factors. And it became today's locked-in tradition of compulsive/compulsive dress habit.
So,for many reasons, some valid, others irrational or arbitrary, mandatory public dress became the iron-clad law of the land and minimal hallmark of civilized behavior.
(People who refused to wear a Covid mask as an infringement of personal freedom rights might consider how restrictive and oppressive mandatory public dress is seen as any who prefer living a freebody lifestyle!)
But most don't bother to ask why. It's simply the ways things are and always have been and always will be. For a multitude of reasons, we might seem to have become a perma-dressed species.
But more and more believe that's all nonsense.
Not being allowed to get free of clearly unneeded clothes in nature, especially during nice weather, seems purely nuts...anti-life. And so, since advent of modern body freedom movement, which began at start of last century in Europe and migrated to the US in late 1920s, many have opted to low-keyly rebel against the fading paradigm equating mandatory public cover-up with socially acceptable, moral behavior.
And for 17 years Stewart's became one of the few rare freebody oasises (oasi?) for open-minded locals and travelers alike to take a break from perma-dressed mentality.
"The owners can do whatever they want"
In most any other business operation, sure. But the realm has long been exceptional. With its dedicated, nonprofit-in-spirit, serving the greater-good history of genuinely health-minded culture, in effect a de facto public trust, that 'owners' can realistically only be wise stewards and honor place's sacred healing and de facto public institution nature. By supporting and guiding culture of longtime visitors -- the same as every authentic rural healing spa with an abiding embrace of clothing-optional tradition for most effective, radical cleansing, healing and rejuvination -- they are doing invaluable service.
Anything else is foolish-steward fantasyland, an indifferent betrayal to the legions of devastated former supporters and beneficiaries for having selfishly turned their backs on place's legacy of providing down-to-earth purification, healing, and ultra-relaxation for good of the greater public.
Yes it's complicated
No argument, public nudity is one profoundly complex, controversial and convoluted subject. Deep societal conditioning from infancy on teaches the bare physical body indecent, offensive, unhygienic, and/or too arousing to be revealed in everyday public. This ingrained mindset in turn affects respective comfort zones in mutually adverse ways whenever nude and clothed share space -- IF group energies aren't open-minded and positive and, in case of Springs, supported by a mindful stewardship.
"Being naked with others in a safe non-sexual environment provides a rare opportunity to quiet the negative voice about our bodies and stand simultaneously in our vulnerability and in our power, reclaiming for ourselves our own unique beauty and clarity that we are lovable exactly as we are...
...this nakedness, this baring of one's insides...this seeing into hearts of history...this risk calls us into ourselves, perhaps like never before."
-- Human Awareness Institute
Lose your clothes
& lose your woes
It's true that certain people, often out of simple, socially ingrained body modesty of long standing (in naturist circles sometimes called textiles or, perhaps a tad less charitable, clothes-minded), didn't visit more often or at all because of it.
And the way things had gotten seedy at times, again, one couldn't blame them, Due to dismaying absence of any more pro-active management assuring a safe and mindful c/o environment, minimizing idle, lower-chakra lusting and voyeurism could then, depending on daily mix of beings, otherwise all too easily dominate atmosphere from time to time.
Many camps on subject
But was it really a majority? Not just an influential vocal minority, especially those reacting to egregiously-lax scene in free-fall? Were writer -- formerly part of the furniture for decades -- to hazard a guesstimate of the breakdown of visitors' various camps on Stewart's former low-key nudity over years -- it'd be:
5-10% serious freebodies
25% casual/sometime/Sunday nudists
30% neutral; usually covered but okay with simple nudity (i.e. non-sexual)
25% vaguely uncomfortable with it
5-10% Oh my God! (obviously a perma-dressed deity)
If this was anywhere near actual situation as writer believed it to be, then by adding neutrals to naturist camp and given heady freedom wasn't abused, those uncomfortable were indeed only an over-influential vocal minority.
Maybe such clothes-minded visitors made enticing, vague, soon forgotten promises of booking big long retreats, workshops and events if only outrageous body-freedom allowance were duly quashed.
Though some truly loved place's atmosphere and amenities, they apparently lost touch
with inner bohemian and were no more than remotely aware of core intent of place's founding 145 years ago in nonprofit-in-spirit, love-of-service dedication to simple and affordable radical cleansing, purification, and rejuvenation in the loving arms of nature.
Though it's safe to say founder Henry was no proponent of public nudity, at least mixed-sex sort --the nudist movement having only come to America from Europe 15 years after his passing -- one might make a fair argument that in time, with shifting lifestyles and arbitrary societal codes of behavior, it became a perfect fit with the devotion he held to further along natural purifying, healing, and rejuvenation process by working in close harmony with nature.
For even as bathing with clothes on interferes with thorough cleansing, so mandatory spa cover-up interferes with maximum purifying, relaxing, and healing -- a fact crystal clear to any who seriously pursue spa regimens, in contrast to mere tub soakers and those wanting to try something different, maybe cop the casual decadent delight of "taking the waters", age-old leisurely pastime of coddled
European royalty. (Some, it seemed, almost got more benefit by going on Instagram to show envious stuck-in-city friends how they were luxuriating at some quasi-fabled rural spa.)
Or could it have been result of effort by outgoing manager projecting druthers, hoping to amp up lucrative longterm large-group stays by wooing upscale perma-dressed clientele? Those coming more for long stays and retreat workshops in Conference Hall and A-Frame, but liking having the option to take mineral bath and sauna -- in conventional public-pool atmosphere, without shocking riff-raff lollygagging about in their birthday suits, thank you very much...
"Shameless!" vs. "It's a Cover-Up!"
Some, brought up to be over-modest about body, haven't felt pulled to experiment and liberate selves from the shackles of mandatory wraps through visiting places like free beaches and select rural mineral springs (either developed or primitive).
So of course they tend to be uncomfortable around any real-world, participatory, freebody environments, vs. the commercial, body-exploitative, lust-arousing, passive spectator entertainment kind the world's flooded with. One had to go through a reality-shock portal and get beyond deep entrenched body commodifying, spectacle-spectator, objectifying and alienating conditioning before reaching a new comfort zone and rediscovering bliss of un-selfconscious, innocent body freedom long ago experienced as infants and toddlers.
It clearly brings home uneasy feelings of acquiesced-to body suppression to see others no longer buying into the age-old, culturally programmed body-shame and false-modesty, liberating selves, while they sheepishly remain shackled to cloth, slaves to body discomfort... acquiescing to one of biggest cover-ups -- both literal and figurative -- in history.
It's unlikely anyone would ever credibly argue that nudity and sex can ever be completely separated in the real world. The nude body is naturally, well, sexy. But by making the obsessive, iron-linked equation of nudity = sex, reinforced at every turn by manipulative advertisers and oppressive purveyors of morality, though beginning to flirt with healthier lifestyle such persons have yet to understand notion that with more enlightened view towards sexuality, simple mindful nudity, far from creating rampant orgiastic conditions, can offer profound healing and rejuvenation WHEN in appropriate, relaxed places and working to break through negative body conditioning and voyeur-exhibitionist mindset.
As the sad result of marching in lockstep with society's mandatory-cover edict, they read kinky intent into everyone hoping to simply enjoy communing with nature unwrapped, alone or socially.
Wild in wilds
It merits repeating: with maximum purification and profound relaxation -- deeper intent and focus of any mineral springs spa retreat or resort worth its salt -- mandatory cover all too easily interferes with or even defeats purification and relaxation process.
Anything compromising aim is like offering bread that's, say, 50% organic. It's like saying "Indulge your soul, let the sacred waters, pure mountain air, radiant sunshine, and sauna heat cleanse, purify, and rejuvenate you -- but keep your bod covered
'cause it's offensive or way too distracting and tempting impure thoughts. Naughty abbreviated outfits are perfectly okay, though -- any strategically placed bits of cloth, to keep from, well, being without any tiny bits of cloth."
for what ails you
One of most glaring disconnects in 'owner' Pneuma's thinking in its purported overarching goal to raise global consciousness is how it dully ignored the way full skin exposure to sunshine (and judicious -- early morning and late afternoon sun being gentlest) produces vitamin D, promoting production of serotonin that magically lifts one's mood with a flood of feel-good endorphins... making it worlds easier and faster to effect positive change than anything else...well, under the sun.
By instead catering to those having conventional mindsets but flirt with new-age change and are still seemingly clueless about radical cleansing regimens with its profound body-mind-spirit reintegration focus through immersion in a body-positive culture, they short-circuited deeper purpose of Springs...and left those most dedicated to optimal purifying and healing out in the cold.
Place became just another bathhouse, albeit a quaint, charming one...a quasi-healing resort ironically flirting with the idea of healthy lifestyle and singing praises of place's healing benefits in blurbs, yet forbidding visitors to fully avail themselves of them!
It stopped short of full-tilt purification and rejuvenation, giving into society's entrenched body shame and/or overreacting to those few misbehaving -- again, happening only for want of more aware management -- instead place seemingly hoped to attract those merely toying with healthier lifestyles. They'd sing praises of place's healing power but then not allow visitors to fully avail--it was a stuck record...
...an unfathomable, enforced masquerade, self-defeating for any and all who sought optimal deep-cleansing, healing, and rejuvenating at Stewarts. One was left choking in all-too-familiar dust of antiquated morality and spirit-deadening conventionality, dumbfounded and brokenhearted over what befell the once-beloved almost-paradise.
Again, in times past there were indeed your occasional flagrant or low-key voyeur and exhibitionist -- many, including writer, were guilty of the former, having less conscious mindstates then and no nudity-mindful management to help lift group consciousness. There was possibly even the dread public masturbater or two.
The last report of such, though, was such an isolated incident, if indeed it ever really happened, that regular goers, including writer, were totally unaware of it. But whether actual or wily management fabrication, it served as a dandy excuse to make the draconian policy change a slam dunk.
No nudity, no problem.
While the kinky as well as the freedom-loving will always be attracted to places allowing clothing-optional, indulging prurient mindsets that repulse and discomfort others, there's a simple yet effective way to keep such egregious behavior at bay: management gaining a firm, focused handle on policy, as have sister northwestern mineral spring resorts Jackson Wellsprings, Wilbur, Orr, Harbin, Sierra, and Brietenbush.
The more everyone -- management, staff and repeat visitors alike -- work to establish and reinforce a positive and aware climate of acceptable c/o behavior, the more an honorable air of mutually respectful, elevated healing synergy emerges. Thus prevented are most untoward, sundry voyeurism and exhibitionism from ever gaining tawdry foothold.
Over time, clothing-optional becomes the relative non-issue that it deserves to be.
Positive pro-active efforts are so much easier and more effective than negative reactive ones. Alas, it's the latter that Springs has leaned towards in times past, having no better mandate from former absentee 'owner'...and little to no enlightened management or empowered staff. Without developing firm focus on reason for allowing such modest simple nudity in the first place and deciding what constitutes appropriate behavior, exhibitionism and voyeurism, even if only low-key, can indeed all too often take over, filling vacuum created by the absence of
more mindful management.
How wonky, reactionary, and authoritarian was the years-ago posted sign on door, "No yoga in sauna"?
If some did what could be viewed as sexually suggestive yoga postures nude in sauna, it was probably mostly -- if not entirely -- in reaction to management perpetuating illusion of separateness and never establishing any conscious ethics that encouraged mindfulness...rather than indulging in base desires by playing a tiresome object-objectifier game. Maybe some with a rebellious spirit delighted in discomforting those uncomfortable with any public nudity who they knew would strongly disapprove of any such utterly shameless displays.
Springs literature never spelled things out. Not beyond blanket statement on website how Springs was "a clothing-optional facility." Exact policy, with okay c/o zones, was always left to be verbally relayed by bath attendants' often-rushed spiel to newcomers. Many attendants, abysmally unfamiliar with
freebody lifestyle, seemed either embarrassed, reluctant, or titillated to relay info on where one could and couldn't be nekkid.
At the start of new policy, an outer sundeck an early warning sign advised, "Caution: you may encounter nudity beyond this point", sign ordered by writer from The Naturist Society. And there was a routed, rainbow-painted wood "Clothing Optional" sign on sauna door. But that was it for related signage.
So scene at times indeed became one of new-age cheese-cake posing, as it were...women perhaps idly enjoying the desirability-lifting rush of ever-ready-to-oblige, riveted male attention that nudity can create in lieu of any cooler scene that encourages transcendence of the physical...along with men striking their own calculated beef-cake poses and movements to arouse any captive female or gay interest...all overly self-conscious, sexualized, objectified nudity, all due to a clueless management endlessly preoccupied with maxing profits and dealing with life-threatening health problems rather than championing natural-lifestyle ideals, as did other, more progressive-minded, rural healing resorts in wider region.
Shades of Future Days Past
Perhaps there was never any more fine-tuned clothing-optional policy intent before year 2000, when introduced most recently, because of then-manager Mary H.'s mother, Pat. She'd worked the front desk a dozen years, alternating with Pat's sister CeeCee. (read their story in Something about Mary) Her sudden passing in 2000 left Mary too devastated to be concerned about much of anything. She had kept no-nudity policy enforced mostly in deference to her mom, who was uncomfortable with notion.
It almost seemed decision to finally liberalize policy was more like, "Oh hell, get starkers if you want; I don't care. Happy now?" Again, there wasn't much, if any, focused positive intent with carefully spelled-out policy or signs, anchoring scene on any aware level.
What evolved could feel like a sort of nudist quasi anarchy that, depending on times and group energy de jour, made for anything from a magical Garden of Eden to over self-conscious, tiresome, woo-hoo-baby-I'm-starters-feast-your-eyes!" displays and dutifully responsive "Oh, mama!" tripping out of highly charged, teasing pheromone exchanges that turned off so many who hoped for a relaxing, purifying experience. Not bearing witness to tawdry, idle arousal games.
Entirely too often there seemed a battle for dominance between freebodies and textiles for proper dress/undress code that was too weird for words. A dressed group might be having lunch on sundeck, smugly conformist, hiding away in their decency uniforms as it were, could make those nearby nude and coursing through spa cycle, feel...well, naked. It would've been funny if it weren't so sad.
Stewart Springs, again, never developed the focused mindful policy of other springs, crucial for any successful, safe-atmosphere clothing-optional operation.
Result was so sketchy at times, perhaps new 'ownership' -- on advise of profit-obsessed old management who seemed to always hope we'd either self-regulate or self-destruct -- didn't get connection (or even care to) between simple, mindful nudity and enhanced well being and, thus, spa benefit.
New 'ownership' would've then concluded there was dire need to push re-set button and ban nudity outright...they totally agreed with vision: rid place of kinky, modest-spending countercultural riff-raff -- including sweat lodge -- clear the way for transitional phase of, at least for a while, courting more upscale, conventional-minded crowd, or viable-culture challenged mainstream...either target group better suiting control-minded, buttoned-down druthers of Pneuma Foundation and
helping set proper tone for informally-renamed Pneuma Retreat Centre and outfit's ostensible world headquarters.
"There are few nudities as
objectionable as the naked truth" --Agnes Repplier
Simple nudity as a profound tool for aiding reintegration of body-mind-spirit on higher levels was rejected out of hand. It lent serious doubts as to true intent of outfit.
Was biggest concern indeed offering genuine healing -- profound reintegration of body-mind-spirit through mindful spa experience -- or merely perpetuating organization's quasi-new-age psychological shtick and providing a bit of decadent "taking the waters" on the side to a paying public in order to defray ownership costs, along with lodgings?
Regressive clothing-optional ban was like trying to jam the genie back into the bottle. It couldn't be done...not without creating severe damper in the magical healing spirit of Stewart Springs that thousands of life-affirming souls came to know and appreciate over the years.
If over-reaction to unsupported scene, which could indeed get tawdry around the edges, was what actually caused drastic about-face, it punished the multitudes for trespasses of the few (again, assuming incident even DID occur). And new 'owners' were dully unaware of need for mindful energies and focused intent by management to keep scene together. Earlier manager team, daughters of former absentee owner Foggy, seemed likewise unfamiliar with basic c/o ethos, unable to elevate and fine-tune policy to reflect authentic mineral springs culture, but at least they had a more live-and-let-live attitude.
After they had the sauna rebuilt and enlarged in 2005, the 'Clothing Optional' sign that had long hung over the door of the old sauna
mysteriously disappeared, eventually resurfacing on the wall of employee break room, good for an idle laugh.
The sign put out of service without a thought was itself a sign of times. Place apart from uninfluential staff members seemed to have zero interest in ever building any solid, intention-backed, enlightened c/o policy.
Management seemed to simply, blindly hope for the best, leaving things to their own devices...enduring scene until able at long last to 'refine the culture'... as it turned out, by selling to parties clearly sharing distaste for such decadent, outlandish freebody nonsense.
So result at times was, again, something akin to chaotic nude anarchy, a situation perhaps ultimately responsible for its banishment by new 'ownership'...who very possibly thought it was natural result whenever people got together naked in public, regardless. New management, like old, seemed either ignorant of or indifferent to c/o ethics, its adherence naturally elevating scene to socially responsible, mutually comfortable one. liberating air and enhancing healing process whether one opts to be bare or not. Right intent and mindful focus made it work. Lack thereof and it could get messy...fast.
As said, it was long hoped that new 'owners', on studying situation more carefully, would realize this simple fact...that, rather than retreating into former ways of mandated body shame and enforced discomfort, they would embrace opportunity to hammer out and fine-tune a fair-minded body-friendly policy..
...one focused with on-the-ball determination to forge an equitable policy and create a safe and respectable c/o environment...thus ending the ridiculous
sometime civil war between freebodies and bare-notters. Such hope was nurtured before realizing they seemed to be on same page as old manager in lack of appreciation and understanding -- if not indifference, fear, and moral condemnation -- of any more bohemian lifestyle and free-spirited ways of place's now-disenfranchised, one-time supporters.
Nude, not Crude
Stating the obvious, any who experience c/o relaxation, getting instantly hooked on the heady sense of freedom and enhanced body comfort it fosters, know it's impossible to get truly comfortable and sweat freely in sauna when made to stay wrapped up in cumbersome, sensory-deadening, bacteria-breeding, free-sweat-flow inhibiting cloth...or receive fullest dose of beneficial solar rays while sunbathing...or enjoy most effective hydrotherapy with clean, liberating sense of letting it all go in creek's coldplunge, kissed by the water.
To freethinkers and any the least bit bohemian-friendly, what was REALLY crude and rude was having to block the therapeutic potential of the elements by being forced to wear man-made cloth...just to appease those still hung up in spirit-stifling, false-modesty
mindset -- or were so offended by any abusing former policy that they dismissed any effort to cultivate a more respectful and appropriate clothing-optional climate as an impossible dream. Why even try? Thinking went that the essential body had been too suppressed over the ages to EVER normalize everyday public nudity -- beyond, perhaps, dedicated naturist resorts (aka nudist camps) -- even in the peaceful natural environs Stewart's provides to enable profound body-mind-spirit reintegration when availing oneself of the freedom to lose unneeded threads for a while.
Might decision have involved something more? Perhaps belief nudity detracts from disciplined spiritual practice -- similar to it being verboten in former grounds sweat lodge, for instance. In contrast, in Wiccan spiritual practice group lightwork is sometimes done skycad, or nude, allowing body to get in closer harmony with elements and gain optimal physical comfort, thus increasing potential for
for enhanced attunement, resulting in amped-up mind-body-spirit integration.
So that argument's a relative wash.
Can it perhaps be due to religious upbringing, teaching body is indecent for power to incite either lustful thoughts and behavior or repulsion, and thus detract from spiritual focus and good behavior? This can indeed be the case so long as society continues age-old, un-bareable mindset, with blackout of non-commercial public nudity and pro-active efforts to foster mindful nudity in appropriate places...like select waterfronts and rural mineral springs, creating peaceful dolphin islands of paradise amid sea of sharkskin suits (for a surreal analogy).
The phenomenal growth of events like Burning Man, San Francisco's Bare-to-Breakers stroll, World Naked Bike Day -- plus increased popularity of thong swimsuits, legitimizing at least more semi-nudity -- show society's fears on matter have been fitfully easing. By making more places like Stewart's progressive exceptions to still-dominant perma-dress conditioning, personal, age-old physical oppression can fade away that much sooner.
For though no doubt hard for many to realize with such historic disruptions going on now, Garden of Eden consciousness is fitfully re-emerging on planet. And
Stewarts' was until recently helping show the way, even if intent was no better fine-tuned.
Can Body Freedom Bell Be Unrung?
Time will tell how freebody ban can fly, especially during nicest weather begging to be enjoyed au naturel. Retreating into the past even as the world sails into the future seems more than a bit bizarre.
Can Stewart Springs's body-freedom bell be un-rung without new 'stewards' having shot themselves in foot so direly they have no chance of ever successfully diverting place into their own over-controlling and bourgeois approach to healing and enlightenment?
The bell had been chiming merrily ever since the start of the new millennium. Can place really go back to former over-modest, body-phobic ways of last century and still continue doing brisk business as ostensibly serious rural healing resort in long run?
Maybe. (With bathhouse permanently shut and repurposing of entire operation, away from being a healing spa, now being made crystal clear, perhaps we'll never know; signs seem iffy.)
Whatever ultimate plans, in banning-c/o transition phase it became yet another muted, self-defeating, commonplace, commercialized spring tourist trap...albeit still, inherently, a charming one.
It callously betrayed once-loyal customer base without blinking an eye. One visitor from Harbin before its fire said if such a policy change were to happen there, visitor volume would've dropped in half overnight.
Indeed, former locals day at Stewart's -- often bursting the seams with regional visitors -- turned into instant ghost town after loopy policy change.
Writer's convinced that local's day after 17 years was changed from Thursday to Monday as calculated first step to disenfranchise and discombobulate bohemian-friendly locals...and to remind them that a new sheriff was in town: "Check any nude attitude at office (or else) to help make things more comfortable for everyone. Your cooperation is appreciated -- tell your friends!"
True, compared to other popular clothing-optional rural Northwest mineral spring resorts like Breitenbush or Orr, on radical body freedom scale Stewart Springs was always tenuous and tame. Barring mentioned nude down-dog yoga posturing in sauna or rare ecstatic nude dancing on sundeck, nudity was mostly limited to still sauna perching, sunbathing, and low-key skinnydipping.
But many long visited in no small part for place being one of select
few on West Coast allowing any measure of body freedom. It's where many, including writer, made dramatic breakthroughs in personal body acceptance and liberation and overcoming idle objectifying habits.
We've since lost heart in droves.
Many regional residents who did so much over the decades to support the place had thrown on now-required towel (or sheet, sarong, or swimsuit -- at least one still had some choice) -- and sadly gave up on the place. One might go elsewhere, like nearby Ashland's Jackson Wellspring (pre-pandemic,
clothing-optional after 8 p.m. or nightfall, whichever came first; adults only), even though longer drive for Mt. Shasta locals and happening only after nightfall precluded working on any all-over tan.
Others might've continued coming and conforming to place's new clothes-mindedness, never having been too concerned about clothing-optional one way or another. Or mourn body freedom lost while suffering mandatory cover-up, perhaps having adopted a patient, "This too shall pass" frame of mind...or have quietly staged rebellion to test policy resolve whenever possible, seeing it as too ridiculously oppressive -- to be taken seriously, willing to court reprimand or outright expulsion if caught.
Never-ending editorial concludes here