All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
Independent watchdog, tribute & blog site since 2011
& in-depth scoping
What the #@%! Happened to
New 'owners' erased popular culture,
privatized realm for own quasi new-age shtick;
subsidizing costs by select group bookings
No nudes is good news;
Place closed to individual visits;
Bathhouse tubs and sauna torn out to re-purpose building
"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 abysmally unpopular changes, in itself marked such a profoundly wrong-headed, giant step backward that it defied all understanding.
Later, words could barely register the dumbfoundment over kicking out the grounds' sweat lodge, ostensibly done to gain affordable fire/liability insurance coverage, though the lodge was reportedly informed 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, they gutted the inside of the bathhouse to repurpose the hundred-year old spa structure to suit their own, exclusive-minded purposes...
...and the realm's grand 147 year-old healing spa tradition, benefiting an entire global community, be damned.
Later depressing developments included officially changing place's name to Pneuma Retreat Center and disallowing individual (if spa-less) visits beyond 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 of change kept a Pollyanna hope the outrageous first misstep of banning mindful-nudity option would prove to be only a de-facto breather...a chance to let 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 place's diverse visitor base...one that would naturally attract management and staff as much or more motivated to foster a spirit of genuine healing rather than just another gig to cover their rent or mortgage.
The thinking was that, with at least a tenuous openmindedness by the new, way-y-y absentee 'ownership' -- once gaining a deeper understanding of the place and the druthers of the once-substantial, bohemian-leaning support base -- it would naturally reinstate clothing-optional post-haste. (Until, that is, learning that 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 in 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 to foster optimal purifying, healing and rejuvenation...often triggering profound body-mind-spirit reintegration 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, 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 rotten in the state of Denmark. With profound sadness, writer fully detached from the place, 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 (motivation to do what you're 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 -- a 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 chronic past profit-hungry preoccupation with all its chaotic snafus, holistic disconnects and assorted downers...
...at last gone a dire situation often so abysmal, it seemed the place was maybe vying for some Most Dysfunctional Management Award in a 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, altruistic, open-minded healing retreat spa it's forever longed to return to, 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 rudely smacking of the depressing conventionality so many came to the Springs to get away from. Then removing gazebo altar of countless prayer and love offerings -- almost like tearing down a living church.
But the absolute last straw was telling Karuk medicine man Walking Eagle to walk off, after the lodge's some 45 years of open-to-the-public ceremonies, to cease weekly sweats on ancestors' healing lands, lands held sacred by his and other regional tribes since 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 egregiously wrongheaded 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 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 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 grounds.
Enter Dragon Lady with Gilded Visions
& Marching Orders from 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
try 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 -- "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, including weekly Native American sweat lodge, spiritual 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, if they so chose, to publicly shake free of a lifetime of body suppression, shame and false modesty. In other words, any and all unhealthy and neurotic body self-consciousness. Visitors became free to become their real undisguised, essential selves again, as when newborns and toddlers, thus aiding in the process of awakening and reintegrating body, mind and spirit. The policy, when consciously upheld by daily group energies (despite little to no support from management, instead of 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 some semblance of liberating, un-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: '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 giving it away to the first ready-cash buyers coming down the line, ones with (at first) well hidden intentions at grievous odds with the original, abiding spirit of the place...a spirit, again, always hiding just 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 the shady ploy was felt needed to cinch the most lucrative deal possible with the eager yet 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 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. 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 a word, the place pretty much selling itself.
Rumors abounded as to what they were actually up to.
Maui's Little Beach irregulars in group photo
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
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 words of Annie Hall, "Well, la-de-dah."
Another rumor: that they were only homogenizing the place by erasing its 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, who'd better reflect their conventional mindset. (And, hearty souls, wouldn't mind if, in cold weather, the heating in lodgings was 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 that the overarching, outlandish intent -- if not all along, then in midstream after fans accustomed to mindful bathhouse nudity rejected mandatory swimwear -- 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, a peculiar amalgam of conventional Judaeo-Christianity and transpersonal psychology, with strong focus on mindful breathing as a new psycho-therapeutic 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 become to the place's one-time, myriad bohemian-leaning fans, the very ones who'd driven its former thriving 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, even if now in dire straits. With a dismissive, "Sure, it's unfortunate, but what can you do, management NEVER gets 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 non-public-minded regime further tighten its stranglehold on the former, 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 with the bathhouse suddenly gone...
...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 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 oft-rumored ayahuasca trips...
...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 (2.6 million, $US), 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 13 quarters every hour around the clock to keep the county from towing the place away in 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 can't then be held legally liable for its debts, 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 over ever making their nut, as does any regular sink-or-swim business operation...or even your more on-the-ball nonprofit with integrity.
Regardless, in every scenario the remedial first step was, of course, 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, anyone who liked to skinnydip, nude sunbathe or sauna nekkid or was open-minded enough to give it a try.
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 refusal to worship Mammon and pay obeisance to the arbitrary power and super-organized sensibilities of the tight-wound ...along with would-be gullible patrons, 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 became obvious fans weren't buying their new, 'respectable' bathhouse operation and so closed down spa operation permanently to repurpose building -- chip away at longtime Locals Day deal so as to render the price break almost 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 intent is always the bottom line, not profit or nonprofit status alone.)
Stripping away the place's former quasi bohemian, spiritually diverse and egalitarian vibe was clearly the name of the game. Adding further insult to injury, workers -- those who didn't quit in loathing the second day out, that is -- trying to endure the new oppressive regime to put food on the table (or, again, those who never really got the place), no longer got 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's reason for being -- and otherwise not affordable at the previous 'ownership's' prevailing starvation wages.
Invisible 'co-owners' appeared maddeningly indifferent to how the ordered changes systematically erased the former popular culture so lovingly built, nurtured and supported over the decades by myriad nature-loving Springs devotees and genuine-spa supporters near and far.
For, again, it was the former fans who had largely funded the place's upgrades, by their enthusiastic repeat visits over the decades, plus turning flurries of friends and relations onto it. It reported a robust annual quarter-million dollar profit towards the end of the old 'ownership' (again, assuming the figure wasn't a calculated exaggeration to get 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 to keep a few paltry dollars rolling 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 slam the gates to the public is indeed true, then at first blush it might appear fans were screwed.
That is, if 'owners' actually think they could close such a priceless public treasure and still enjoy it with even one shred of spiritual integrity after condemnation by an entire global community over trying to bogart the realm that provided dedicated purification, healing and rejuvenation 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 had that kind of vibe. A place forever dedicated to aiding the public's well being.
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) provided 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 wanted to keep trying to milk 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 greeted by signs growling:
Private Property - Keep Out - Violators Prosecuted
No Peak Experiences for You
Parapets Manned 24/7
Transcend Yur Sorry Naked Selves 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 how the place's former cultural spirit was systematically suppressed to suit some private agenda, how new 'owners' have been re-working place to double as own Pneuma world headquarters, in process strangling to death the former lifestyle-diverse, healing refuge for everyday people...
...if enough now estranged Stewart aficionados did this -- while at same time visualizing positive future stewardship -- THEN current 'owners' might never generate a critical level of patronage or, if choosing to simply slam gates totally to the public, manage to ever have one iota of peace of mind in their private efforts to promote their pricey, slow-cure healing methodology while luxuriating in their public-stolen Shangri-la.
Instead (here giving them some credit for having heart), they'd rightly feel like doo-doo. This -- on top of possibly coveting the place having blinded their better judgement and now experiencing buyer regret -- 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 indeed claiming to be the overarching mission of the Institute.
They'd eventually be dead in the water.
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 'stewards' might feel the far-reaching popular wrath putting the jinx on any such plans for the once-enchanted realm to serve as their own private headquarters/retreat/
classrooms for the shrink industry and to host to quasi new-age events, private celebrations and training-wheel spiritual workshops.
Widespread public disdain and condemnation -- reflecting the mountain of squirrelly karma their diverted scene has been piling up ever sense the legal transfer in early 2016 -- would, in the grand scheme of things, neutralize the effectiveness of any good works the outfit hoped to pursue.
The remedial first step, staying away in droves, would help foil any such plans. Annual workshop and performance events that had gone on forever there -- notably Zavada's and DeLong's -- have faded away as would-be participants and event bookers realized they'd been drinking the Kool-aid, supporting inappropriate use of the place by remaining hooked on it, oblivious of or indifferent to how the operation's former quasi bohemian spirit 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 having taken a wrecking bar to the bathhouse -- find new places for a while (maybe Flowing Waters, just down the hill), until 'ownership' at last changed again -- with visualized appropriate stewardship bringing things back around, at last making everything right again.
Their joining in unity with the de facto boycott and spreading awareness of the unacceptable scene will maybe hasten the day a kind 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 once and future mystical realm.
Too, would-be followers and supporters of Pneuma and adjunct group-ownership outfits and causes would sour once connecting all the dots. They'd realize how its bureaucratic mucky-mucks had essentially enacted cultural genocide -- what one fan has called no less than "a crime against humanity."
They'd be shocked to their toes to learn how the general public, notable among them the countless nature lovers seeking elusive genuine rural healing spas, were suddenly, indifferently left out in the cold...how the former nature-attuned lifestyle of thousands has suffered frostbite, their long accustomed body-mind-spirit health regimen utterly devastated.
Redeeming frayed honor
Barring having a miraculous change of heart, current property holders could -- saving grace -- work to neutralize gnarly karma by being mindful enough to re-sell at a fair price to now-envisioning, perfect new stewards...those who might transform place into a legal nonprofit healing center and engage the community to plug in with all 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 LEAST sell at cost, allowing for improvements made.
The international outfit, relocating to a place unhindered by such a mountain of bad vibes of their own doing, free at last of their unspeakably inappropriate 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 clearly suppressed inner bohemian...or at least no longer mind if others do.
If the third rumor -- eventual privatization -- is indeed the case, they'd soon realize, if they haven't already, that such action is NOT doable in the real world.
...not without disastrous, mindbogglingly self-defeating consequences.
For global wrath and disdain would all but guarantee their inability to ever enjoy the legally stolen place with even one nano-particle of peace of mind. It will 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 steep price of destroying the spirit-attuned, open-minded atmosphere that legions of former fans and supporters had been so thoroughly enjoying.
Any foundation built on the sandy grave of a willfully destroyed people's culture cannot support anything without reeking to high heaven.
If indeed they bought the place only to mold it to double as 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, again, they'll throw in the towel. They''d be duly chagrined and relocate after 'selling' the place, at a fair price, to one(s) who WILL honor and restore realm's free-spirited healing tradition. One who will recognize it as a blessing and gift for all, once again enabling all to treasure as each merrily follows their path towards greater well being.
As said, the former managers finally stepped down in late November 2017, only after two interminable years of surreal, 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 purifying, healing, and rejuvenating 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 hopes 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 an Egyptian fish living in denial, refusing to realize the new 'stewards' never had any intention to return 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 primarily serve their own interests...
...an egregiously misguided use, indifferently divorced from the historic roots of the realm, which served for most of its 147 years as an affordable, service-dedicated, nonprofit-in-spirit, purifying, healing and rejuvenating retreat open to the the whole bloomin' world to enjoy...
...a place untold thousands cherished as one of nature's extraordinary, rare, mystical healing realms.
believing end justifies 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, 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 a 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 on his feet...as if perhaps practicing for serving richer clientele. He'd almost grudgingly (but even so, quickly) 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 his terminal illness, being majorly put out for having to deal with the paying public but suffering the situation as the price to pay for having ready access to purifying waters that could hopefully reverse, or 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 got seriously out of whack...to the point that long-time devoted fans sometimes drove down hill stunned, shocked, utterly devastated at the dismal sea change. They were in jaw-dropping disbelief, wanting to wake up from a bad dream, in disbelief such a magical healing place could be run so heavyhandedly, obviously preoccupied trying to max profits from the institution.
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, then, rather than chaotically wiping-out -- spilling blood out the gate for luck and ratcheting up graceless siege mentality -- one learned to surf the energy waves, not trying to control or resist them, embracing even monster waves, working in 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 works wonders to run a successful operation.
Such basic hospitality-biz 101 was naturally (un-naturally?) ignored beyond a superficial level, in seeming willful indifference to and/or abject ignorance of the place's former glory as a service-loving rejuvenation retreat dedicated to serving a wider public.
There was no longer much there there.
The place seemed to be running on the fumes of its natural-setting, charming quaint structures and bygone reputation -- and the new synthetic fuel of more bourgeois-minded looking to slum a bit at rural spa getaway; plus any members of the old base, willing to turn a blind eye to get yet another fix, blocking out the cold reality of in so doing supporting such a wrongheaded scene.
For rather than provide genuine service first and formost, as the place long did -- with quiet integrity, hospitality, and open spirit (last time full-tilt in 1970's under the Goodpastures) -- the new 'owners' continued milking it, now to support their repurposing, private-minded, public-be-damned ends.
Not much hope for transcendent experiences in that...except for perhaps spirit aware newbies; and general public students with money to burn, wowed by the grounds and appreciating their super-structured, intellectualized approach...and perhaps practicing professional therapists, drowning in over-analytical, negative-dwelling methodology, often becoming hopelessly depressed themselves in process, desperate to incorporate a more positive approach into their cushy practices that typically bring in over $136,000 a year.
(Fact: a recent study revealed that over 40% of long-term psychotherapy cases didn't improve patient's condition and sometimes only 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 puritan-minded c/o ban; clueless and energetically disconnected...zipping in, dropping lucre, and herded out in one fell swoop. (Before bathhouse closure, it was, "Sorry, but it'll cost ya extra to sauna after check-out time...well, we don't CARE what other places might 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 but 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 could redeem themselves now short of having a dramatic spiritual awakening and suddenly becoming aware how egregious their actions are on the karmic level...and, duly chagrined, re-locate...and, saving grace, salvage some now-tattered integrity by taking care to find the right person(s) to 'sell' it to at fair price... a person or group with an appropriate mindset.
One 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, as been until recently for the better part of almost a century and half the place's forthright tradition.
(Any so-inclined Springs devotees might do well to tap possible connections and work to manifest future stewards, or study procedures on how to successfully turn the Springs into a nonprofit healing retreat, or whatever legal framework will satisfy the regulatory powers that be.)
of the Springs
On the community level of having plenty of there there -- the place a veritable energetic cornucopia for personal transformation -- it's 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 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 (beyond no-this, no-that policy) offered to the legion once-faithful visitors, through websites or possibly 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 ostensibly double as Pneuma's world headquarters and retreat center...only on their own site...and had the temerity to refer to Stewart's as Pneuma Retreat Center. (And then later pen a website notice dripping with crocodile tears of the 'painful' decision to close the bathhouse forever. It struck the writer as something akin to the executioner seeming to empathize with the condemned's right to live just before taking his life. Something they knew they were in the grip of something so incontrovertibly wrongheaded it defied words, yet, financially committed, proceeded anyhow.)
There was zero outreach to the former myriad faithful. What could they have said at that point, anyhow? One brief site statement, essentially saying "W're sorry we changed the Springs, but hope you can still enjoy it" rang just a bit hollow.
Unlike some regional sister springs, transparent in operation and upfront in communication with both staff and visitors, decades of nontransparent 'owner' vibes at Stewarts had set it apart in a bad way. The former opaque, locked-down Batmobile management under 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 those who love(d) Springs most -- as an affordable, culturally-diverse, unassuming, freebody-friendly rural healing retreat -- didn't need to know diddly-squat.
The wizard was well hidden behind the curtain...had the gold and made the rules...issued thunderous God-like pronouncements of new oppressive policies to fit the worldview and private shtick to accommodate the ulterior motive for snapping up the place, aided and abetted by a former management who never ever fully 'got' the place.
No doubt they feel they've 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 -- again, even if privatization isn't the ultimate goal, and maybe if it is.
With most any other business, maybe so. But not a historic sacred healing ground...one with a generations-old public-minded tradition of serving as a non-profit in spirit, a peaceful purifying and rejuvenating retreat on a time-honored mission to help heal all who discover the place.
Such public-minded healing and rejuvenating institutions are obviously 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 still-dominant oppressive energies yet troubling God's green earth -- seeking sweet relief.
And, crucially, one in which there is a constant need to continue erasing karma of 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 diversion to private-minded ends.
While modest price increases to visitors and decreased take for gift-shop consignees and contracted masseuse staff would've been more understandable IF it went to cover decent work wages (and cover new, far steeper county property taxes), beyond a certain point it simply became uncool...and terminally dispiriting for putting an even deeper pall over place. Bigger staff, some at better pay,
to enforce oppressive changes and drive up overhead while former faithful visitors vanish in droves? Not the best formula for success or proper focus to serve the greater good. Better having the former skeleton staff working there for peanuts because they loved the place and turning others onto it more than earning any paltry paycheck.
All who treasured the realm and its free-minded culture must now play Toto, pulling back the curtain and revealing the misguided attempts to detour the place's former longtime public trust focus just to suit the private-minded interests, so seriously misplaced there -- while at the same time intensely visualizing a future perfect stewardship rescuing the realm in due season.
Otherwise, if successful and enough uninformed patrons continue supporting it, or give up on it like it's gone forever -- and workers, more concerned with paychecks than honoring the place's sterling heritage as a de facto public trust dedicated to healing, continue on there -- 'owners' might actually establish some real beachhead and decide it's worth their while to continue keeping the place hostage, using it inappropriately to serve private ends, never again serving the greater public good.
Analysis continues here
- What Happened to Stewart Springs?
- What Happened? cont'd
- Springs History
- Compared to Other Springs
- Old Tales from Stewart Springs
- New Tales from Stewart Springs
- Emilie Frank's 4-part Article
- Review Rants & Raves
- More Rants & Raves
- Yet More Rants & Raves
- Vintage Newspaper Articles
- Something about Mary
- Book Excerpts on Springs
- New Day Dawning
- Goodpasture Menu-Newsletter
- News & Op-Eds
- News & Op-Eds cont'd
- A History of Shasta Vista
- What Happened to Stewart Springs?
- What Happened? cont'd
- Springs History
- Compared to Other Springs
- Old Tales from Stewart Springs
- New Tales from Stewart Springs
- Emilie Frank's 4-part Article
- Review Rants & Raves
- More Rants & Raves
- Yet More Rants & Raves
- Vintage Newspaper Articles
- Something about Mary
- Book Excerpts on Springs
- New Day Dawning
- Goodpasture Menu-Newsletter
- News & Op-Eds
- News & Op-Eds cont'd
- A History of Shasta Vista