Sierra Hot Springs

The edge of a summer storm passed overhead breaking the monotony of blue sky. Patches of clouds cast temporary shade as they moved, releasing a misting drizzle, which fell upon us like a celestial blessing. Birds sang the glory of the day.

Stephanie and I relaxed in the large pool. She rested her head against the cement lip and closed her eyes; I faced away to look beyond the deck and view the Sierraville Valley.

People populated reclining chairs, others floated and bobbed in the pool. Stephanie and I were the only ones wearing bathing suits. 

Stephanie hadn’t spoken much since we left the silent dome and the hot pool it contained, but it didn’t bother me. I remembered my first time in the dome and the reverent silence that settled into my heart and mind as I slipped into a profoundly easy meditation facilitated by the heat of the tub, the arhythmic sound of water dripping into the two cold plunges, and the stained glass window — a woman resembling at once the Virgin Mary and Venus de Milo, pouring light into the waters through her outstretched hands. 

I looked to Stephanie; her face, perfectly serene, took on an ancient quality as if her soul had known this place years ago. 

Her visage made me want to rest my head against the cement lip, too, so I turned around. Just as I did, I saw a woman, floating on foam noodles — one under her shoulders, the other under her knees — as if she were in a chair. The woman’s eyes were closed, and like Stephanie, she hadn’t a care in the world. She could not see that her legs, spread in blissful comfort, moved towards the edge of the pool putting her naked groin on a direct trajectory for Stephanie’s face.

I poked Stephanie. She opened her eyes slowly until she realized a woman’s crotch was heading for her. 

With only a few giggles, Stephanie moved out of the way, and broke her silence: “want to check out the meadow pool you were telling me about?”

“Sure!”

We got our towels and walked onto the path. Pine trees filtered the sunlight into complex patterns on the ground.

“I love it here,” Stephanie said.

“Natural beauty and healing waters. What’s not to love?”

“Well,” she emphasized, “there is only so much hoochie coochie in my face that I can take.”

I laughed and then saw two porcelain tubs, just off the trail, nestled in the grass. They each had their own stream of hot water flowing into them from the ground. “Look at these, Steff! Here’s your solution!”

“We have to get in them,” she exclaimed. “How is this real?”

“Real magic,” I said.

We sat for a while, breathing in the novelty of relaxing in a bathtub on a mountainside, but we wanted to sit together and talk, so we continued our quest for the meadow pool. 

“I’m glad we sat in the secret tubs. The secret-not-secret tubs. They’re just right off the path, but they’re easy to miss,” I said.

“Everyone walks by, but not everyone sees,” Stephanie said. “I prefer that kind privacy, like the dome because nobody talks.”

“I was here one night and people were talking in there. I didn’t like that because it affected the depth of my meditation.”

Our feet crunched the path, adding a layer to the birds’ song.

“The big pool was a little extreme for me. I’ve never really been around that much nudity.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.” 

“It was too much at once — naked people almost running into me with their parts. It happened twice. Once was a hoochie coochie and the other was titties.”

“Every time you close your eyes they come for ya, huh?” I joked.

“Seemed like it.”

We passed the white, Victorian Lodge built in 1870. Red poppies brightened the hillside.

“That hot pool, though,” Stephanie said. “It’s hard to explain what I felt. It was like pure energy. I felt a pulse — like a vibration.” 

“Because it’s so hot and the bottom is sand, I close my eyes and lose the feeling of having a body. It’s like my body becomes the water. Must be the closest thing to being in the womb.”

“It did feel like that! And that’s exactly how I felt when we were looking at the grass earlier. I had an out-of-body experience — a supreme oneness, like I was the wind.”

“Wow. Transcendental,” I looked to my left over the wide valley and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain range. “You’re so zen you don’t even need the dome.”

“A lady was crying in there.”

“I didn’t notice.”

“She was standing in one of the cold tubs with her face to the wall when we went in.”

“Oh, did she have her hand on the wall?”

“Yes. The dome felt like a place to…” 

“Open and release?”

“That’s how I felt. Completely safe. It was powerful. Every detail. The tiles, the wood, the stained glass. So natural and peaceful and somehow familiar.”

“I felt a release, too,” I said. “Before we walked in there I was angry about what was going on with work. I was thinking about it a lot.”

“I could tell you were trying not to, but you really were lost in thought.”

“But after going in the hot water and spending time in the dome, I feel like I released everything. Now I’m just kinda…dancing on the inside. Like I’m free.”

“Freedom is dancing on the inside. That could be your new motto,” she said as she looked at the trees who grew above us like guardians. “I like all the moss that’s growing.”

“I love mossy trees. And all the tall, lush grass,” I paused my step. “You know, earlier, when we were looking at the grass?”

“Yeah.”

“I was definitely lost in thought, thinking about that email. And you pointed to look out at the valley and the grass in the wind and there was a blue jay on a branch. That brought me back to the present moment and helped me let go.”

“That was it. ‘Come back. Come back,’ I was saying. I had that moment of oneness, but I knew how you were feeling, so I was like ‘hey, don’t forget to look around you and be here.’”

I breathed deeply, “next time I’m having a bad day I’m just going to come here.”

“Seriously. It’s so important to walk out. I feel the same in a lot of ways. You’re not alone.”

We approached the meadow pool and to our surprise, found we had the space to ourselves. A small tree grew behind boulders at the edge of the meadow. Purple irises bloomed in stately elegance. Flowers and leaves floated on the surface of the clear, blue water; we stepped in like queens. Our toes pressed into the soft, sandy floor.  

“I think I’m in the most beautiful place in the world,” Stephanie whispered.

“We’re in Faerlyland,” I said. “You know you’ve fully arrived in Faeryland when you come to the meadow pool and there’s mint and flowers floating in its waters.” 

“You described it like heaven when we were driving up here. And it really is.”

A wooden totem pole watched over the glistening water, speaking without words of the wildlife and civilization that lived in the valley before it was named Sierraville.  

“I love this aspen tree right here and the way the leaves flutter in the wind,” I said. “It reminds me of a wind chime my grandma had in her backyard. It was made out of thin, round, pearlescent shells. She had a lot of wind chimes, but I loved that one the most when I was a kid.”

“I know what you’re saying. Your grandma-angel is here. The Great Spirit is here.” 

I caressed the top of the water with my fingertips, creating swirling ripples. Birds sang from the trees in high tweets and whistles, forming the cadences and melodies of an unplanned symphony while clouds continued their slow and easy migration across the sky. 

 

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