Last January I was moving out of my house an epic ordeal, twenty years getting packed up. February brought us to Zipolite. We missed the scheduled group visits to the Hot Springs.
March brought us to the newness of the Covid scare. The rest of the schedule for Spring was cancelled, too dangerous to risk the health and welfare of the tribe. The announcement reminded us that we would be together next Fall.
We have arrived at “Next Fall.” The pandemic lingers today. The entire soaking season has been cancelled. There is something about using mask at the springs. Yes, it would stifle the community and then there is that risk to others.
So, tonight I lament. There is sadness. Mt. Lemmon burnt down, many places are more crowded. I was certainly looking forward to the joy of days at those springs, glamping nude in the Eden-like atmosphere.
I have some pictures and I have memories of the reality of hot mineral springs. Here we were last Fall:
It isn’t always warm and sunny during the Arizona winters.
We once camped out of the trees and the high wind chill from the Northwest was flattening the tent, we moved about bundled, quickly stripping to jump into a tingling pool.
This last couple of times were colder, but with no wind, as we camped in the sheltering windbreak of the trees.
The winter gives color to the area as most of the predominately green hues disappear.
In the cold morning or evening, we might wander in robes and something warm on our feet and heads. Anything is used, in layers, to keep warm.
The lack of nudity doesn’t dissuade the place from its enchantment, however. There are the pools and streams of hot water, steam and mist. A fog is held in and around the trees. The air smells of moister, warm and organic to imbibe through meditating nostrils. The mist brings to mind the possibility of naked fairies living among the pools, dipping themselves in the pools secretly, when no one is looking.
As an Arizona desert day goes on, the air gets warmer with the intensity of the sun. A bundle in the early morning will disappear in layers, piece by piece. Eventually, we will stand nude with outstretched arms in baking sunlight, which is the only thing appropriate.
When it is colder at night and in the early part of day, when sunlight doesn’t radiate on a body, the pools are a refuge. A quick strip brings our cool bare feet from our warm clothes to the brink of the hot waters. It is cold out in the elements. We are alive, a hunkered down body wrapped only in arms, maybe a deep breath embracing the shock, there are those shocking moments of thermostatic change.
Even though the desire is to get warm as soon as possible, one initial step into a pool slows the process. The water feels like a boil. The natural reaction is to slow down, like a hand that finds itself in a fire, cautious. Ankles bring home the contrast.
Deep to my knees leaves me standing, getting used to the effect, but still very much in the cold vulnerable sense of nakedness. Feet burn, as if hot coals, while the rest is left out in the cold in suspense.
The next position is to bend the knees. None of these hot spring pools are deep. They fit most people sitting on the bottoms to their necks. The squat brings a stinging relief, as the burn creeps higher, touching thighs and then resolve takes over. One must endure to gather the reward.
The amazing body will adjust, but here is one particularly sensitive area coming to plunge too quickly. It sometimes takes some bravery. I ease into the plunge. To take longer in this area is more akin to torture. Again the amazing body just naturally knows what to do and lets the being know.
While many people’s mouths look like they are saying “oh” some do actually say,”ooohh!” It is shock and at the same time, it is a sense of pleasure coming on.
Like getting into a cold pool the chest is last, a decision is made, and a quicker dip. The last vestige of chill from the air is defeated. The head makes no such demands. We are finally clothed in translucent water.
The last remnants of the chill fade as the body’s cleanup of the battle washes away the stress. Deep, comfort, a welcoming to a homelike nest. Then, there is no desire to leave.
Eventually, the chemical makeup of the water, the same substance that is found in medical tranquilizers, brings a sense of bliss and relaxation. Nothing more is needed here, nothing. The steam rises, sometimes in a cloud bank so thick, that all that is, is the pool’s boundary.
People talk, people smile, people do what they do in a bathtub, but now it is friendly and privacy isn’t an issue. Sharing is.
I massage my feet. DF and I might trade shoulder rubs. People talk about health and what works for them. The vibe is all copacetic.
Each pool has a different personality and temperature. Geronimo has a pleasant grassy glade where yoga and dance feels just right. Sometimes a massage table will be set up. As a larger pool, it has become a social setting after sunset.
Guitar pool is warmer. It is frequented by a quieter set. The unwritten rule is no speaking, if it disturbs another’s meditation. Eyes become closed, just being is often the experience, a sensual meditation. I can look at the sky, a passing bird, a tree, scrub the rocks, or take it easy.
The pools are all interconnected by streams. As they enter, some give a gentle hot pulse and push, massaging a back.
The flow exits out the other side. It is enough to simply enjoy playing with the glistening clear water.
There is a knack to moving around in a shallow pool and keeping the head above and everything else below, savoring each moment.
When it is time, a brief sit outside on the rock pool’s sides gifts a slow cool down. In the meantime, it is very comfortable naked in the cold air. Eventually, the cool takes over and the water compels with its generous invitation.
There are people around, but often, where we sit is to just ourselves. Gratitude and prayer are easy to fall into.
When the sun is out, it is lovely to wander about the acres in solitude and freely nude.
The vegetation is different in this flood plain with its different waters and accumulated soils. There are ample trees, which are a treat for Arizona desert dwellers. The silence and tranquility make for meditations.
The old infrastructure from the lost resort pops up, like archeology.
Wandering will bring one to wondrous places.
Perhaps up to a vista to meditate when watching light on mountains far away.
Maybe sitting and watching a reed duck pond to contemplate.
My nose might lead me away into miles of free range desert, with its volcanic, geo-thermal geology. “What do I feel like today? Wander, or lie about”… “What’s to eat”…..
The gate is now locked.
There’s an epilogue. Maybe lament is a sort of prayer.
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