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Hot Spring Reverie

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

That's the spring, with rockworks around it, a primitive spa, probably known and enjoyed since time immemorial. Above the Rio Grande, we found an old stagecoach road rising precipitously up the canyon sides. Amazing. Photo taken not from a helicopter, but from partway down the canyon trail.

Hot springs are a uniquely Western phenomenon. They're a culture. People know about them, seek them out, hike great distances to enjoy them. Bill and I have a hot spring experience that shines in our memory as the ultimate. With our friends Caroline and Douglas, we hiked down a canyon on Thanksgiving day, 1991, to the hot spring at Rio Hondo. When we got there, there was a really scuzzy bum in the spring, stark naked, who welcomed us warmly. Eeeyyew. The phrase "testicle soup" presented itself to my writer's mind, and I couldn't get it out of my head. But we threw our clothes off and climbed in and when we felt the hot upwellings and relaxed, the scuzzy bum and whatever kind of unchlorinated bum soup we were sitting in didn't matter anymore.
Bill and I had been looking, as long as we were in the right habitat, for a dipper. A magic little gray bird that swims underwater using its wings, that braves the most ferocious cataracts and rushing rivers to walk on the gravel and pick things like caddisly larvae and amphipods out of the crevices. Then it pops up like a cork and perches on rocks and gives metallic calls.
As darkness came on, as we were up to our necks in the spring, a dipper popped up, out of nowhere, and gave a call that sounded, as Bill put it, like someone pulling a rope out of a beer can. My first dipper. While soaking in a hot spring on Thanksgiving day. It was a perfect moment. We followed it up by a dinner at a roadside diner, some kind of pressed turkey and canned gravy on Wonder Bread. It was fabulous, because it was our own, seat-of-the-pants impromptu Thanksgiving.
And so, in search of perfect moments, we followed directions to another spring on our latest trip to New Mexico. The road leading in was terrible: good sign. The hike was moderate. Good for the kids. The spring looked really cool from above, lightly developed. And there were no skanky bums in it (Turns out to be a bad sign). We had our swimsuits and towels; we were prepared. We got down to the spring and it was...tepid. It was a cool spring in more ways than one, perhaps due to the high river level. Massive bummer. I was not about to strip down for a tepid soak. Neither were any of the other adults. But the kids were undeterred, and they had a lovely time. This is not the first time I've wished I were a kid again.
I decided to seek my joy in photographing them, and found it. Pearl was as lovely as one of Degas' dancers, binding her hair up out of the way. Two redheads.
Phoebe's eyes took on a green cast.
Liam tried to get the girls' attention, my little Scorpio, appreciator of feminine beauty.He looks like a faun here.
A dipper came, out of nowhere, and perched and bobbed on a rock. There are all shades and colors of perfection.


The spring you visited is call Manby Spring. My wife and I usually visit the spring any time we're in Taos.

You are lucky that "scuzzy bum" was so nice to you.

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