Taking off the next few days to visit hot springs in the Rocky Mountains. The sensation of floating in a temperate spring is unparalleled. If you can find a pool that approximates your own body’s temperature, prolonged soaking will begin to feel like being in the womb. You center upon a state of almost perfect neutrality: neither hot nor cold, not hungry or thirsty or in need of anything. No pressure is applied to the body in any of its quadrants. You feel nothing, and in the absence of feeling, one’s nerves become inactive and inert. The mind drains of thought. Hours can pass like this and you barely notice it. Next to sleep, it is the closest thing to being dead.
People have been attracted to thermal hot springs since the beginning of history. They were a rare comfort to the Ute Indians of the Rocky Mountains. The very spring to which I travel tomorrow was frequented by the mountain people of Paleolithic Colorado and likely used as a coping mechanism for the interminable winters of the Western Slope. The waters are saturated with lithium, a compound whose molecule is so small that it can permeate through the skin’s dermis and enter the blood stream at the capillaries. After a period of about an hour, the lithium produces deep, oblivious calm: like being drunk but still having your wits about you. I’ve heard stories about a spring in Montana with a lithium content that is so high that it actually intoxicates bathers. People who visit can develop a chemical addiction in just a few days. Apparently there is a community of bathers residing in the area who have left their old lives behind to be near the pool. They had first visited on vacation and then never returned home. They are like the scouts Odysseus sends to explore island of the lotus-eaters and who never return.