We are pleased to present a guest blog by Jan Marie Smith, our water yoga instructor. Jan is a 30-year aquatic professional who offers aquatic movement workshops, children’s and adults’ swimming classes, private swim clinics and water yoga classes throughout the Southwest. Jan is also a professional chef, a singer and a writer. When she’s not in the water, you can probably find her singing karaoke or whipping up a pie with organic fruit from her own cherry tree.
Photographs of Hot Sulphur Springs as it is today were graciously contributed by Eli Duke. View more of his photos on his Flickr page.
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“Warm Waters of Mother Earth”
by Jan Marie Smith, Water Yogi
I was nineteen years old and fresh out of suburbia. Living in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, I had always been in awe of these giant natural cathedrals. I grew up with the Rockies due west out my backyard — skiing in the winter, hiking, repelling and camping in the summer. I was a mountain girl at heart. And by sheer luck and grace I had ended up as a lifeguard and swim instructor at a historic hot springs in northern Colorado: Hot Sulphur Springs.
The year was 1980. The springs had only been owned by two families since the Ute Indians were driven out in the later 1800s. The springs were acquired by William Byers, founder of Denver’s first newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News. I was working for the family that had purchased the springs from the Byers family in the 1940s.
I lived in a cabin above the hot springs that was built in the 1860s. I chopped wood. I cooked on a porcelain wood-burning stove. There was something mystical about the pies that would come out of that old stove. I hauled my own water. My main water source for bathing and showering was the bath house; the smell of sulphur permeated my skin. I soaked in the springs every night.
Sometimes, in the back caves of the bath house, I could feel the spirits of the Utes when I stood or floated in the waters, quiet and still. I could feel their gaze when I walked up the hill to The Cabin at night. Hot Sulphur Springs had been the Ute Indians’ campsite for millennia before the white man drove them out. It is said that they burned everything in their path on their exodus.
Now I was living on their sacred ground. I was becoming acutely aware of a change in body, mind and spiritual patterns. I was living with the energy of the earth and sun and the past and present. The stars cast a never-ending milky way over Mt. Bross, the old mountain that stands in the shadows of the springs like a protective father.
So many magical, almost mystical experiences occurred while living at The Cabin. Food tasted better. The smell of sagebrush after a thunderstorm was elixir to the senses. Soul travelers from near and far landed on my stoop the next two summers. The dreams that were formulated there shape my life to this day. How many people get to wake up every day, roll into a hot spring and get paid for it? I worked there off and on for the same family for eighteen years.
Many times, life’s road map can be charted in the lines of a person’s face. I “grew up” to be a swim teacher and water movement teacher. I teach people to move in the water through swimming, water exercise and water yoga. My life has been centered around the water and hot springs. These earthen cauldron vortexes fascinate, soothe, and regenerate me. Hopefully you can see it etched on my face!
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Text copyright Jan Marie Smith, 2012
Photographs copyright Jan Marie Smith and Eli Duke