There's this hot springs out here in the middle of Idaho, a sleepy little mom-and-pop establishment that has two swimming pools directly fed by the springs themselves. The geothermal water is soft and plush, like silk draping your skin. It's the kind of water that makes you savor hours; it tells you something about why those near Eastern and Mediterranean cultures built bathhouses bigger than cathedrals.
Miracle Hot Springs draws all kinds of folk. There are plenty of retirees and outpatient-types, recuperating or visiting regularly for therapeutic purposes. There's the occasional broad dose of teenagers and college kids flirting and cavorting. And there are the curious wanderers, in the area to kayak or mountain climb, or to play with puppets in local elementary schools, lord knows what drives those people. The Springs have a suite of private tubs and four or five resident masseuses (masseii? masseese?), who charge unbelievably reasonable rates (as of this posting, $55.00 for 1 hour). You get a complimentary private tub to soak in both before and after your massage. For all intents and purposes, it's like getting 10 years added to your lifespan in one visit.
All the folks who live and work nearby are angelic and ethereal, and they speak in lilting, dulcet tones. They can glance a smile at you, and suddenly the world is brimming with hope and promise. Vistas of opportunity unfold like a Woody Guthrie song in your head. The great American novel unveils itself in the innermost chambers of your jubilant heart--it's true, I'm telling you it's there. Of course, it goes away about five minutes after you get back on the Interstate, but every time I visit Miracle Hot Springs I end up drafting half my Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech in the walk from the pool to the changing room.
Improbably enough, they've got a trio of alligators that somehow made their way up to this place. There's a painted box turtle, too, and they sit in their own little pond off to the side, their eyes veiled and still like stones, watching and waiting. From time to time they waddle away into the murk. It could be snowing, delicate friezes of ice might edge the pond, and these guys just bask by the font of the hot spring, waiting and watching. No doubt dreaming up their own great American novels that ultimately make for only tepid rivals to mine, because these guys are reptiles, after all, and they can be cold-blooded like Ahab when it comes to this sort of thing.