I walked out into the warm sunshine, wrapped in a post-massage fuzzy haze, when the hummingbird stopped, hovering at eye level. We looked at each other for a still second before he sped away.
Sinking down into the nearby rough-hewn wooden chair conveniently nestled among the fragrant, potted herbs, I breathed deeply. In slow motion, a single word squeezed into my befuddled mind and blossomed into large Day-Glo colored, cartoon-shaped letters.
Discovering New Mexico’s Mineral Springs
We’d driven from Austin through West Texas to spend a few days at Ojo Caliente, a historic mineral springs resort and spa located outside of Taos, New Mexico. At the end of July, my husband, James, had had knee replacement surgery, so we needed a drivable destination–and when you live in Texas, it’s hard to get outside our borders. From Austin, that’s seven, eight hours just to leave the state. Originally, we’d planned a beach get-away to Sarasota but Florida’s incredible red algae bloom literally killed that trip.
To save our vacation, I’d gone online to investigate other bodies of appealing water we could reach and discovered Ojo Caliente.
Immediately, we were intrigued. Neither of us had ever been to a mineral springs. Between the healing natures of the four different pools–lithia (believed to relieve depression and aid digestion), iron (beneficial to blood and immune system), soda (digestive issues), and arsenic (arthritis, stomach ulcers, and skin conditions)–and therapeutic massage, Ojo Caliente sounded like a great place to recuperate (James) and refresh (me). [Here’s the link if you want to learn more about those amazing pools.]
The resort was everything we’d hoped for. I highly recommend splurging on the Posi Suite, because our room was amazing. Included was our own private mineral soaking tub and a kitchenette, complete with microwave, mini fridge, and dinnerware, for enjoying wine and snacks in the room. We relaxed, reading by the fire in the morning, hiking the resort’s trails, soaking in the group pools, gazing at the heavens and hills from our tub, and dining on delicious, locally-sourced food at the restaurant.
The grounds, full of native plants and herbs and nestled between springs, river, and hills, were so beautiful! There’s just something about the mix of colors that soothes.
Even the way the air smelled–fresh and clean and slightly spicy–was peaceful.
Experiencing Hot Stone Massage
Naturally, we got around to the spa. James had a couple of massages to treat those sore, healing leg muscles. First, I had a wonderful facial. And then, I decided to try a new experience. The earth was playing such an amazing part in our adventure–the first few days at Palo Duro Canyon and then ending with Carlsbad Cavern–it seemed only fitting to get a little more intimate with New Mexico’s geology. I’d get a hot stone massage.
Based on the description, I expected a fairly typical massage followed by quietly resting and relaxing under the still weight of a few well-placed, warm stones.
“Earth Keepers’ Hot Stone Massage: Therapists use warm, oiled basalt stones (gathered from the nearby Rio Grande River) combined with harmonizing massage strokes to soothe your muscles, balance your energy, and relieve tension. Large stones, steeped in Ojo mineral waters, are places at special points of the body to help ground, calm, and relax the mind and nervous system.”
That massage wasn’t what I’d expected.
The massage therapist kneaded my knotted muscles with those stones. Yes, at times, some rested on the backs of my knees and abdomen (or was it my chest? it’s all kind of hazy). But the smooth round rocks, hot and slick with oil in the therapist’s hands, moved actively over my body, sometimes in long strokes, like a rolling pin; other times, unrelentingly pushed into pressure points. When one cooled, a hot one took its place.
At times, whispered words, like a prayer, floated above me. Internal tangles let go; from the soles of my feet, tension flowed outward, released into the waters, passing away.
Call me woo-woo or New Age-y, but the experience felt mystical, old, and somehow more than just a massage.
Afterward, the massage therapist thanked me for “being open and willing to go so deep” into the experience. Then, she gently placed her hand on my arm, stared intently into my face, and said,
“Remember; your body is a perfect machine. Listen to it.”
I hadn’t discussed living with pervasive fatigue and hot shame at my body’s weight and lack of fitness–how sad (and disgusted) I’d been at my physical self for the last three years. She’d initially asked why did you choose this treatment? I’d responded I’d never had a hot stone massage and was intrigued; it felt fitting to try one here, where the ruggedly beautiful land had so thoroughly enchanted me.
I hadn’t say anything about my body feeling broken.
Later, sitting in that wooden chair, befuddled and blinking in the sunlight, muscles loose and quivering, I knew I’d received a message. Between the hot stones, soothing water, and hummingbird, the universe had told me it was time to heal.