This weekend, I was fortunate enough to chat with Dr. Miller about life, the past, reflection, and more. One thing we were talking about is a discussion that started with some guests* (on Facebook, of all places) about Wilbur Hot Springs, the Nature Preserve, and the old buildings disappearing, with a couple new ones popping up. It’s somewhat tit for tat - Ernie Pierson’s house came down due to safety reasons (it was at the point where you could blow on it and it would tumble into dust), and Richard is putting up his cabin in its place. Because of that, his trailer will eventually move out, and Sarana (our beloved yoga darling and Richard’s daughter) has her Yurt in lieu of his trailer. It’s an amazing time, and I could see how the visual shock would make someone nervous… but it’s always more complex than an emotive reaction, or judgement without all the facts.
So.. yup. There’s 2 buildings there that didn’t exist before. It’s also important to realize that Richard bought the space of the nature preserve precisely so it wouldn’t be developed by more aggressive (and vociferous) land owners. Time marches on, and as such, changes happen to every topography. In fact, there used to be a bustling city back there, and our nature preserve is one of the only reverse developed places in all of California! That’s fairly amazing, and we are proud to have been a big part of that.
But now - the future! What can we expect?
I think it’s best put by a story Richard relayed this weekend. I will do my best to properly quote him. It was in regard to inevitable changes, and how to counter them. In this, we were talking about Ernie’s home - something that doesn’t exist anymore except for memories as exist on cloud servers throughout the internet, like this one, or this one. I love how people called it names, like Old Man Mcgillicutty’s place.
Ernie’s house became entertainment, almost like television in a place of no flickering images - people would simply sit and comprehend. With so little stimuli to distract, the most mundane minutia became epic adventures for our guests and friends. Instead of being a dilapidated piece of junk we zoomed by, it existed as an ancient palace that defiantly waited in the hallways of purgatory - a lone survivor from a neglected civilization that was to be explored as it trembled to dust and rot through decades of neglect.
There wasn’t one person that didn’t feel drawn to that building in some way, and it’s expected passing is still jarring, if not logical. People were getting hurt, and we soon realized that, in due time, it wouldn’t be the errant nail or splinter causing the problem. So off it shoved, wood reclaimed and memories parceled out as best they could.
The above is a picture of the house, color washed out like it’s presence against time.
Dr Miller had this to say:
“So it goes. It couldn’t last forever, it was unsafe, but it’s hard to see something like that ‘end’. I knew Ernie, and he lived there his whole life, over 80 years - the *only* place he *ever* lived. Scores of decades of watching that huge city turn into nothing but him. Not long before he passed away, we had a chance to chat at length (as we were prone to do), I asked him what he thought was the biggest change during his lifetime. Ernie said, ‘The automobile. The car’.
‘These roads are all the same. The major highways, the roads - Sacramento or through Wilbur’s hills - are identical. Nothing has changed. It’s just that they’re blacktop now. Before, when you were drawing a carriage with a horse, you would amble back and forth between these hills, and when you saw another human on their cart being drawn by a horse… you damn well stopped. You spoke to one another. You see them from miles off, and you couldn’t just whizz by. You stopped, and you talked - about the direction you were going, the direction you were coming from - but you connected and you spoke. It wasn’t kindness or community, it was simply what you did. To not do so wouldn’t have been rude or bad - it would have been unheard of.’
‘Then the car - the auto. All of a sudden, people are moving faster, people are gettin’ to where they’re going, and there wasn’t time to stop. There wasn’t a need to pull over and chat - you’d stop the car, roll down the windows - it just wasn’t the priority. So that change was bigger than the auto - it altered communication. We don’t connect, or care to. Our community of humans got pushed aside so we could get where we were going. It never was the same.’”
It’s an amazing story - something as simple as the auto swept aside a real, engaged, interested community. It’s telling, it’s fitting, and it’s powerfully relevant. That same community is the one that doesn’t know how to slow down - and the one that needs to slow down more than anything. It’s always a pleasure to see people rolling up our windy road to motor into our little respite. The enthusiasm and energy is obvious as it is intoxicating, and it’s well worn on the faces of our family as they are, as burners refer to the playa, “coming home”.
But this history of the area, and the people, and the stories, all beg one greater concern - and takes into account something much bigger than Wilbur’s brick and mortar buildings. The way people reacted to the passing of Ernie Pierson’s home, just as they reacted to a new landscape in the preserve (and just how they will react in eons to Richard’s cabin tumbling, or the Yurt finding solace in entropy’s grasp) -
We have one of the most incredible communities in the world. It is a special family, of amazing people…. and we value it immensely. What’s more, we want to share our community with other people… meaning those who would love to know about us but do not, and in knowledge of Wilbur may change their lives - and potentially other lives beyond that one - all for the better. As I commented on this previous post, we need to recenter, unplug, truly escape, and reconnect with the humans we once knew ourselves to be. The scientific evidence (if you are into that sort of thing, which many of us are) is *overwhelming*.
So - connections. How do we do that? How do we make people slow down, roll down their metaphoric windows, and talk about where we are going, or where we are coming from? We think we are starting out right… finding all of you here, there, everywhere online. We also think it’s time to start talking more at Wilbur about what makes this place special to one another, and learning more from the amazing people that wander our halls…. so be open to sharing with one another at Wilbur - and don’t feel so closed off that you can’t utter a word to a stranger-new-friend.
What’s more - we are open to expanding our community, our connections, and our philosophy, culture, and existence to those who may not have found us yet. That means we are open to ideas, and beseech you for your thoughts…. How can we open Wilbur to a wider array of people and those that *need* to know about us, but haven’t found us yet?
What kind of changes have you seen in your lifetime, and what sort of change have you been part of? We hope to inspire change and energize our community - and we want to hear from you how you are sharing Wilbur Hot Springs, and what it means to you? Whether through past photos, paintings, thoughts, stories… we would love to hear from you. Even if it’s just another picture of Ernie’s house… share it with us. Mr. Pierson will appreciate knowing his memory and tiny footprint won’t ever leave the hearts and minds of Wilbur Hot Springs.
As always, let us know your thoughts!
Michael with Dr. Miller at WHS
* It’s hard to humor the idea of these people as “guests”, in that their critical commentary was veiled by the anonymity of fake profiles. We take every interaction and comment seriously, whether on Facebook or in front of our faces during real dialog and discussion at Wilbur…. but it’s hard to lend credibility to someone when their profiles are Idi Amin, the (potentially literal) bloodthirsty dictator from late 1970’s Uganda. If you have an opinion, it’s valued no matter what. Don’t hide behind fake profiles to make a point.