Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

Appreciating the Priceless Gift

Steam at the Top Ponds Steam at the Top Ponds Scott Rappold

For more than 40 years, our second home has been Valley View Hot Springs and OLT. Over the years, when we thought about buying or building a place in the mountains, we always came back to "Why would we want to do that? We have Valley View."

Recently, in an Orient Land Trust (OLT) External Affairs Committee meeting, we were discussing a topic that has been on the minds of many of us who treasure this special place; How will we be able to sustain OLT in the midst of the challenges of this time of uncertainty? As we pondered these questions, only half joking, I (John) said we would mortgage our house in Denver if necessary to help save Valley View. I realized after the meeting, that I wasn't entirely joking; that is how much OLT and Valley View mean to me (and us).

That being said, like many people right now, our financial resources are more limited, given that we are living in a time of economic instability. Yet as we are struggling to rebuild our own financial stability, we also are wanting to help sustain and fortify those causes that matter most to us. This, we realize, is a dance of balance that we all must do --- a balance between self-care and care of and for the greater good. For us, OLT is among those causes that are at the top of our list of what matters most.

As we reflect on why OLT matters so much to us, we find ourselves thinking more broadly about why it's come to matter so much to so many. In ways, it's hard to express in words why this place has grown to be so important to us. If there was a place on earth that comes close to being "home" (which for us is more than a physical place), it's Valley View. The very nature and nurture of this place reflects what home feels like to us.
At Valley View, we can experience the safety and freedom of being oneself in the context of caring and mutual respect for one another and for the land. In that context, we care about the safety of everybody who comes to the hot springs, whether they are visiting for the first time, or have been a part of the OLT community for many years.

A recent example of this experience of feeling safe, respected, and cared for was when we were there this past August, shortly after the hot springs reopened after many months of closure due to the pandemic. While we really missed being there soaking in the soothing waters, walking the wild trails and taking in the beautiful vistas, we were grateful for the thoughtful planning that went into the timing and the precautions taken around decisions about the when and how of reopening. While there, we so deeply appreciated all the measures that were taken to keep everyone safe.

While there are limits to freedom right now, the freedom and renewal of one's spirit at Valley View did not for a moment feel diminished in our recent experience there, and is in fact, always enhanced when we visit this extraordinary place. As we walk the trails, our spirits soar with the hawks, the eagles, and the wonderful bats, and in the healing waters of the hot springs, our bodies, minds and spirits are renewed. Thoreau had his Walden Pond, and we have our Valley View ponds. We wouldn't trade him for a moment!

In extending this care and respect out beyond the people, we deeply value the rare, raw, extraordinary beauty and nurturance of the natural environment. The growing call in our lives to protect and nurture this place is both a shared responsibility and a shared opportunity to be a part of something that is exceptionally uncommon, and in fact incomparably unique and truly precious.

The hot springs have been reopened at a drastically reduced capacity, which comes at a great cost to the Orient Land Trust. That being said, this decision was made in alignment with the values of OLT, to protect all who visit. As members of the OLT community, we invite you to join us in shared stewardship. In giving what we can, together we will help to ensure that this special place and all the gifts that it offers, will continue to be here for us and for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

John and Suzanne Mariner

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 September 2020 03:20

Orient Land Trust is a nonprofit land trust
dedicated to the preservation of Valley View Hot Springs (VVHS) and its viewshed—
including natural and biologic resources, agricultural lands, wildlife habitat,
open space, and historic and geologic features of the northern San Luis Valley—
for the education and enjoyment of current and future generations.