a sanctuary

The spa is described as “a sanctuary for the self.” Its warm waters flow out past big metal gates, down the California valley filled with spring wildflowers.

Behind the gates is an old hotel, with polished wood and soft beds. Behind the gates are steaming pools, sheltered from the road, hung about with rice paper lanterns that glow softly at night.

In the pools, pink bodies float silently, eyes closed. Around them, brown bodies move efficiently, changing the sheets, sweeping the stairs, cleaning the gutters. Making the guests comfortable. The guests can relax; they are safe, in sanctuary here. (You can’t just walk in. You don’t get past the gates unless they know you.)

The guests are taking sanctuary— from the world that they, in fact, own. The spa says it offers them healing, but they will be disappointed. Hot water and silence will not relieve them of the burdens of ownership.

Outside the gates, the water flows on through the valley. Finally, reduced to a trickle, it will be lost in a vast ocean that batters itself daily against the crumbling fortress of land.