Thursday, September 30, 2010

Green Oaks: From the sleeping deck at Harbin Hot Springs, I can see the first sun glancing on the ridge to the south, Harbin Hot Springs' Research

Harbin ethnography:

... In this book, I include some of the histories of virtual Harbin which I have generated, all of which I examine in some detail in the next section: HISTORIES OF HARBIN HISTORICAL AND ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH.

To conclude this section on HARBIN HISTORIES, ACTUAL AND VIRTUAL, I came across this morning (September 30, 2010) a journal note in my organizer from June 14, 2000, which expresses a history of some of the beauty of Harbin, from before my time as a resident (January-June 2005), and my focused field work time in 2008 and early 2009, and which may go on for a long time to come.

Harbin June 14 2000

From the sleeping deck at Harbin Hot Springs, I can see the first sun glancing on the ridge to the south. There are approximately 25 of us in sleeping bags and colorful blankets on the deck. There are a surprising number of mothers and children sleeping together on pads in the open air. Last night in the large, main warm pool we watched the sun meld into twilight, then night.

The unique culture of this community and the physical beauty of the place are what have drawn me back to Harbin repeatedly. It's a haven in the wilderness of modernization, which has sprung up around a natural hot springs at the end of a road 10 miles away from Middletown, California and 2 1/2 hours northeast, through wine country, from San Francisco.

In a way Harbin is a place of dreams made real by the people who live here. There's gentleness among the residents and visitors, an alternative, colorfully clothed way of existence and thinking, a different way of life, an interest in being naked with each other, which centers on the pools. The physical design of the five-pool area is spacious - 300 or 400 people can be here on a weekend with ease. All of Harbin, especially the pool area, blends with the hillside and is comfortable beauty.

In the hills surrounding Harbin there live probably 100 or 200 residents who work in this unique community. Nudity, spiritual teachings, sarongs, batik, woven clothes, top knots, pendants, amulets, long hair, dread locks, yoga, hippie-culture-descendants and a relaxed way of living in a beautiful setting are integral to life here. The fig tree in full, glorious three-lobed leaf above the main pool adds to the marvelous qualities of this place.

Harbin Beauty

The potted plants lining one wall of the pool,
As well as the forested hillside close to the main pool,
Make this place welcoming,
As does the view of the valley from the main pool,
The people coming naked out of the changing area to shower,
The pastel colors of the walls separating the warm pool from the hot pool,
The whale's mouth in the hot pool room out of which the watery bounty of Harbin flows,
The wind chimes in the tree near the cold pool,
The bouquets of flowers around the pools,
The ancient stone stairway leading up the hill to nowhere,
The colorful objects in the trees
And the opportunity to rest naked on the sun deck
And spend the night on the sleeping deck.

That Harbin allows people to come and camp by the creek and also provides visitors with an open, large deck specifically for sleeping is uniquely wonderful. In its 30 or so years of history -- Bob Hartman, now called Ishvara, bought the land in the early 1970s -- it has had its personality conflicts. It must have attracted a very eclectic, interestingly weird group of people early on (and still does) but to this day it seems to have stayed pretty close to its roots, receiving people into a community where soaking and heart consciousness ideas of relaxation and release go hand and hand. Or at least getting away from it all and relaxing in an interesting place. It's the people, their ideas and way of thinking that makes this place unlike any other. There's an administrative structure at Harbin and the place makes money - between 2 and 3 million dollars a year when I last asked a year ago. The Harbin residents who work here cleaning the pool area, the 50 or so guest rooms and in the restaurant, cafe and health food store get paid about minimum wage, while people who sell their massage and Watsu (water dance) skills do better. But Harbin also, for example, will nominally lease space for a restaurant or other businesses to long time residents to own and operate.

One woman in the changing room last night was saying to her friend how strongly some teachings at Harbin, and how Harbin itself, kept drawing her back to visit. Her friend told her there was a pipe circle coming up on Saturday night. I don't know whether her friend was leading the pipe circle or not.

Openness of body and openness of mind, relaxation of gender ...

(MacLeod, Harbin Journal 2000-2001, June 14, 2000)

And the Harbin web site is probably the best, current, online site for Harbin history; it primarily provides information about Harbin and visiting it.


Concurrent with these actual and virtual Harbin histories above, there are the beginnings of a body of historical research about Harbin itself. ...

( - September 30, 2010)

No comments: