Place is an amazing phenomenon. How is it that in one location a person feels no depth, no connection? However, at a different location suddenly the environment resonates within. Suddenly we feel the joy of being in a place in which we fit. I had the privilege of experiencing a place recently but I wasn’t alone in that experience. I was blessed with the company of family, family who joined with me in my experience and made it all the richer. It is great when an individual can connect with a place but when a place so perfectly clicks with an entire family it is truly incredible.
Symes Hot Springs and the town of Hot Springs Montana welcomed a small portion of my family last weekend. Upon reflection I can’t help but draw a number of parallels between the quirky and slightly rundown motel and my unique and fabulous family. While I would have loved to experience the location with my entire family this trip consisted of two sisters, my mom and a niece. A tiny selection, to be sure but there was certainly a reason that the five of us were able to make the trip together.
As my mom and I pulled up to the pools, next to the motel, she turned to me and said, “It’s kind of a dump, isn’t it?” I laughed and reminded her that we were forewarned by my sister, Tonya, that Symes was anything but a luxurious resort. In fact as you open the car door the smell is as overwhelming as many places in Yellowstone. The whole town is permeated with the odor of sulfur and other minerals. The buildings of the motel look, shall we say, well used. The property is sprinkled with the detritus of time. Cars that haven’t touched wheels to pavement in more than 25 years sit collecting dust; discarded vending machines display the logos of the past. Among all of the trash, being cleverly disguised as an antique store, are a few treasures but for the most part this is a place unconcerned with adornment. It is a place proud to be what it is and unapologetic for its dilapidation. It is our kind of place. Immediately I felt at home. Our conversations over the next few days revolved around the humor and comfort found in a place so like our family. It is rough around the edges; it is misjudged by many but at its heart is has a depth and earthy healing quality that becomes a magnet for all sorts of incredible people. Like our family it has a sense of humor and a sense of mystery, both things come together to create a surprising level of quirky comfort. The water in the pools, which are reminiscent of a Motel 6 from the 80s, coats your skin with the salt of the earth and leaves you feeling silky and energized. By the time we left my mom declared, “I could live here, I wouldn’t even need to fix up the cabins.”