And there when lengthening twilights fall
As softly as a wild bird's wing,
Across the valley in the dusk
I hear the silver flute of spring.
—Bliss Carman (1912) via Echoes from Vagabondia
Here's what you do.
You go to Desert X, the continuously-expanding and awesome art moment in California's Coachella Valley, now in its third year and iteration (and showing until May 16th). You bear witness to a panorama of impressive installations and sculptures, consider the political and historical context in which they're placed, and shoot photos. You have a lunch. You consider your speck-like role on Earth. You roll the windows down. You breathe some fresh, warm air as it swirls about the desert—air long-deserved after this oppressive and unequivocal period of social immobility, fear, and stress.
Then you soak.
See, this part's pretty obvious. Those of us fortunate enough to occasionally retreat to the desert do so for its sunsets, its mental clarity-making, but perhaps above all: its pools and tubs.
Enter Two Bunch Palms, a sustainable, elementally-transportive and marvelous wellness retreat in the heart of Desert Hot Springs, a jaunt up the road from Palm Springs. See, Two Bunch services its stylish grounds by drawing from an aquifer deep below the Earth—in fact, one of the cleanest and purest sources of water in the country—without the requisite Palm Spring ingredients of chlorine, crowds, and other chemicals.
This is a different kind of retreat, and a different kind of hot spring experience.
Odorless, infused with calming lithium, and varying in soothing temperatures throughout the palm-draped grounds, Two Bunch harkens that old school tradition of restorative bathing, something championed by cultures all over the world, but often lost or misinterpreted in the States.
See, I chiefly only know hot springs for their context in nature. Up the grapevine alongside the Kern River near Bakersfield, for instance, or deep in the mountains of Idaho and Utah. There, the elemental immersion is incomparable. There is nothing like it. Even the smell of sulfur is cradling and calming.
Of course, motels and centers peppered all over the American West have sought to create hospitality around these pools for many years. I visited one up near Glacier National Park a couple of years ago, for instance, in Western Montana. And while these centers can be special and even refreshingly kitsch, they're often somewhat unkempt, boast an affinity with Astroturf, and tend to attract children by the barrel-full (all welcome sights, of course, but not always what the doctor ordered when prescribing some quality rest and relaxation!). Corral four walls around that sulfur smell and it becomes something else altogether.
Two Bunch was in fact founded in the 1930s, but not until a renovation in 2014—spearheaded by owner Erica Chang—did it ascend the motel-meets-natural-pools concept, and enter a liminal and surreal occupancy of body and mind. On site: a yoga temple, tennis courts, mediation zones, a fantastic and coolly modern restaurant and wine program, attentive and contemporary service (meaning you're not "five star" harassed every two minutes) and, of course, a wealth of natural pools (all outdoors in the unrelenting breezes and other-worldliness of the Coachella Valley).
This is the destination to pair with your art romp. As much as we like the "hubs" of central PS, where said chlorine can sometimes feel more concentrated (perhaps even imported!), the transcendence here is better aligned with the expansive and emancipatory artworks scattered across the mountains, flats, and wind-pummeled plains of the area's dynamic and unique surrounds—a more consummate escape.
And if not for your art romp, for your long-awaited and very necessary deep exhale and uncoiling following this remarkable period, where life has felt exceedingly limited—the total opposite of the many millions year-old elixir that feeds the vestibules of Two Bunch Palms.
Desert X artists include:
Zahrah Alghamdi (born 1977, Al Bahah, Saudi Arabia, based in Jeddah)
Ghada Amer (born 1963, Cairo, Egypt, based in New York)
Felipe Baeza (born 1987, Guanajuato, Mexico, based in New York)
Judy Chicago (born 1939, Chicago, US. based in Belen, New Mexico)
Serge Attukwei Clottey (born 1985, Accra, Ghana, based in Accra)
Nicholas Galanin (born 1979, Sitka, Alaska, US, based in Sitka)
Alicja Kwade (born 1979, Katowice, Poland, based in Berlin)
Oscar Murillo (born 1986, Valle del Cauca, Colombia, based in various locations)
Christopher Myers (born 1974, New York, US, based in New York)
Eduardo Sarabia (born 1976, Los Angeles, US, based in Guadalajara, Mexico)
Xaviera Simmons (born 1974, New York, US based in New York)
Kim Stringfellow (born 1963, San Mateo, CA, US, based in Joshua Tree)
Vivian Suter (born 1949, Buenos Aires, Argentina, based in Panajachel, Guatemala)