Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Spa Water, Saratoga Style

We are in the midst of a heatwave! Some people enjoy the heat, and others can't handle it. I fall into the latter category. I'm just not made for intense heat and humidity. These are days when I really appreciate and carry around with me my awesome Thermos water bottle in which ice cubes remain ice cubes all day long!

Speaking of my water bottle, I have a new obsession that is helping me get through the heatwave: fruit- and herb-infused "spa" water. Oh, it is so refreshing and delicious! Not a spa patron myself, I came across the idea on Pinterest and filed it away for safe keeping. Last week, I was staring at our herb garden, realizing that we have quite a nice supply of herbs and thinking of ways to utilize them. Then I remembered the spa water idea and felt inspired.

Here are my first experiments, from left to right: pineapple-mint, strawberry-mint, lemon-lavender (my favorite), and wild blackberry-sage.

My most recent concoction is watermelon-rosemary. They are all delicious, and I am eager to experiment with other combinations.

They are very easy to make. You just add some fruit and a sprig of fresh herb to a jar. To encourage them to release their flavors, you can poke them gently with a wooden spoon. Then add ice, and fill with water. I might add a stevia leaf or two to the more tart combinations. Then put them in the refrigerator to keep them chilled. You don't drink down the fruit or herbs, but they impart their essence into the water. As we drink the water throughout the day, I fill the jar back to the top to keep up the supply. Then I eventually remove the fruit and herbs the next morning so that only the delicious water remains.

And it truly is "spa" water because we get our water from the State Seal Spring at the Saratoga Spa State Park. With an abundance of natural springs, Saratogians are serious about water. People have flocked here for centuries to receive the "healing" mineral waters - each of them unique in their composition, taste, and purported medicinal qualities.

We, however, stick with the State Seal drinking water.

Twelve months a year, locals go to the State Seal Spring to fill their water jugs, and the conversation while waiting is often interesting. My husband usually spends the time balancing rocks. Once, I was there when a couple got out of their car, joyfully headed to the spring, and began humming to (affect?) the vibration of the mineral water that flows out of one of the spouts. The woman was a student of Dr. Masaru Emoto, and she and her partner were collecting water for some kind of spiritual ceremony.

Today when I arrived at the spring, there were about 15 cars there, which signaled a long wait in the heat. I decided to take a short walk and return in a little while, hopefully when there were fewer people waiting.

Time to take out the camera and explore my old stomping grounds with fresh eyes!

Across the street from the spring is the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), an open-air amphitheater that operates during an extended summer season. My mom worked there for more than 30 years, retiring a few years ago from her position as Assistant to the President.

I spent a great deal of time walking around the SPAC grounds as a preteen and teenager, either waiting for my mom to get out of work and give me a ride home or attending rock concerts, New York City Ballet performances, and Philadelphia Orchestra concerts.

One summer (maybe 1979?), my goal was to attend every single show excluding matinees. I watched many shows from backstage, which was exciting, and got to meet lots of artists - and even babysat their children on occasion. The first rock concert I ever attended was America back in '77 or '78, and I was thrilled to meet and interview band members Gerry Beckley (with whom I was smitten) and Dewey Bunnell in '79. Somewhere in the dark recesses of my parents' basement, the little notebook with my questions and Gerry's responses probably still remains. Meeting teen heartthrob Shaun Cassidy that same summer (twice) was one of the major thrills of my preteen life. I also met and got autographs from numerous other performers, including: Liberace, Aaron Copeland, Eugene Ormandy, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Helen Reddy, all the members of the band Journey, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Dolly Parton, Debby Boone, Rick Springfield, several guest conductors and principal ballerinas, and pianist André Watts. I thought that André Watts, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, Dolly Parton, and Liberace were the friendliest. Meeting classical musicians was a wonderful opportunity for me as a young, aspiring pianist.

Lots of great memories here! And I had just as much fun spending evenings at SPAC visiting with my older friends, many of them teachers, who worked at the gates or backstage - or sitting near my teacher friends who ushered. Sometimes, teachers were the biggest celebrities of all!

On the same grounds is the Hall of Springs, a restaurant and banquet facility where I had my first work experiences, as a water girl in the Patron's Club and a dessert girl in the main hall. It turns out that my husband and I worked there the same summer (when I was a dessert girl and he was a busboy), but neither of us remember each other, most likely because we had our eyes on the waiters and waitresses.

It's interesting what you don't notice when something blends into the landscape of your daily life. For instance, the matching fountains on either side of the Hall of Springs entrance and the statues. How many times must I have walked past them, but they didn't register?

Or the overall architecture of the buildings? I never really took a close look because of the familiarity: That's the building where my mom works. All the times I entered it, it felt quite grand, but I never really took in the details. And the details are quite amazing.

Here is the view of the back side of the Hall of Springs building (colonnaded on both front and back) and adjacent arcades. Opposite it, on the other side of the reflecting pool, is a virtually identical temple, arcade, and pavilion arrangement that houses the park office. SPAC is located immediately behind the Hall of Springs, and SPAC administrative offices are housed upstairs in the Hall of Springs building - quite an aesthetic work environment.

Before today, I also hadn't noticed the inscriptions above the pavilion arches, which I learned were taken from an early nineteenth century poem about the history of Saratoga. The one on the left reads: "These vales so peaceful now were once the scene of French and Indian War and Revolutionary War." And on the right: "Warriors and chiefs here friendly met before Columbus crossed from Europe's shores." A little perspective to remind us that others made memories - and history - here before us.

The geometry of the long arcades is simply fantastic and provides a sense of balance and repose.

After exploring for a while under the hot, noonday sun, I thought it best to return to the spring to fill my water jugs.

Thanks for accompanying me on my little tour down memory lane while waiting to collect more water for making delicious "Saratoga Spa" water! I couldn't resist adding a little local flavor to this post.  :-)

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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