Bathing With a Leper

Visited Soap Lake this weekend. Figured, since we live so close, we should check it out–I'm told that people used to come from all over the world to take advantage of its "healing waters".

The ground along the shoreline was teeming with small flies. And I do mean teeming. As far as you could see in any direction. Surely the water was clean though, right?  We kept our shoes on until the last possibly minute and then sort of wrinkled up our noses and ran across the last slimy (advocates call it "creamy"), buzzing stretch out to the clear water. 
And clear! You could see sunlight on the bottom. No algae, no mud, no silt; it is technically called a meromictic lake: meaning the layers of water do not mix. Ever. Apparently most other lakes do. 
At the bottom, dissolved gas can build up–I'm thinking this was the cause of the bubbles that rose up from the mud. Here and there a steady stream of bubbles–rising up to the surface as though some bottom-dweller lurked below. The only life form we saw were red fish the size of pepper grains. They swam around in what must have been millions to a school–looked like someone had spilled a bottle of Tabasco sauce in the water and it had gradually diluted and swirled out over a huge section of the lake. 
The lake is very shallow–I counted two hundred steps from the shore to where the water almost touched my knee.  The kids said it tastes like play dough. When it dries on the skin it leaves a crusty, white residue. All around us, men and women were coating themselves with the blue-hued mud. That's when I noticed a man off to our right. A few yards away from where my youngest bobbed in his bright green floaty. The man was clearly suffering some kind of illness, the most obvious symptom of which being open, oozing sores all over his body. 
M and I looked at each other. Suddenly "healing waters" took on a whole new meaning. This is where sick people come when they've lost all confidence in conventional medicine. And we're bathing with them?!

Call me small-minded, but we beat a hasty retreat, protesting kidlets in tow, back to our own seaweed-and-algae-filled lake back home

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