My good friend Daniel has come home for a few days so we decided to take the trailer sauna down to Podunk, his family’s homestead, where, as a youth, I was indoctrinated in the way of the sauna. The old shack built by the original Finnish owner of the property has long since gone to the squirrels, but our memories of saunaing on cool summer evenings are still as vivid as the lush green canopies of the giant poplar trees that stand as sentinels in the field by the riverbank, keeping the creek from advancing any further as it swishes across the valley. On a geologic scale, the creek— the same that carved the falls at Taughannock— slithers like a snake, back and forth, carving a new path every few years. In our short lives we can remember when it made this turn or that, turning a rocky bank into an inviting swim hole or turning the old dipping spot—the one we would run down to from that old sauna, hooting and hollering— into a rocky shallow.
There is a new swim hole now. It’s an Olympic sized pool compared to what we used to dip in, allowing for real swimming as opposed to the slow rolls we used to take in the knee deep water just below where the pipeline crosses. As we lay there with our heads pulsing from the effect we called “sauna stoned,” minnows would nibble on our fresh cooked skin. With this new hole, the creek is more perfect for a sauna now than it was then.
I parked the trailer just on the edge of the bank and fired it up. The fact it was close to the creek where the spring high water often lapped the trunks of the poplars did not matter; this was a temporary affair, a brief encounter with our own youth, a dip into the pool of nostalgia. Once it was hot we climbed aboard and were transported back in time some forty years. My little stove holds a hundred pounds of rocks, all glacial erratics, transported here by the great river of ice in a time before memory. When heated, those rocks are capable of producing the best löyly, letting off a burst of steam that sends us out the door and clambering down the banks to the sweet cool water of the creek. It’s impossible not to let out a few whoops.
It’s good to be back home.