Sauna Sadness – History’s Mist


August 28, 2018. Old wood-fired saunas carry memories, and I was washed with them as I bid a final bittersweet farewell to this sauna and the farmhouse next to it. Both were built by my Finnish-immigrant grandparents. This is where 21 children were born, created from the same parents. (Three died in infancy.) This is where I spent many happy childhood summers learning to milk cows, jump in the hay, swim in the river – and pull ticks. This is where I gained my lifelong need to stay connected to my extended family. I made the 1.5-hour drive here from my camp to remember the past and reactivate its link to the present before it passes to new owners. My dear Aunt Martha was born here and is the last survivor, still vibrant at 101. As I recently learned, she once owned the property that is now in my name. So the circle continues!

The couple who built this sauna begat hundreds of descents. I’m the youngest of their grandchildren, 2nd-generation Americans, and I feel the weight of that “bottom anchor.” History feels like a mist around me as I let the tears well. Before I leave, I pick up a few sauna stones to install at my camp. Then I stand in the empty plot where the old barn once stood and close my eyes in memory and gratitude. Hyvasti! — in Bruce Crossing, Michigan.

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