I try to finish all the prep work at least 30 minutes before my guest arrive, enough time to take my spot on the top bench, close my eyes, and I listen. I listen for the quality of the fire. Is it roaring or dwindling? Steady or gasping for air? I know in a matter of seconds if I need to add wood or use a different type of log.

And of course the real fire! But John and Bud were still very lonely…

And of course the real fire! But John and Bud were still very lonely…

Once the fire is tuned in. I sit. I sit. I sweat—and, I listen. I listen to the branches scratching the steel roof, to the front door creaking on its rusty hinges, to my body and the aches and pains I had, up to that moment, been too busy to notice. I cycle through the sounds, studying them anew until I hear boots on the steps, a mitten fumbling for the doorknob, and warm murmurs filling the changing room.

I try to guess who it is. I’m right most of the time, at least for the regulars. When I’m wrong, I listen to that too. A new frequency that often points to the fuel we’ll be burning that night: a job lost, a lover found, a deadline approaching.

I wish listening was always as easy and beautiful as it is in the sauna.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a quaint coffee shop in Buenos Aires with a heap of anxiety, excitement and fear. I desperately want to burn these feelings in a glorious bonfire of wanderlust distractions. God knows there’s no shortage of options here. Yet here I sit, listening to the flicker of emotions dancing in my heart. I want to leap away into a new project, job, romance—anything that might distract me enough to diminish this shifty discomfort. But as I turn from the fire, a silent sterling voice calls me back. “Sit down,” it says in that tone of truth that changes your life before the meaning of the words even reach my ears.

I can think of a hundred things I want to do, projects I want to start, people I want to call and places to go today. But my “sauna side” is telling me to sit down and listen to this fire just a bit longer.