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.
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.