Rabbit Lake Sauna

Lakeside Sauna

Rabbit Lake Sauna

Saunas are ubiquitous in Finland and just about the same in Aitkin, MN and Crystal Falls, MI, where I grew up.  Most weren’t as romantically located as this one, a modern day example at a second home.  My family were by and large farmers and saunas were workaday baths, situated somewhere on the property, but generally not picturesquely next to a lake.  I’m very interested in painting saunas right now.  I’ve wanted to have one at my home for years — opportunities to take a sauna at the homes of my relatives have become increasingly less frequent,  because, well, they’re in Minnesota — and I’ve just figured out how I might do it.  So, this is my first sauna painting.  Our family tradition was to visit for sauna on a Saturday nights.  Coffee would be served.  The men would go right away for the hottest of the steam, while the women laid coffee, pulla (cardamom-flavored, sweet bread) and cookies on the table.  Then, the women would go, from the oldest to the youngest.  Most saunas in my youth had electricity, but they didn’t have running water.  The stoves were fed with wood.  There would be multiple milk cans in the dressing room.  We would fill our pails before entering the steam room, wetting our washcloths in the cool water and laying them over our faces so we could breathe.  When it came time to wash, we’d ladle water out of the hot water reservoir next to the stones on top of the stove and mix it with the cool water in our pails, then scrub up, dumping the pail over our heads to rinse off.  Sometimes we’d have to fill more than one pail, of course.  We’d come back to the kitchen tables, pink faced, with towels wrapped around our heads and talk for hours.  It’s a very good memory.

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