Steaming Man

I stepped out of the sauna, onto the big rock this little cottage is built on, and walked a few yards along the wooden gangway through the reeds that leads to the jetty where we’d tied up the rowing boat. I stood there a while, admiring the coloured fringe of the post-sunset sky. In the cool evening air a delicate mist was rising. Off me, I realised.

The sauna’s effect of course. But I prefer to imagine it’s because of all the manly stuff I did today. Chopping woods and rowing boats and toting bails, that sort of thing. Worked so hard, didn’t need no durn sauna. Steam-cleaned mahself.

Fending off deadly predators too. Mosquitos. Don’t laugh, the mosquito is the most dangerous wild animal in Africa. They aren’t the most dangerous wild animal here, no, but I think that’s rather beside the point.

Perhaps though the hardest task today was taking my turn at looking after two girls, both under seven. It becomes even greater a challenge when your vocabulary in their language does not include such useful phrases as “Put it down”, “Stop doing that she doesn’t like it”, “Does your mother normally let you play with those?” and “Where the hell are you going now?” So far my Finnish extends not much further than yes, thank you, and good; a polite and positive vocabulary, but one that has little application in these circumstances.

I just have to learn to say no.

Strange Thoughts In The Night

Do you ever wake up suddenly in the middle of the night with a strange idea you just have to write down?

Well no, I don’t much either. But last night it happened. In the morning I found this:

I believe in God, and God believes In me.
It’s a Folie à Dieu

Where do thoughts like that come from? I have no idea. Theologically though it seems pretty solid. We invented God, but God invented us. So everything works out OK.

Anyway, we mixed it up a bit yesterday and actually didn’t go swimming in the sea. We tried one of Finland’s many billions of lakes instead. Beautiful; all surrounded by silver birch forest. In the cool of the evening, with families playing and little fish swimming around our ankles. The biggest difference from the sea was afterwards; last night was the first since coming here that I didn’t have a shower before bed. I could not have felt more thoroughly washed than I did after that lake.

Good news for anyone envying me though – it was finally too wet to go swimming today. l had to make do with a sauna.

I don’t know if you have a clear image of a sauna. It’s not at all the same thing as a steam room, more an oven to cook yourself in. Any accurate description sounds too dangerous to be quite believable, but seriously it is a sealed room where, using fire and steam, you get as hot as you can possibly bear. Then you close yourself in and sit there, sweating profusely, for as long as you can possibly bear. Then you go and take a cold shower or jump in the snow or something, for as long as you can possibly bear. Have a beer perhaps. And go back in to get unfeasibly hot all over again for as long as you can possibly bear.

For some unknown reason, this doesn’t kill you. Apparently it even does you good – I certainly feel good. I’m unclear about how it’s supposed to work, but my guess would be that the general principle is to kill every single living thing in the vicinity of you, that isn’t you. Bacteria, fungal spores, small mammals, anything that might try to infest you during the long winter months.

The heat must of course also be a great comfort on those long, frozen-solid nights. Doing it in the summer almost feels like cheating.