Hello! My name is Connie, and I have recently finished construction on a backyard, wood-burning sauna. I am thankful to Glenn for his inspirational Sauna Times website and this opportunity to share my thoughts on sauna bathing with other enthusiasts.
I am 100% Finnish-American, raised in the Finn country on the South Shore of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Growing up, I took sauna baths every Saturday night, at least. When I left the U.P. for college in Saint Paul, my sauna-going took a backseat to starting up an adult life. Electric saunas in health clubs, et. al., were poor imitations of the real deal, and once I had my own home, I would wistfully imagine my own sauna in the backyard or basement.
It took me 20 years, but I finally screwed up the gumption to take on the project this past summer.
I was in the middle of a long project of taking apart and redesigning my old flower garden when I started to have overwhelming thoughts. “Now’s the time. You can do this. This is the perfect spot for a sauna. The perfect spot!” I shared my dream with a couple close friends and neighbors, who were overwhelmingly supportive. Thusly motivated, I bent my back to the work of digging out the foundation for a concrete slab.
Slab pouring was in mid-July.
A course of concrete block was laid a week later, and the carpentry started in earnest the first week of August. August and September are slow months in my business, so I had many open days to concentrate on the build. Having an unemployed neighbor with an F-150 was another favorable factor, and the sauna was ready for bathing the first weekend of October. I spent the rest of October, in-between sauna baths, finishing up the trim in the changing room, soffits, landscaping, etc. I cannot begin to tell you how easier it has been to face this winter with a sauna providing warmth, relaxation and camaraderie.
It was hard work, but familiar work. Construction is in the blood of a Finn. Growing up, I helped my father on many construction projects, and the skills I learned as a kid thankfully stayed with me enough that I was able to manage all the steps by myself. The design is my own, no plans, no kits.
The best part is feeling like I am living as a Finn should live.
A Finn needs sauna, needs to smell real wood, needs to get naked and feel the heat and löyly. The little tasks that create a great sauna bathing session, fetching water, building and stoking the fire, shaking out the rugs in the changing room, etc, become a grounding ritual and contribute to an aesthetic that connects me to pre-immigration ancestors in Finland. I am thankful for this opportunity to share the joys of sauna with others, and gain more enthusiasts to its pleasures. I have taken to referring to sauna as “slow bathing”, in line with the ever evolving “slow food” movement. Whatever works!
Many who are unfamiliar with sauna bathing worry themselves about learning some secret set of rules or risks.
I try to model an attitude of mellowness and acceptance, which are attitudes that sauna encourages. When your naked body encounters a ladle full of steam (löyly) for that first time, you have no choice – as your body mellows to soak the steam in, your brain relaxes to accept the experience. In those moments when the löyly is at its most intense, you are fully engaged in the moment. Your brain is neither directing nor analyzing the experience, which allows you to be fully, physically, present. No amount of talking can ready the first-timer for the real deal. No amount of writing can describe the experience of löyly, which I revere as the spiritual core of sauna.
Glenn willing, I am looking forward to continuing to share information on my sauna, and musings on the sauna experience of slow bathing.
Onnellinen sauna ajat! (Happy Sauna Times! – at least according to the internets!)