Guest post series continues, please welcome Meade Acers to Saunatimes.
The value of sauna does not just lie in its health benefits as some may tell you, but instead in its power to bring people together. To bring people inward, towards tradition and towards the earth, towards our most pure and human form.
Leaving Minnesota to explore new horizons has been a wonderful adventure, but it also means leaving the loving arms of my family and leaving the sauna of my home. This breaking away from my roots is necessary, but it also means that I become more isolated from the way in which I grew up and that is nearest and most comforting to me. The symbolism of my family sauna has become my respite from homesickness, finding its way into my life in many unexpected ways. Through spiritual reflection, I have been inspired by the many ways in which sauna manifests itself in my life, from stories in the Kalevala to my own architectural research and creation during the culmination of my undergraduate degree this past semester. I love sauna and find that sauna culture has permeated my life, helping me to understand the concept of ‘communing’.
Growing up, nobody outside of my family pronounced sauna correctly and it made me wince. Since then, I have learned that sauna is hard to know. I have learned that it is a privilege to know sauna as a word passed down throughout many generations. This love and care for such a ritual was not lost as my family lost their language, their traditional names and their cultural identity. It is a powerful thing to know how sauna has found its way into the basements of our Finnish grandparents all across Minnesota.
Communing in general involves much ‘jaksaa’, but we are made better because of it (jaksaa is a verb meaning drive or motivation that manifests itself into action). This action is taken to gather; to share community, culture and tradition — in sauna. We are able to feel connected to the earth as we brave the cold and heat alike, are made clean from the steam, and remember how Finns of old would do the same. I am able to learn from my elders in sauna at a deep level and in a much more connective way than I would without this ancient and meaningful ritual.
The moral of this story is to seek out sauna, if you once knew it — to seek it out as old Finns do. Or, in the case that you do not know it yet, to be open to it’s allure, to its transformative nature, and to be cleansed by the steam. I urge you to feel the steam envelop your body, to feel naked and unashamed, to be overcome by the fragrance of young birch, terva (tar) and cedar. After you feel clean and ready to taste the outside air, step into the night, step into darkness — like a cloak — and tell the stars your story.
Thank you to my dear family for bringing me up in this way, and thank you to those who wish to brave the sauna and begin to understand its importance in the lives of Finns.
Meade is a Finnish-American gen-z, with a particular draw towards sauna. She is a proponent of outdoor living and of lovely, thoughtful architecture. Graduating from the University of Minnesota in May 2021, she has an architecture undergraduate degree. There, she also earned her Finnish language proficiency. She has had wonderful opportunities to connect her passion for Finnish language, culture, music and architecture through spheres like Salolampi, University of Minnesota, and playing fiddle with Ralph Tuttila and others at Lauluaika. Traveling far and wide in her search for sauna, she is now interpreting this love into a career through design and writing.
This article originally appeared at www.luumuabc.com and appears here by permission of the publisher and author.