The Sauna

In the sauna, with a flask of cheap whiskey in hand, I should be celebrating.  The friends and family around me laugh and yell, another successful day of hiking up peaks and flying down slopes stamped in our memories. Yet the mountains seem to pulse with my loss, gladed bowls of snow-heavy pines drooping under my grief. How do you love a world that has taken your best skiing partner 40 years too soon? Suddenly the humid heat, the brush of another’s arm, the hot, whiskey stomach is too much. I gasp for air, escape.

As I run across the frozen lake under the full moon, still steaming from the sauna, my mind halts it’s catastrophic whirling. The ice burns with cold under the pads of my toes and I envision myself melting holes in the footprints I leave behind, cracking the ice, hell, liquefying the whole damn lake and warming it through the simple steaming heat of my flesh. Diamonds of snow sparkle around my shoulders and stick to my eyelashes. In this instant, I know what it is to be a hail-laden cloud about to release, a damp fogbank creeping towards shore, or a snowstorm blowing east towards the mountains. I am not being healed, not having a spiritual experience, not communing with nature. I am a half-drunk, half-crazed college student, shrieking into the thin December air, naked to the stars. I have no fear of frostbite, or drowning, or becoming lost in the dark stand of Douglas fir playing shadows across the snow. No wait, I have every fear. Combining and swirling the fears arch within me until their magnitude is so great, so intimidating, that I have no choice but to release and accept my fate as human, mortal, expendable. Someday, or maybe now, death will meet me, hand outstretched. I will not cower or hide, I will dance towards that outstretched arm, I will sing, I will bare myself open to this world with all it’s unsung and oversung miseries and joys.

My lap around the lake is ending, my muscles becoming stiff with cold. I yank open the wooden door of the sauna and throw myself into the jumble of sweating limbs.

[More fictional, rough-draft, weekly free writing. I'll post soon about the EmeraldLens' first official "reading" experience, along with a description of workshopping a piece of writing!]

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