by Brad Cole
There was a foot of fresh snow on the ground and inside the sauna you could hear the whistling of the evening wind. The thinly planked walls had a gap open to the outside just beneath the roof. I was sitting on a bench next to a short door going into the steam room.
Crawling inside the small very low-roofed room I lit a tea candle and put it in a back corner. I sat in the dark naked and alone on a piece of cardboard.
Scooping up water in an empty can and tossing it a couple of times on the woodstove created long hard waves of fiery steam that swiftly squeezed out the juice-like sweat of my body. The bottom of the chimney glowed a rusty orange.
Suddenly another dense hot wave of flame washed over me causing streams of sweat to roll into my eyes and drip off my face. The burning heat drained me of strength and determination.
The shadow of myself on a wall looked like an animal rising up out of a dark forest. I laid down on the floor, curling my feet away from the woodstove. The smell of pine branches that I brought inside was thick through the air.
Soon I felt that it was time to get up but lacked the power to do so. The scorching heat was like a jungle cat that had pounced on and was holding me down to the floor. It’s claws tearing apart every fiber of my terribly weakened will. Only by rocking back and forth could I regain some self-control in the burning heat.
I turned quickly over to my stomach and crawled through the small door back into the dressing room, white steam pouring out from the dark sauna.
While lying exhausted on the cold floor I felt I only had my solitude for strength while struggling against the raging fire. When facing the senseless flames of life we should never lose the heart it takes to raise ourselves up off the floor. I want a life that will lift my spirit, I reflected hopefully, while staring faintly at the frosty ceiling, steam rising still from my body.
Finally back on my feet, I put on a warm shirt and pants under a large, thick robe and returned home through the deep snows of night.
Brad Cole writes from Tuluksak, Alaska.