died and gone to sauna

Something important has happened.
As of last night, I am officially, properly, and transcendentally initiated into the world of traditional Finnish smoke sauna. And I might never be the same again.
Serendipity continues to be at play these days. Upon arrival at this farm, I was almost immediately interviewed on camera by a documentary filmmaker making a movie about this area, Cittaslow, organic farmers, etc. As it happens, he and his girlfriend are living nearby this summer with access to a traditional smoke sauna by the sea. Whoa.
What is a smoke sauna you ask? I had no idea. But Monday rolls around, a call is received that the sauna has been heating up good and proper for four plus hours (as required) and we are welcome any time. So along with the lovely couple from Vienna volunteering, I hop into the sheep van, buy some Finnish beer, and make a merry way towards what will end up being one of the best nights of my life.
Hottest sauna with blackened walls and steaming coals whispering the fabled sauna spirit's message (!); steaming birch branches filling the air with their sweet aroma, ready to be implemented to smack yourself with as the Finns do. A cold sea plunge immediately after. Were it winter, a hole would have been cut in the ice just below the steps off the dock. Slow, adrenaline inducing, serotonin releasing swimming for more minutes than expected. Puffy cumulus clouds on the horizon as the sun set, gentle waves lapping against me. I never wanted to leave that moment in time. Ever.
A warm fireplace followed, lasting into the wee hours. Finnish Polka on vinyl, Highland cattle sausages with sautéed mushrooms and zucchini cooked over the flames, fried bullar with butter for dessert, countless beers that would feel as though they never happened come time for our early wake up call the next morning.

(For the curious amongst us: The savusauna (smoke sauna) is a special type of sauna without a chimney. Wood is burned in a particularly large stove and the smoke fills the room. When the sauna is hot enough, the fire is allowed to die and the smoke is ventilated out. The residual heat of the stove is enough for the duration of the sauna. This represents the ancestral type of sauna, since chimneys are a later addition. Smoke saunas have experienced great revival in recent years since they are considered superior by the connoisseurs. They are not, however, likely to replace all or even most of the regular saunas because more skill, effort and time (usually most of the day) are needed for the heating process. Source Wikipedia (where else?). )