I wasn’t in a hotel in New York last night, drinking Cosmopolitans with my Tarot friends at the Readers Studio. Instead I was inside a fragrant handbuilt sauna in the woods, sweating away the week’s anxieties and toxins . . . then stepping outside to cool off under a canopy of evergreens and the clear starry sky beyond, listening to a frog song symphony punctuated by the hoots of barred owls.
This is what I meant when I said to myself after deciding to cancel my trip to New York (because my ailing father begged me not to go): “I’m just going to stay home and let the island take care of me.”
Friday nights have become “girls’ night in” lately. I’ve been getting together with a few island girlfriends for conversation, wine and Baileys, a little looking at vacation photos, a little reading of Tarot cards, a little polishing of toenails, and lots of nourishing sister-time. Last night Michele invited us up to the sauna that her partner built some twenty years ago. She had everything prepared before we arrived: wood stove stoked and cheerily radiating heat, candles lit, tub of cold water awaiting the adventurous. Colleen brought scarlet tulips, which she left in the anteroom; they opened wide by the end of the evening from the heat. Wanda brought mud she had gathered from a high riverbank in eastern Washington. We slathered it on our faces and let it dry as we cooled off on the sauna’s porch. Back inside by firelight, we looked like wild women with mud on our faces, something primal and powerful. Wanda put some Devil’s Club root she’d gathered into the water on top of the woodstove. Each time we opened the door we breathed in the pungent fragrance. It felt antiseptic, cleansing. (I wasn’t surprised to learn that Devil’s Club flower essence speaks to lifting one’s burdens, transforming “thorns into healing balm.”) Colleen read us a children’s story about singing to the sun each morning. I remembered the first sweat lodge I ever did, about twenty years ago in the hills above Santa Barbara, and how I felt reborn when I crawled out to a starry sky and a mug of sage tea.
When Michele first led us on the path through the woods to the sauna it was still daylight, even though it was after 8 PM (oh, these longer days!). We were delighted to discover the ground right around the sauna filled with trilliums, those quintessential Northwest harbingers of spring. I felt like I was approaching a hermitage, a shrine, an oratory. And so it was. Sacred time, sister time, time of the Trillium, who embodies the mystery of three-times-three.
Back home I fell asleep satiated with peace and joy, and woke still filled to the brim. Thank you, sisters. Thank you, sacred island. Blessed be.