secret sauna in the woods… stillness and sage, silence and steam.
1. Leave your friends in the city. Rent a cabin deep in the woods down a dirt road that curls and winds like smoke. Your closest neighbors will be basket-weavers who own two pigs named Thanksgiving and Christmas. Their house is over a mile away.
2. The day you move in, a cold white skin covers the ground and the sky burns Indian blue. You are overtaken with a kind of naive nameless excitement.
3. Weeks go by and you experience countless dark nights and sunless mornings vacant of human contact. Have a potluck with friends on a rug next to your wood stove. It will be a feast: homemade rosemary biscuits, hummus, curry lentil soup, quinoa and kale salad. Light candles and pass a bottle of whiskey around the circle, telling stories freckled with nostalgia. Realize that when you have good friends, you have everything. On this night, you’ll have everything.
4. If you think you have enough wine at home, buy more. Snow comes without warning. So does loneliness.
5. On Valentine’s Day, drive through flurries to buy bar-b-que and a bottle of rum. Sit on your cold wood floor in your underwear. Smoke a cigarette. It is your best Valentine’s Day yet.
6. Do not let yourself get sentimental about your discarded skins. Put them in jars and turn your back. Grow quickly.
7. Your google searches will include “how hot is too hot for a wood stove,” and “how to stop a fire in a wood stove,” and “what do i do if i think i’m about to have a chimney fire.” Your paranoia will be exhausting. Wake up one night in late February to the sound of shrieking and wailing. Be convinced a band of cannibals have escaped the pages of a McCarthy novel and are walking up your driveway. Acknowledge and begin to accept the end of the world. Turn on your front porch light and move the window curtain aside to see three coyotes stalking your front yard. When you fall back asleep, you will dream of hairy half-men-half-animals with long whip-like tails living up in the trees behind your house, swinging from limb to limb like monkeys.
8. Two months in, become resentful. Feel anguish. The overwhelming, awful and hellish loneliness will literally be sickening. Hate knowing the local grocery store employees by name. Hate going out to your wood pile to get more kindling when it’s below 20 degrees. Hate the sound of nothing. Play your music as loud as possible to offend the silence. Hate not being able to watch scary movies. Hate when songs or people or poems or articles talk romantically about heading into the hills and hiding in the mountains. Hate thinking about how YOU used to talk that way. Hate being stranded inside on snowy weekends and miss trashy television, oh god, miss television and become sick of being single and independent and so fucking ALONE and want to want to go out dancing and have sex with someone you just met and god damn it just TALK to other people. Hate the effort of making a fucking fire every time you come back home and then stroking it and banking it and opening the flue and closing the flue and just want to be able to flip on some damn electric heaters. Hate not being able to hear a single thing except a stream when you walk outside when someone from out of town visits you and says, “You live in a retreat. People pay money to spend a week in a place like this,” all you want to yell back is, “YEAH, BUT NO ONE WANTS TO LIVE IN A RETREAT PERMANENTLY.” Hate how saying this makes you feel guilty.
9. A new lover will come to visit. Together you will drink Bird Dog blackberry whiskey and say Spanish prayers as you light a candelabra from Mexico and salt each doorway, wishing ghosts farewell. You will smoke cigarettes on the front porch and it will begin to snow. Back inside you’ll talk about Pablo Neruda and Gabriel García Márquez and he’ll say that one of the best things in this world is the sound of a ukulele in the “C” chord and you’ll want to kiss him.
10. See sprouts coming up in your vegetable garden, like little bright green inch worms. Notice days become longer, mornings warmer. A familiar smell fills the air. Feel the promise and the ache of a new season.
11. Something inside you stops. Something begins.
— Elliot Holt (You Are One of Them)
— Maria Popova