Smoke Sauna Sisterhood

It was half past ten when I arrived home. Usually, this is when I am already in bed, trying to sleep. In a delusional attempt to get my time back, I unpacked things from work like I was in the middle of a competition: put the laptop on the living room desk and the casserole on the kitchen counter, undressed, brushed my teeth. 

I did not think about what I saw until I wasn’t in the shower and began to notice the urgency to get it over with and go to bed. 

I can’t remember the last time I took a bath and let my mind be still.

I only shower in my tub. And I do it in a way like I want to escape from it. I rarely stop and admire any body part because I would want to modify it instantly. So I always shower eagerly to cover up again. First, wrapped up with the towel, and then tucked in my pyjamas.

So this time I stopped, admired and gently soap each body part like someone else was helping me shower. I felt so at peace because I could sense the love for my body through every touch. Even more, I blocked the voice in my head and focused only on how the water sounded like. Breaking into my body in millions of small pieces that would gently brush every surface of it.

I didn’t have any ritual, I didn’t whisper anything, I didn’t even say: thank you, but it felt spiritual. It felt like I was healing in some way. The fact that I paid attention, and sensed it all was mystical. 

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” will change the way you look at your body even if it’s just for one night, during one shower. 

The movie’s title uses a visual metaphor that is hard to forget after watching it. However, what stayed with me was the sound in the movie. It was impeccable, heavenly, and mysterious. The sound offered protection to the viewer, making them feel safe. It reminded them that what they were witnessing was part of God’s work. Every sound in the movie, from the whispers to the happy screams of the women going outside in minus degrees to get the cold baths was pure, profoundly human, and beautiful.

The movie brought back memories of a similar bathing ritual I used to have with my aunts during hot summers. Like most people back then, we would go to the river next to my grandmother’s house to cool. The image of a polluted river didn’t cross my mind any more than the idea of an out-of-shape body. My aunts’ bodies looked like the women’s in the movie. As an only child whose parents unconsciously ignored my needs, I always tried to find some form of love whenever I saw an opportunity. To me, my aunts’ bodies were a source of comfort for my soul. 

I would often crawl near them like a cat taking an afternoon nap, just to feel their warmth. I would try to wrap my little hands around their thighs, just to put my hand on their soft bellies. And shortly kiss their tummies before they would untangle me. At night, while they were still awake and gossiping, I would play my fingers into their short hair.

I’ve always felt more protected near my aunts than near any other man in my family. There wasn’t a man task that they couldn’t do starting with my grandmother. She was blessed with four girls and then helped raise four granddaughters. She knew the drill. Hugging and cuddling weren’t part of her training, rather taught us to do the housework from cooking to cleaning, and taking care of the animals. But what I’d do to upset her sometimes was to rest my face into hers and feel the softness of her deep-tanned wrinkles. She would let me do that for a few seconds and then mark my departure from her body flagging her hand in the air in a soft goodbye. 

The world depicted in the movie looked a lot like the one of my childhood. I’ve noticed similarities not only in the women’s customs but also in their ability to find comfort and support in small communities. Although our culture doesn’t have a sauna ritual, women everywhere have found ways to love themselves and comfort their needs. I am certain that my aunts had some kind of an alliance, as everything seemed to flow smoothly whenever they got together. It’s as if they had previously met in secret and planned everything out. 

I loved the movie because it takes you on a sensory journey beyond the Estonian small town where it begins.

After the shower, I felt like my soul was keeping my body afloat as when my aunts would teach me to swim in the river. I could feel their presence that night, comforting me as they always did. The movie was a saviour reminder of the warmth I still got within me from loving their unique bodies all this time. The sound of water is my soul length to these women who raised me like their own kid, and one way I can thank them is by accepting and loving my body just the way it is. 

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