It's either a testament to my trusting nature or my sheer stupidity that I sometimes accept invitations from strangers to do something new. Like New Year's Eve, for instance, when Floyd and I trekked out to East Nowhere to take part in a traditional Native American sweat lodge. It wasn't until we drove down the long, dark drive that it occurred to me that we might wake up in a bathtub of ice missing a kidney.
Instead, we discovered the Seven Shields intentional community, many of whom are Sun Dancers, which, as far as I can make out, means they dance around a tree in the summer and pierce themselves when they have visions.
Yeah, won't be doing that.
So I had a certain amount of apprehension regarding the sweat lodge, having been warned about how sickening the heat can be and how claustrophobic it can get sitting in total darkness in a low tent made of willow branches and coarse blankets.
What I didn't anticipate was affects of the dank, wet ground. So much so that, while we waited around the fire to start, we all did some Native American version of the hokey pokey, putting one foot in, one foot out. Finally, we crawled into the tipi and sat shivering while the firekeeper shoveled in glowing rocks that had been baking in the fire. These rocks heated up the lodge to steam room temperatures, which I loved. Nothing like a good schvitz. But I couldn't get comfortable sitting cross-legged, so I found myself lying down on my towel. On the dank, wet ground. It's possible I'm the only person to take part in a sweat lodge and be too cold.
That said, I did get some good meditation in while the group sang a dozen different traditional Native songs, giving new meaning to the phrase "Sweatin' to the Oldies." And, while Floyd and I did give up after a couple of hours, when we got home we noticed immediately how great our skin looked. Then we slept for eleven blissfully uninterrupted hours.
Which was the best way to ring in the new year.