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Friday, February 19, 2010


Before leaving Michigan, we learned something new about our community

--Did you know we had a sweat lodge right here in our own backyard?
--Not before I saw the article.
--Do you know what they are?
--The name pretty much says it, don’t you think?
--You do what? Just get under some tarps and sweat?
--Well, there has to be a little more to it, I suppose. Etiquette to be observed. Special clothes, hand signals, bowing. You have to have people trained to prepare the rocks. Sometimes, everything’s done in silence.
--Silent sweating. That shouldn’t be too challenging.
--You know what I mean. The spiritual experience. In some places, it’s supposed to be silent, in others they chant or drum.
--What are the rocks for?
--I thought you read the article.
--It said nothing about rocks.
--The lodge is like a sauna. Rocks are heated in advance until they’re red hot. Then they bring them inside to promote the sweat-lodge experience.
--I loved the names of the leaders. Please hand me the paper.
--I assume they’re translations from a Native American language.
--Here it is. Outside the lodge, they’re Debbie and Donald.
--“Hi, we’re Deb and Don. Welcome to our sweat lodge. Did you bring a towel?”
--But inside the lodge, their names are Tim Fools Bear and Crystal Dream Woman. It says the ceremonies are for “earth-based spirituality and personal transformation.”
--Hm. Earth-based spirituality, that’s ambiguous. Does it mean spirituality with no god connection, just the earth? Or does it mean this particular lodge has no extra-terrestrial affiliations in other galaxies?
--They weren’t hurting anyone. Sweating isn’t a crime. What about all the nutty joggers sweating up and down the street at six in the morning when I walk Chelsea?
--It wasn’t the sweating, it was too many parked cars in the street. People complained.
--I’m not convinced. Between the families on either side of us, our neighbors have a total of nine cars. It’s like running the gauntlet to get in the driveway.
--I’m sure they shut it down because of what happened in Arizona. People died early this month out there in a sweat lodge.
--Of course you’re right. It says Tim Fools Bear and Crystal Dream Woman have been running their lodge for twelve years. Nobody made waves until the Arizona business.
--Yeah, the city manager reads about it. The mayor. They begin wondering what kind of litigation might follow if someone’s brother or father sweats himself to death.
--No doubt.
--It’s a very litigious society.
--Well, yes. And it’s easy to imagine someone who thought he approved of earth-based spirituality and transformation deciding that the transformation that just took place in the person next to him far exceeded anyone’s expectations. One minute he’s sweating, the next he’s as earth-based as they come.
--I still think it’s too bad. It was harmless. Innocent.
--I suppose. Bernie Madoff might have been a better man if he’d done that sort of thing.
--Maybe. I certainly hope he’s sweating now.
--Here’s to Bernie in his modestly appointed, state-run sweat lodge.


  1. This felt goofy-good, playful. That's a feat, considering that I typically tense up over anything related to sweat lodges, those symbols of the exploitation of credulity by cult leaders and pseudo-gurus. I tend to reach for my war bonnet over that stuff, but I got almost as much of a kick out of imagining Bernie Madoff in a sweat as you two did. The drip.

  2. Nance,
    Yes, there are lots out there exploiting those who are rootless, the many people casting about for something to believe in. I vacillate between feeling compassion for such lost souls,and something much less generous. As for Tim Fools Bear and Crystal Dream Woman, aka Deb and Don, all they ever charged people was $5 to cover whatever expenses figure in maintaining a sweat lodge. Rocks, I suppose, and fabric softener for the towels. In other words, however delusional they may have been during twelve years of sweating sessions, they weren't crooks. My wife and I live with a dog, and we are almost certainly certifiable in terms of the degree to which we invest her with meaning. A propos other people's obsessions, I try to remember this, but usually fail.


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