Sauna Club Salvation



We are a close bunch at the YMCA Sauna Club. We have each others sweaty backs.

Today Charles lost his necklace. If I had to guess I would say Charles is probably in his 70’s though I have more often than not been surprised  to find my Sauna Club compadres to be much older than they look. I think it is the heat. Keeps ‘em young.

Just a guess.

Charles always wears his necklace; a silver crucifix and an Our Lady of Medjugorje medal that Frances brought back for him from Bosnia Herzegovina. I have the same Medjugorje medal. Frances brought them back for all of us; Jew, Catholic, Muslim and atheist.

It was a sort of tragedy, the lost necklace. There were four of us in the Club today and we managed to finagle a flashlight to shine the light down into the cedar seats, determined to find the necklace.

Ingrid could not see the point, “Even if we find it, it is lost. There is no way to retrieve it beneath the seats.”

“All we need is a hammer,” I said, “We just pry up one section and grab the necklace. It will be fine.” I said.

Frances said, “Jennifer knows about this. Remember when the door wouldn’t stay closed? She fixed it.”

He was right. The Y isn’t flush and Gary and Evelyn are busy enough at the front desk, we often just take things into our own hands. Evelyn might also suggest we fill out a maintenance request form. There is that too.  We learned a long time ago to just stay away from That Form. No good comes from it.

After the past two days I really needed the Sauna club. I needed to connect with my friends and let the pain of my mothers situation go. The Sauna Club is the perfect place to do just that.

Barbara said once, many years ago, “ I need to sweat the meanness out.”  I had collected a fair amount of meanness over the last few day.

And it  is true. I can’t stay mad in the Sauna. The Sauna Club doesn’t hold much store in anger; sadness, yes. Anger? Gotta get a grip and give it the boot or just keep your mouth shut.

I was thinking about Charles and his necklace and Frances and his and Heather and hers and Habib and his; we all wore our medals.   While I was searching with Frances and Ingrid, Charles was on the hunt for a hammer. We might just have needed to pry that cedar up and out of there.

Spending years in the Sauna with these people I realized that I had come to know not just their family stories and their pain and happiness but also their talismans. It had never crossed my mind before that almost all of us wore some sort of necklace that was obviously not just jewelry.


We came together today to find not a necklace, but a talisman. No wonder the urgency.

Habib walked by on his way to the pool, “What is going on?” He asked in his broken english.  He was from Iraq and had political asylum in the states. His 11-year-old son was kidnapped  by the Shia. Habib is Sunni. He paid a fortune to have his son returned to him safely. Habib told me this story in the Sauna when we were alone last year.

“So many boys came home when ransom could not be paid. They come home without hands,” he had told me. He cried when he told me the story and prayed in arabic while sobbing. He told me it was a prayer of thanksgiving to Allah.

Today I explained to Habib we were looking for Charles necklace.

“He will find it,” he said as he moved to the locker room. He then said “As-salaamu ‘alaykum.”

May Peace Be with you, is what  As- salaamu ‘alaykum means. I had been to many sufi zikr’s and knew this greeting. When Habib first joined the Sauna Club I greeted him with my faulty arabic. I will never forget his smile when I said those words to him.

Talismans.  We all have them. Some are worn around our necks, some are worn on the left hand blessing a spiritual union. Some we carry in our hearts, like the memory of a son returning home with both hands in tact.

Ingrid, Frances, Charles and I continued to look for the necklace. We laughed and were sweating at the same time. Ingrid found a dime and I found an old woven friendship bracelet under the cedar planks of the sauna. We debated who would keep the diamonds we might find and reminded Frances to tell only clean jokes.

Charles left to look one last time in the hall outside the sauna; he returned not moments later with his necklace in hand and a smile on  his face.

He had placed his necklace in the pocket of his shorts. The necklace had been there the entire time. We laughed and hugged one another and then it was time to part.

I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that what happened today in the Sauna was meant to be.

I thought about the Sauna club and all of the people who have come and gone and about all the people who stay. I thought about Talismans and how important  they are to us.

I have a necklace that I wear. It is a talisman. I have my wedding ring and a ring I wear that reminds me of my father.

I have my rosary.

I have my mothers rosary;

and my grandmothers rosary;

and my great grandmother’s novena beads.

Those are talismans.

I have my father’s blood pumping through my body and I am a Winkel Woman; those are also talismans.

It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, it only matters what it is happening now and what choices we make in the future.

I chose to be present with my Tribe and to join in a search for something more important then a necklace; I chose to put aside my sadness and join in the joy of a Tribal Talisman Hunt.

I left the Sauna Club today with a heart about to burst with Love and Gratitude for the life I lead and the people I love.

I left the Sauna Club Whole today. Whole and Ready for whatever tomorrow may bring.

My Talismans are safe and so are the Talismans of my Sauna Club compadres.

That does a body good.

~ by Step On a Crack on October 14, 2011.

14 Responses to “Sauna Club Salvation”

  1. “As- salaamu ‘alaykum”

    Hari Om Tat Sat


    • Kristine! Thank you so much for checking in! I think of you all of the time with Love in my Heart. I had to look up your message; I LOVE it.

      “When I say ‘Hari Om Tat Sat’, it reminds me that the seen and the unseen, are both one.” Swami Satyananda Saraswati

      I am TOTALLY down with that Sister! Peace and Love to you and your Kiddo! xxx Jen


  2. My talisman is a 6-month chip that gets traded in today for a 9-month chip!

    You have such incredible story telling skills, Jen. It’s always a pleasure to read you.


    • THAT my friend is the best kind of Talisman. It Works if you keep working it, right?! Congratulations again. I know what a big deal this is

      Thank you for the HUGE compliment. I appreciate it very much. It always helps to have good material, yes? Just wish I was making it up in my mind…

      I love reading your stuff also. I just figured out how to do a blog roll. You are there!

      9 months! YES!


  3. How much do i love thee … let me count the ways … i have to look up talisman … but i get the drift.

    BEAUTIFUL story telling … flowing, loving, gentle, and it made me smile! I know how happy i feel when i’m connected with friends.

    We are at our best in our nature: Social creatures.

    HEY … did i get a little nod with the necklace, j … oh, it’s all about me 😉

    Seriously … if i’m a little heart in your life i am BLESSED!

    love, mel


    • Sweetie YOUR necklace is my newest Talisman! I am going to wear it in my drivers license picture IF and WHEN I manage to get through this bureaucratic Hell. I will have that license until I am 60! I pray that I will stay have you beyond that! YOU are a HUGE heart in my life. xxx Jen


  4. Jen, that was lovely. Funny, writing about community has been on my mind. Guess it’s “meant to be” 🙂 I really enjoyed reading this post as your words brought me in to feel your joy.


    • Wheww! Joy! I maybe need to balance these posts with happy ones. What do you think? I mean, I am in a dark place, and Mommy’s situation will only worsen. I really want to get this out BEFORE she passes. Do you think I should balance dark with light?? I really care about what you think… and feel.


    • It is amazing how much is Meant To Be….I wonder if anything is not! Thank you for being here…. some happy some sad; just like life…


  5. Jen, I think you need to write what’s on your heart. When it’s sad, and there is much of that for you, we’ll be sad with you. When it’s joy, we’ll rejoice with you. I’m just so glad to see you find those times of joy. It has to be intentional or we’ll miss it. It’s so easy to let the hard times cloud our eyes from what is good. I’m just glad to see you are not letting the sad times do that to you. Grace to you, much grace.


  6. There’s so much joy in the looking that the finding, while a happy reward, isn’t what binds us together, is it?
    I think your posts and your style are exactly right. I hope your comment wasn’t in response to my comment about the heartache. Your writing is poignant and beautiful and draws me back every day. It’s also a story of finding treasure amidst the sorrows. Don’t change a thing. You’re a wise and gifted woman. I’m glad to have met you! 😉


    • I am SO glad to have Met you! You guys are the real blessing in all of this blog stuff thingy junk. I often wonder if you are why I felt called to WordPress. No kidding. God does work in VERY mysterious ways. xxx Jen


  7. I love this post. I’m sorry I did not see it sooner! I let out a sigh of relief when I read this part: “He had placed his necklace in the pocket of his shorts.” WHEW.

    This post also explains to me why I needed to get the tattoo that I have. I needed a talisman that was permanently attached. 🙂 I know I have other talismans, too, but it’s true that the tattoo reminds me when I see it on my right arm (it’s a half sleeve of a special northern Scottish mermaid called a “Selkie”) to be true to myself. Her mythology eerily mirrors my own story in life. I appreciate her much.

    Thank you for this post, and thank you for the message you sent me which prompted me to make it back here (although delayed on both counts! Where has this month gone?!). I replied back to you, just so you know.

    Keep up the fantastic and cathartic writing.


    • Mrs. Demeanor! So nice to see you again! I giggled when I read you let out a sigh of relief. That makes me happy. I wish everyone could be in my Sauna Club! I have met so many amazing and inspirational people. I have actually found that there is a Sauna Club in almost any Sauna, even while traveling. Going to the same Sauna for nine years has really been a special thing. Maybe it is just me and my big mouth; a poet always looking for answers and you just NEVER know where you might find them. give the nearest Sauna a whirl; they might just be waiting for you.

      A TATTOO talisman! Oh my . I like that very much. Can you explain how the Selkie mirrors your life? Gives me some research to do… another story to hear… I have been in the doorway of tattoo shops SO many times and have walked away without my Mark. I DO know that once I find my Talisman the artist is in LA. He does all of my friends tats and does a beautiful job.

      I am delighted to hear from you today and will respond soon. I look forward to it. thank you for the kind words. They mean so much! Peace, Jen hey to the Hubby from me.


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