“Sauna” Defined

Here’s a hint: It’s not a containment unit for female bears


noun: sow•na

You’ll know a true Minnesotan by their pronunciation of the word. Not saw-na, but sow-na, as if these cedar-planked closets and sheds doubled as containment units for female bears. We might complain about the heat—especially in the soupy boil of August, when nudging through the tank-topped crowds at the State Fair—but we love a blazingly hot sauna. Like, surface-of-the-sun hot. And though Minnesotans tend to keep to themselves, the sauna brings people together in a small space, with little to no clothing: a forced, sweaty intimacy that is an assault, a dare against the isolation of winter. That’s why—after a long, lung-baking, skin-melting session—we often race outside and roll around in the snow, laughing, the steam ghosting off our skin, as if to say, “I defy you.”