Exurban Sweatlodge

[imgbelt img=lodgetoys.gif]An Ojibwe immigrant to Ohio says, “Love the land you’re with!”


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The view from my sweat lodge.

I have just completed my own personal-use sweat lodge in my suburban back yard. I can already hear the clucks of amusement and envision the rolled eyes of my Indian relatives and friends.

Since my neighborhood doesn’t allow open fires, I bought a “patio fireplace” from Lowe’s for heating the sweat lodge stones.  It came complete with a tasteful cover for when the fireplace is not in use. In keeping with the spirit of tastefulness, I put a final layer of cotton canvas (taupe) over the traditional mish-mash of blankets covering the lodge frame. The result is sort of “reservation meets Martha Stewart.”

Here on the edge of an urban county, very near the Appalachian Highway, we flirt with many things rural.  This location and the habits of my most immediate neighbors in this high-density sub-division emboldened me to construct my lodge. In the interest of community harmony, I shall call them Neighbor X.

They often conduct complex at-home repairs of their numerous vehicles, including the great rusted husk of a station wagon that is more storage unit than transportation. I still recall the day I first heard them fire up the behemoth. It was a quiet Sunday morning. A great “Wack-a, Wack-a, Wack-a” issued from the beast, slowly declining in volume as it headed off to God knows where.  About an hour later, I heard a distant grinding noise that eventually distinguished itself — “Wack-a, Wack-a, Wack-a” — as the car drew nearer. Loud bursts of complaint continued to issue from the machine long after the engine was turned off.

Some other folks on the block cringe at the sight of Neighbor X’s grease stained jean legs sticking out from under one of many cars. Their suburban sensibilities are offended by such antics. Neighbor X has been known to tear down giant commercial dishwashers for scrap metal in our side yard. They also carry on all family disputes in a lusty, public manner, screeching their tires in a (probably) satisfying display as they leave an argument. Having lived among all manner of folks, we wisely keep our distance and the peace. I listen noncommittally when some of the other neighbors complain about them but I secretly relish their displays and the human mess they add to a community in danger of taking itself too seriously. I like to say that Neighbor X keeps me connected to my reservation roots.