“The Finnish sauna is often a modest structure, made of wood and stone. Over time the wood rots, the stones crack, and finally all that is left are memories. But what memories! I can’t think of any human activity except eating that brings people together with such wholeness. Mind, body, and spirit are fused by the heat and steam, and we are collectively reminded of all the things that make us uniquely human. Author Michael Nordskog and photographer Aaron W. Hautala have created a fitting tribute to the great sauna tradition of northern Minnesota. The Opposite of Cold makes permanent the fleeting memories of the early Finnish immigrants and the generations that followed. This is an important work and it honors everything it touches.” — Mikkel Aaland, author of Sweat
Why do we love this book? Well, certainly for all the reasons Mikkel Aaland eloquently expresses above, but there’s more. The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition also provides a nice counterpoint to the notion that any corner of America is like any other corner of America. This book celebrates a unique enduring tradition of what has been imaginatively described as our Northern sauna belt. Not only that, but Aaron Hautala’s photographs have also captured a wonderfully functional and beautiful folk architecture.
Starting with the surviving saunas from immigrant homesteads, The Opposite of Cold commemorates the history, culture, and practice of the Finnish sauna in the northwoods — and for that reason alone, we found this book to be as stimulating as 180-degree steam heat, followed by a wild jump in an ice-cold lake.
Here’s a few more books from the Land Library’s shelves that celebrate regional diversity, cultural traditions, and simple buildings done well!
The Sauna: A Complete Guide to the Construction, Use, and Benefits of the Finnish Bath by Rob Roy, and Vernacular Architecture by Henry Glassie (one of the touchstone books in the Land Library’s architecture collection)
For more on Finnish vernacular architecture, here is a wonderful book from a great photographer of the North Country:
Testaments in Wood: Finnish Log Structures in Embarrass Minnesota by Wayne Gudmundson
For more on The Opposite of Cold & the Finnish Sauna Tradition, take a look at this short video!