We sprang alert, but saw no bear. We looked at the dog. She was limping around in circles.
"Sorry," said The Saint. "I stepped on her foot."
We returned to our seats, each determined not to bring any gloom to the rest. Then H.T. rose, eyes alight. He walked into the rain to where the granite hump of the island became level before it dropped off into the lake. He spread his arms. He said, "Sweat lodge."
"This is a perfect place for a sauna." H.T. had lived for a year in Norway and had embraced the Norwegian outlook—indiscourageableness, a sense that even the gray days count against one's total, so savor them, too.
"I've seen it done," said Streetlight. His tone suggested it was hard.
"O.K.," said H.T., "you're in charge of heating the rocks." Soon, under his fevered instruction, we had lashed together an A-frame of poles and covered it with tarpaulins and rain suits and plastic bags. As night fell, the stones, a dozen of perhaps 20 pounds apiece, were glowing red in the birch and cedar pyre. Amid much shouting, we carried them with stout sticks and gloves to the log receptacle we'd prepared at one end of the tent. We sealed the thing and waited. About five minutes. Then we shucked off our clothes and got in the other end.
Already it was astonishingly warm, save for the stone floor, but when Abdul poured water on the rocks, steam shot up with such force that our lungs felt seared and visibility dropped to 18 inches. Those 12 rocks produced an amazing amount of steam, four saunas' worth, which was good because three of them escaped through our unsealed seams and out the top.
Abdul poured again, and we breathed a steam that must exist only in the pipes of a distillery. "Scotch on the rocks," he said.