Strolling and Sauna in a Desert in Bloom


The rain’s warmer temperatures have created an early spring. Many plant species are reacting in an unusual manner. What has happened this last week around here is the explosion of the brittle bush. It has increased since a freeze had trimmed it back a few years ago. It now covers much of the mountain range’s hills. It is coupled with other large plants with hundreds of flowers making a vast rock garden of color. The early leaves of the mesquite are florescent and the ocotillos have green leaves up their stalks a crescendo with their red/orange crown of flowers. Many large stag horn cholla are a burgundy/purple and in good health. Among these dominant species, the more subtle spring blossoms in many colors can be found in patches. Add a turquoise sky and the effect is glorious.

So with this in mind, we have invited friends out to hike, to experience and to take part in a sweat.

The first pair stop by in the late morning to hike up into the Tortolitas. He is from out of town. We drive up to a barricade in the little used road and hike up the familiar hill to turn and continue in a favorite rocky mountain wash.

They marvel at the flora, sounds amongst the silence and nature. We watch their reactions.

We have limited time, but I am also able to show one of the more impressive crested saguaros to our friends.

As they photograph the vastness and vistas, we stand on a hilltop.

DF and I have been essentially nude since leaving home. They have waited, leaving clothing on. They are not experienced nude hikers and unfamiliar with the area. DF and I stretch out our arms as the breeze picks up, and comment on our delight and the refreshing effect of it all. They join us, not strangers to the sensation of being naked in a breeze. Having been cooped up in clothing as the illusion of protection, they quickly doff their tops. We stroll on in a peaceful state.

Returning home, we discover another friend waiting out at our sweat/sauna, smiling, sitting and reading a book. DF had readied the fire, so that it just needed a match. His remark is, “I hope that you don’t mind, but I thought to get the fire started.” We are ready.

Disrobing, we all sit under the porch roof and imbibe the rich blooming all around us. It is truly enchanting. The brittle bush has grown and the flower shoots stretch out, making them waist and shoulder high, each with hundreds of golden flowers.

We are soon enjoying a dry sweat as the thermometer creeps past 160 on its way to the red line. We play drums as our bodies begin to glisten. In a short time, two ladies stop by, poking their heads in the small low door, looking around and smiling. They join in. We talk of healing, a medical psychologist, two masseuses, a counseling psychologist, an occupational therapist, a jeweler, energy workers and one is a breast cancer survivor. Each is willing to help and to share. We talk of Russian saunas, the leaves used to whip bodies and circulate the air. We discuss possible Arizona substitutes. We discuss healing and new trends in dealing with cancers. Conversation wanders. I scrape my body with a brush and wipe it down with a harsh towel.

We take a break, we return into the now 190F degree sauna. A large flute is brought out and played in a kind of Beat Generation, native and Jethro Tull form with a light drumming. Another friend arrives who hasn’t seen the place. Then comes a couple, whose last visit out of the city, here, had their mouths hanging open. Each brings a bundle of wood. Two ladies have to leave to dog sit responsibly. It is all pleasant, we all old friends rejoined in the sweat, some after many months.

Another couple wanders in at 4:20, having previously announced that they would be here at 2:20…casual Sundays. Our Firestarter had to leave to a previous engagement.

I invite all on a guided tour of the stealth trail. I recommend nude. They are all in the mood, already enjoying the sensations of nudity and the flora. This is a special moment in Spring, the blooming of the desert. It is rich this year.

The shadows are beginning to expand as the sun drops toward the horizon and is creating more definition. We slowly meander out the stealth trail, single file, sometimes ten feet apart sometimes stopping, sometimes grouping in pairs to share delight in something that comes to awareness. Sometimes, we are just mindfully stepping through the cactus and shrubbery. I point out little landmines of fallen cholla barbs.

As the sun shines through on one of the masses of a florescent golden yellow brittle bush, it becomes even more aglow. It is stunning. As each individual catches up to me, I see their eyes light up, growing wide at the sight of this magic.

Surrounded by masses of dainty flowers, we continue through with a spiritual amazement. I tell them to be silent, that the javalina may be home on the other side of the ridge and it seems that they trust nude people more. We find our way to Havarock and climb up. Some take off across the rock formations and stand near. Although the Javalina are not there today, our silence is retained. We just stand and feast on natures gifts. The mighty Catalina Mountains to the west begin their nightly change to golden orange and pink. There is oneness.

When it is time to leave, some of them wander off to the top of the western ridge to watch the sun finish its day, as we find our way through the fascination. Shadows begin to blanket the area, accenting the beams of light that shine through. These beams make things like glowing golden saguaros, whose peaks tower above on the eastern ridge.

Being in the lead, I stop and look behind me. There are two companions and a mass of dainty yellow and cream flowers behind them. One by one a smiling nude body pops out of the tall mass, zigzagging carefully through the trail. We all obviously share the same delight.

The temperature is falling, when we reach the sauna once again. Naked, some have a mild chill. The heat inside, now feels especially pleasant. I stoke the fire. A rumble and crackle emerges from the black hotbox. Water is poured out of the bowel and over the rocks. Heat explodes in the cozy room. Copal is added. By this time, the discussion is of blessings and concepts of God. We have been transformed into a spiritual state. An East Indian pipe with a keyboard is played, the flow of the music meanders. A young lady sings a peaceful Hindu song of devotion, surprising me with her beautiful voice.

We decide that the sauna is aptly named “The Tortolita Temple.”  As dusk changes and darkness arrives, we all make our hugs goodbye.

We are circling, circling together,
We are singing, singing our heart song.
This is unity, this is family,
This is celebration, this is sacred.

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