Under a bright winter’s moon, they sparkle, reflecting the stars shining in the night’s sky above. In the distance, tropical waves roll against a sandy shore, creeping ever closer toward them. Soon, the warm water will rise, wrapping its omnipresent hands around them, pulling them closer, deeper—swallowing them into the sea. Like the Alpha and the Omega, there is no beginning, no end. Like the sun, they will never burn out, not for a million years.
Upon their pile on the sandy beach they lay, indestructible, yet capable of destroying everything. Brought to virgin lands by working hands, they are no longer wanted elsewhere. Here’s where they’ll live—forever—never decaying. Until, that is, they slowly, silently find their way back into your lives. They won’t look the way you had first seen them underneath the Christmas tree, bright and shiny—whole. They’ll be tiny, microscopic, filling every inch of your lungs and gut, slowly dragging your body into the depths of the ocean from which they came.
Eventually, they will become part of you.
Eventually, they will own you. Control you.
Perhaps they already have.
It was your choice, after all. You wanted a perfect Christmas. Next year, you’ll want the same. Birthdays are no different. Self-care Saturdays are to blame.
When you step inside Target, they wink at you from the shelves. It’s modern life, stacked carefully, hung tidily, looking like they belong. But once they fill every inch of your house and your garage, you dump them in the trash. They’re taken away, and as long as they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind.
But they’ll come back. They’ll seek vengeance. They already have.
It’s what we want, though. We all do it too. We buy the things and wrap the things and give the things and toss the things and eventually, we drink and eat and are the things.
They’re underneath your tree right now. And one day they’ll suffocate each other on a landfill heap.
But they’ll be back.
And they’ll survive to enjoy many more Christmases than you ever will.
This is the first page of a new young adult novel I'm writing. A romance between an unlikely pair.
Somewhere outside Salem, 1690.
Past the golden fields of wheat that shine like honey, through the thicket of pines and labyrinth of oaks, over the babbling brook that sparkles against smooth stones, until you reach the moss-covered clearing under the tallest tree, that’s where you’ll find her: The Wild Woman of the Wood.
That’s where she’ll be doing what she does best—stirring and pouring, never measuring or calculating, relying on memories, not recipes—alone in her humble cabin, sitting beside the fireplace. Here she steeps stinging nettle leaf, red raspberry, and clover in tall glass jars. She makes potions from bees’ honey and pine needles. She sinks her feet deep into the cold, damp dirt, letting it spring her back into this world. When the moon is full, she places jars of water onto a mossy bed, their openings facing upward, letting the silver moon cast beams of magic into the liquid. Yet this is not her source of strength. She gains her power from within, from the knowledge that she is tune with her Mother Earth. She syncs with her Magic Moon.
Though others call her the Wild Woman of the Wood, she knows that she is really a simple Wise Woman—one who listens to the songs the wind carries on its back, adjusting her potions accordingly. She hears her voice within, never letting thunderstorms outside drown it out. She is content to cook and bake, steep and ferment, from dawn until dusk, nourishing her body with the Earth’s generous offerings. But she does so because it pleases her, not because she’s beholden to anyone’s expectations. She does so because it’s what she’s always known, what she’s ever known, handed down to her from the Wise Women before her. For she is last in a long line of women who had been outcast, banished from their society, for knowing too much. For doing too much. For being too much.
Because that’s what history has shown us. True power comes from knowing yourself, and teaching others to know themselves. Our Wise Woman of the Wood has been keeping others’ secrets for too long, but it won’t be much longer now.
At the next full moon, the winds will turn. For now, before Harvest has begun, while the last of the cicadas sing their dying ballads, Our Wise Woman has no idea that her whole life will change. She doesn’t know that it will transform because of a young man, just a few years older than she, lost in the wood, seeking help. Because that’s always how it happens, isn’t it? A woman’s life always changes when she meets a man.
And that’s where our story begins.
Sunrise. Mist dances upon still waters.
The world still slumbers, except me and the loon. He calls across the lake, an ode to the rising sun.
This is my magic hour--when time stands still and quiet soothes my brain.
Except soon that sun will break the horizon line, rousing crows in trees and humans in beds as it shines through bedroom windows.
But this moment is still mine.
I drink it in.
Let the water baptize me, make my soul as clear as the lake.
At the end of June, my husband and I set out for a 3 week road trip that covered 7,300 miles, 15 states, and 9 national parks across the American west and southwest. We traveled from Chicago to Portland, Portland to L.A., L.A. back to Chicago, witnessing the beauty of Redwood National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, The Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and the Badlands—to name a few!
Along the way, we learned many things about each other, America, Americans, and life itself.