“Prebiotics? Wait a second,” she says as she flips the carton around, squinting to read ingredients. “I thought it was supposed to be probiotics?” She turns to see if anyone heard her talking to herself in the dairy aisle of Whole Foods. Just the thirty-something man with long hair and those trendy sweatpants. He’s her age, and handsome, she notices, but then she thinks twice about whether she’d ever want to date a man who even knows what probiotics are. She’s not even sure she knows what probiotics are. Wait, prebiotics. Yes, that’s right. Prebiotics.
She returns the carton back to the fridge, closing the door. After pulling her hair up into a messy bun, she crosses to the vitamin section, holding up her handwritten list. “Glutathione,” she says, mispronouncing the word. Finding the bottle, her eyes widen. She gasps. “Ninety-four dollars!” Again, she looks around. Did anyone just hear her?
“It’s all bull, honey,” a voice says. Her eyes flicker to the elderly woman next to her. Long, silvery-black hair, watery green eyes, age spots over porcelain skin. “Don’t do it, Deirdre.”
Eyes wide, she brings her hand to her heart, astonished. “How do you know my name?” she asks the old woman, who looks freakishly familiar. Is she a distant relative? Looking at her is like looking into a mirror.
“I’m you. Fifty years from now.”
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.
My husband is dead. Will Gibbons is dead. I repeated those sentences over and over in my head. I thought about all I had left behind: a house, my belongings, a career, and a husband. And now, I imagined, that husband was dead. Lying on the floor. Lifeless. Breathless.
I had no plans.
I could start over—start fresh. That was something that always appealed to me my whole life. Maybe it was the artist inside of me, but I loved to create and then destroy. I loved to produce art from start to finish, either sell it or get rid of it—sometimes actually smash it to bits—and then start over with something new, something fresh. A new idea. A new, perfect idea.
I liked the idea of perfect. I wanted everything to be perfect.
I planted you in April, underneath a nourishing bed.
For months, while green stalks sprouted up around you, I stared at your empty patch of dirt wondering what I'd done wrong.
Hopeless. That’s what I thought you were.
But at least I’d tried.
In your place, I noticed green leaves--what I thought were weeds--pushing through your space in the dirt.
Frustrated. I must have a black thumb, I thought.
I gave up thinking your bulbs I planted in spring would ever bloom.
But then, just a week ago, those leaves grew taller, spiraling toward the sky, like nothing I’d seen before.
And at the top, a bright burst of flames.
A stunning flower I’d never dreamed you’d become.
You were worth the wait.
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.
My husband is a theatre nerd. His ability to memorize a five page monologue in five hours and his lack of stage fright astounds me. He is devoid of self-consciousness: without hesitation, he risks awkwardness by being friendly and open to strangers. He speaks in silly accents and tries new games whenever possible. His positive attitude about everything makes him look naive, but he is almost always in a happy mood. He includes everyone in everything—he has even accidentally invited people on dates with us (seriously). And he is the master of controlling his reactions to negative emotions. He learned this mostly because he has amazing parents, but also because he spent his young adult life acting.
I lack the qualities that I love about my husband. This year, I was able to teach his lovable qualities—which are the most important aspects of theatre—to two classes of students. Here’s what my husband and theatre have taught me about life: