the man who painted trees | part three


i do as dee tells me and i stay away from the house in the hollow.

a month passes. autumn turns into winter and we scramble to get everything ready before the first snowflakes begin to fall. i make mulled cider and dee builds roaring fires in the hearth at night. we sit around it and drink the cider and dee tells me stories from when he was deployed. they're never about him though, always about the men he served with. i never ask dee to tell me about him because i can see in the dark parts of his eyes that some of it still hurts to talk about.

thanksgiving comes and goes. the first snow comes two days after thanksgiving. that morning i wake up to a thick, thick blanket of it. it’s still purple and predawn outside and it washes the snow a light, sparkling gray. spiderwebs of frost creep up the window pane over my bed; my breath paints the glass as i stare out. i can hear the fire popping and hissing and dog breathing quietly at the foot of my bed.

slipping out from between the covers, i tiptoe into the kitchen. i quietly make the tea and dee doesn't wake up. i can see his dark, messy hair peeking out from under the quilt but he doesn't move. his chest rises and falls.

i put new logs on the fire and huddle there, warming my hands and drinking my tea. dog nudges me in the back with his head. i brush him away at first, placing a finger to my lips, but then he whimpers a little.

"alright, alright," i hush him, padding over to the door where my boots stand in readiness. "c'mon."

i don't leash dog because i never do. i just open the door and let him romp out into the deep snow, bounding ahead like a demented rabbit. i suck back laughter as i softly bring the door back to the threshold and stand there watching him.

he leaps back and forth through the snow, jamming his big head into drifts of pure white power, sniffing around for something he can't seem to find.

i shiver in my sweatshirt, wrapping my arms around my torso. i look up into the snow covered branches stretching out overhead. each is perfectly frosted in the same soft white powder that coats the ground. everything is peaceful and still. the only sounds are the flitting of birds; like blurs that shoot from branch to branch.

i close my eyes and breathe it in for a moment. then dog barks.

my eyes fly open just as he takes off through the trees, a small brown blur in the snow ahead of him. i curse under my breath.

"dog no!" i hiss, trying not to yell and wake dee.

i run through the snow, though keeping up with him is useless. the snow swells up to my knees and makes running impossible. all the same i stay in pursuit, dodging low limbs.

black birds burst up from the treetops as i sprint through a glade; caw, caw, caw.

I keep my eyes ahead, chasing dog until my lungs burn and something beneath the snow snags the toe of my boot, already full of snow. i spill forward and crash into cold white power, sinking. the cold bites the skin on my face, my cheeks burning with the palms of my hands, sunk deep in the thick white folds.

i scramble to my feet, gasping and shivering. i squint ahead but i don't see dog. i don't even see a trace of him.

i breathe and the air burns my lungs like cold fire. i cup my hands to my mouth and my voice comes out in a cloud that drifts up and dissipates.

"Dog!"

pause.

"Dog! Dog..."

my shouts don't go far before the thick snow absorbs it.

i curse and kick at the snow. i look back over my shoulder but i can't see the cabin anymore. biting my lip, i deliberate. i remember what dee told me about wandering. but i decide that i can't go back without dog. what a good christmas present that would make: losing dog. he'd had him since before he deployed.

so i walk forward in the snow, following the streaks in the snow where dog had flown by. there was another set tangled with his: rabbit's.

"dang you, dog - dang you."

i walk for a long time, it feels like hours, shouting dog's name over and over again until finally it starts snowing again; big, white fluffy flakes shed from the sky like downy feathers, fluttering to the ground below. only in a sweatshirt, i begin to shiver, chills rising over my skin.

i cup my trembling hands to my mouth again, stopping in the middle of a clearing to shout "dog!"

silence. thick silence.

i have to turn back. i'm cold and i can't stay out here much longer. i turn and start trudging back through the deep snow, following my own footprints through the trees, blowing hot breath into my cupped hands. I walk and walk and walk, following my prints, sniffling. i can't stop kicking myself for losing dog. how could i possibly have let that happen? i should have been paying attention.

i keep walking until suddenly i realize i'm squinting at the ground. i halt in the snow, full shaking now as i gaze around my feet.

where are my footprints?

my eyes dart back and forth over the snow and through the trees, i can't find them. i can't see the smudges in the snow anymore.

i take an unsteady breath and hear dee's voice in my head, telling me to stay calm, telling me to think everything through, but it's hard.

i run back through the curtains of white, retracing the footprints i've just made, squinting and blinking to see through the flakes as they fly around me, thicker and thicker. i'm panting for breath and shivering fiercer now. my head feels light and i'm so tired. i need to stop. i need to stop and breathe for just a moment.

my knees buckle and i settle onto the ground, gasping and shaking, binding my arms around my quivering torso. i see the limbs of the trees vaguely through the whirl of the blizzard. i crumble slowly, i barely notice until i feel the snow against my face. i am curled up on the ground in the fetal position. i am not gasping anymore. my breathing is quiet.

i see the tree arms, shaking like i am inside. then my eyelids sink and blot them out. i fight to stay awake, but everything is blurry and heavy. i can't stay awake.

dee is the last thing i see in my mind as i drift off, numb.

______


when i wake, my face is warm. warm.

the crackle of flame makes its way through my muffled hearing. i can feel the delicious sting of heat against my skin. i open my eyes just a crack. i see blurry red and orange and honey brown and white frost staining windows. then it flashes away to black as my eyelids collapse again. i can't think. i just drink in the warmth, shivering still, but now i feel the heavy thickness of wool spread out over me.

i run my tongue over my lips, taking a sip of air. i finally manage my eyelids again. blinking then focusing hard enough to see.

the honey oak transforms to red. the orange to gold. the red to fuchsia. i sit up slowly, turning to look around me. there are canvases everywhere, there is color everywhere; the most majestic trees you ever saw, made of fiery splashes of color.

where am i?

i look around at the walls now, the ceiling and the furniture. it's all wood slats like the inside of our cabin is. the furniture is all handmade, i can tell; worn and warm and blinking in the firelight. on the chairs and table are paintings of trees and meadows and wild babbling brooks. there's smaller canvases on the walls of robins and nuthatches and rabbits and a badger. i can't help but stare, wide eyed, at the wonder of it all. i've never seen anything like it before.

then i hear a big sighing grunt, the kind made only by sleeping dogs. my head snaps around to the hearth, all warm and glowing in the dimness. i see a fuzzy outline of a dog, but not just any.

"dog!" i leap out from under the blanket and fall off the mattress i didn't even realize i was sprawled out on until now. dog lifts his head and i hug his neck, burying my face in his thick fur. he smells like fresh air and cedar.

a creaking splits the air with a fresh gust of raw wind and swirling white. still clutching dog, i look up as the door opens. a figure steps inside, so wrapped in wool i can barely make them out; a thick coat and a scarf wrapped up around his face; a hat pulled down. his arms are full of fresh split cedar wood.

my heartbeat quickens in my chest when he turns and i see the eye patch.

"and she's awake," he says, stamping off his boots. caked white powder flakes all over the floor. he walks over to the hearth and spills the wood into a pile.

"excuse me," he says.

i wriggle out of the way, still holding onto dog, whose tongue is hanging out now. i watch the man with one eye as he takes a couple logs and tosses them into the flames. golden flecks dance up the chimney. he squats there for a moment, extending his hands to warm them. he rubs them together briskly, saying nothing.

i stare, forgetting what dee always told me about how rude it is.

"well, well, now you must be mr. desmond's niece," he says, looking over at me after a moment.

"i am, yeah," i stammered after a moment.

a chuckle rolls from his chest, warm like the fire. "what were you doing out there in weather like this? my goodness, you could have froze!"

i am still staring. i say nothing and after a minute he goes on.

"i found that dog of yours first - scratching at my door he was," he chuckles and shakes his head, standing up now. he crosses the room. "i went outside and the wild thing wouldn't stop running around - bounding through the snow, sniffing and barking. i had to chase him to get hold of him. that was when i found you."

"w-w-what happened?"

"you fell unconscious."

i breathed a relieved sigh, shuttering at the thought. "i'm grateful, sir."

"you can call me sol."

"sol," i repeated tentatively. "thank you. i hate to think what could have happened."

"then don't. just pray this storm passes quick so we can get you back to your uncle," i heard the sound of liquid being poured. a moment later a big weathered hand lowers a mug to me. i look up and see his face instead of his eye patch this time, illuminated by the soft golden glow of the flames. his skin is etched and weathered, and his eye is blue. his beard is thick and the color of ginger and his smile is warm as i take the mug from his hands and bring it to my lips. it tastes warm and spicy like chai.

"sir - sol, i mean," i wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. "did you paint all of these?"

sol looks around at all the color splashed canvases glowing in the soft light. then he picks one up off the rocker and sits down in it. he holds the canvas on his lap for a moment, looking it over and nodding.

"yes, ma'am," sol says. "i did."

"they're beautiful."

"thank you."

"is that why you live out here all by yourself?" i sip the tea. it warms me inside.

"yes," he says after a pause. then he nods as if to assure himself in the declaration. "yes, the city was too loud. too many people - too many eyes staring at the only one i've got left," he chuckles and taps the apple of his cheek just below his eye.

"dee says people are quick to judge," i say.

"dee is a wise man," he says. leaning forward he extends the painting to me. i set the tea down on the floor and take it in both hands, sitting cross-legged on the floor.

"you paint beautiful things," i say, breathless as i stare at the canvas covered in bright, swirling colors. "how do you think of things like this?"

sol folds his large, weathered hands on his belly and thinks, tapping the floor with his foot to rock back and forth. "i look at the trees...the birds, the brook. i look at the sky. i look at dogs," he nods towards the german shepherd curled beside me. "i look at people sometimes too. but i don't just look at their faces or their clothes or their outer appearance."

"what do you look at then?"

"well, i look at what's behind their eyes. dreams and the like: hope and fear and light and dark all mingles together like a storm. i see hearts near bursting with all sorts of ideas and desires. i see all kinds of things."

i lower my eyes to the mug in my hands, my lips turning down.

"when i heard about you all i saw was an eye patch," i say, quietly. "i'm sorry."

"don't apologize," he says. "tell me what you see now instead."

i look up at him and find his eyes glimmering in the firelight. i look back down at the canvas in my hands, twisting my lips as i think.

the paining is of the biggest oak you ever saw, every color of autumn blazing its branches and trunk. blue and red birds float up into the sky and a round, golden sun sets in the distance.

i look back up at him, smiling. this time, i don't even notice the eye patch.

"i see colors," i say.

hours and so many stories and cups of tea and belly laughs later, sol walks me back through the woods to the cabin, dog frolicking along beside us. dee runs to meet us as soon as we're within a stone's throw of the cabin. he scoops me up in his arms and i can feel his heart pounding through his tee shirt.

"oh thank god," and for a moment that's all he can say. then he sets me down and shakes sol's hand. "sir, i am grateful."

sol and dee talk back and forth, dog bounding around our little huddle, but i'm too warm and tired and content with dee's arm around my shoulders to really hear what's being said. my eyelids are heavy and my heart is full. a moment later, sol is walking back into the woods. he lifts his hand in a wave to us and dee and i wave back.

dee carries me inside and sets me down only when we've reached the roaring fire. he wraps a blanket around my shoulders and looks at me with big soft eyes.

"my god don't do that to me again, em," he sighs and ruffles my hair. "that man saved your life."

i nod. "you were right about him, dee."

"how's that?"

i think of how to say it, tilting my head to one side. "people are so much more than what we see or think we see on the outside..." i trail, my voice stretching into a yawn. "there's so much more inside us all, isn't there?"

i see dee smile and a moment later i feel his arm around me again. i rest my head on his shoulder and let my eyes close gently.

"yes, em," he says. "yes, there is."


______


i know it's after christmas, but it's still the season, and i like to make it last as long as i can. i love this time of year. i love the swells of warmth and gratitude that come with it.

so i hope you'll grab a mug of hot cocoa or tea and enjoy the last part of this sweet little story i wove for you.

i hope you had the merriest christmas!


stay stoked,
kate

wandering: howth


howth was, by far, my favorite place in dublin. there was a quiet beauty about it's winding coastal streets and craggy shore; a sort of beckoning which rings in my ears even now. i hear the lapping of the gentle teal ripples far below the cliff walk, and the cool wind whipping through the blossoming brush. in my mind i can see the seagulls circling overhead and bobbing below, ebbing with the tide; sailboats gathered in the harbor, snug and huddled like a flock of geese, rocking gently against one another.

howth is a dream, in a sense - a place i submersed myself in long before i ever saw it with my own eyes. walking into shops and hiking the cliffwalk, driving the streets, getting coffee, breathing the sea air, it was all steeped in déjà vu; a sense of having done it all before. a sense of returning, having been there in someone else's shoes. namely, my character's. a beloved: fin.

if you've read the blood race, you've met bright eyed, spirited, lion-hearted fin. you've read the chapters where he and hawk transport into ireland, roam dublin, and trek around the cliff walks with fin's sisters, who seem to me sometimes mere personifications of pastel watercolor splashes. those scenes were among some of my favorites to write, and now, having actually been to and spent time in ireland - and dublin specifically, i'm filled with nostalgia and sheer satisfaction when i look back to those sweet, og scenes. they are realistic and homey and conveyed everything i felt in my heart when i was there, standing in the very same places i wrote about.

so here are a few of my favorite shots. here is a glimpse of dublin, and specifically of howth, through my eyes and lens. here is a sweet, sweet place that fills my heart with my character and my book and gives me only inspiration to go on.

i'll be sharing more soon about the next - the final in the blood race series, and how excited i am that we will be returning to these rugged and wild landscapes. but for now...mmm, howth.


have you ever been to ireland?? if so, where? if not, have you ever dreamed of making a trip? and most importantly...WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FIN SCENE?? now that i would love to hear <3

stay stoked!
kate

reset | refresh


the ability to create is one of the greatest gifts we've been given. there are things that you will be inspired to create that literally no one else will. your mind is a sacred place, and within that sanctuary, new ideas are born, fresh concepts and ways to look at the world burst into being. you have an imagination, and with it you can begin the journey towards absolutely anywhere from exactly where you are right now.

i love creating. i love making things - especially making things up and writing them down - the scientific name for which is storytelling. it's what i do most days. but lately, i've also been pondering the fact that, as a creator, it's so important to be careful to not get so caught up in creating that you begin to value yourself based on what you create; it can be an easy and slippery abyss to stumble into: a sort of addiction to productivity.

this simple fact has been churning in my thoughts:

the fact that you exist makes you valuable. 

not what you do, or the content you create. simply being is an art all it's own; a sort of magic that you manifest into the world everyday. you are here, you are living and breathing and awake and alive, eating toast and humming songs and going for walks in the woods and smelling the sweet air. you are here. and sometimes you need to just be.

i've been coming up with practical ways to remind myself of this on a regular basis, often beating back my hunger for achievement and productivity to recenter myself in the urgent truth that i must be. i must, we must. or else we overlook the sheer sweetness of life. on top of that, it's actually really important to be happy and create from a place of happiness rather than making happiness a trophy you will only receive upon the completion of your goal, or perhaps to-do list. (there's an entire TED talk about that that i love.)

so, after trying a bunch of things, here's a few things that have helped me to stay present, slow down, savor, and just be; just respect who i am and where i'm at right now. maybe they'll help you too.


1. practicing yoga

i'm a pretty active person. i love running and working out and lifting weights and martial arts, but i would have to say that yoga has helped me in more ways than all of these, and on top of that, has enhanced my experience and perspective on everything i just listed. there is no great object to achieve in yoga, there is not a checklist, or a rank you're working towards... there is simply, the practice of yoga; being grounded right here, right now in this moment. breathing deep, tending to your needs, and letting go of that which no longer serves you.

i've been loving practicing yoga first thing in the morning between coffee and making breakfast (it's best to practice on an empty stomach, and it does wonders for your digestive health), or breaking up my workday with a yoga practice in the middle of the afternoon. this is especially beneficial if you find yourself spending loads of time at a desk (like me).

if yoga isn't your cup of tea, maybe you find a quiet place to do some stretching, or go for a walk and do some deep breathing instead. if you've been wanting to give yoga a try, but haven't been sure where to start, this is a great place.

2. taking a shower

this can actually be a nice thing to do before a yoga practice and i have heard some instructors recommend it: rinse off the day thus far. whether you're practicing yoga or not, this feels extremely good, and can be a great way to reset your day by emotionally and physically cleansing. sometimes if things aren't going as i'd planned or if i'm having a rough day, taking a break from everything and taking a nice hot shower can be just what i need to feel refreshed.

3. getting outside

deep breathing fresh air is important, and there's lots of research, articles, and common sense to back this up. sometimes we just sit in one room, slouching over a laptop for way too long. we stagnate. we need some movement, oxygen, and a great big change of scenery. i'm cultivating a new habit of  getting up, taking a break, and taking my dog rocket for a walk when my brain starts to feel oat mealish.

not to mention the fact that the outdoors is the best place to go, and full of thE COOLEST THINGS LIKE TREES AND BIRDS AND BUGS AND AWESOME NOISES AND SCENTS AND UGGH. just shut off your phone and go have some fun, alright??


4. drinking tea or kombucha

this is another ritual i love; afternoon tea after most of my work, if not all of it, is finished for the day. i drank loads of tea while i was in england and the habit sort of just stuck. when i'm writing or relaxing, you can usually find me drinking a nice hot mug of pg tea (a delicious brand i discovered while in kensington) with a splash of whole milk and a teaspoon of vermont maple syrup.

kombucha is another favorite of mine. the kind i usually buy is raw, organic, and packed with probiotics and enzymes that help support your immune system. i've been enjoying gt's autumn special, which has a warm, cinnamon undertones and hints of apple and is delicious over ice.

5. listening to classical or acoustic music

lately i've been returning to my roots and gorging on loads of classical music. my mom raised my sister and i largely on Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach, and i find these are still the melodies that sooth, sustain, and help me best to think. there's actually scientific evidence about ways in which classical music benefits us. another favorite fallback is native american cultural music, which inspires and relaxes me in equal measure with it's sweeping beauty and varying energy. these are a few of my favorite classical pieces, and these are some of my favorite cultural tracks. enjoy. :)


alright sweet soul, now it's your turn - what is your #1 tip for resetting and refreshing? i've love to hear it (and give it a try). oh, and what is your favorite kind of music to unwind to?


stay stoked,
kate

a man with one eye | part two


we have a happy life. people who look in on it from the outside would probably say 'strange' is a better name for it; the solitude and the long, quiet, winter months, and how i climb the trees in spring just to spend hours lost among the apple blossoms. the way dee makes cider in the fall, enough to last us through the cold months, the way he teaches me from old books over the kitchen table. it's the sort of life most people can't easily relate to or categorize.

most people run away from the things that fight behind their eyes; they fill their brains and senses bursting with noise and scents and flavors. they fill each moment and chase away the quiet so that they never have to hear what the whispering voice inside them has to say.

i might have lived that way too if dee hadn't raised me. he was different than most people. he didn't run away from the smoke and the sound of war, he ran towards it. to do anything else, he said, was to let the demons win. it seems a heroic sort of principle to live by.

dee never says much, so when he does say something i always know it must be important. so tonight when he looks at me from across the table and clears his throat, i listen.

"em, this morning when dog ran off, did you go wandering in the woods when i told you not to?"

i twist my lips, biting back the honesty. my expression is enough confirmation for dee. he tips his head back and sighs.

"em, i tell you things for a reason," he says. "do you think i just want to be an old stick in the mud?"

i shake my head.

dee rests his elbows on the table and clasps his hands together. his soft brown eyes study my face.

"there's dangerous things in the woods - wild animals sometimes. if i'm not with you, there'd be no one to protect you, em," he says, and he's very serious. "don't go wandering unless i'm with you."

my lips are still twisted and there's a thousand thoughts running mad through my head.

"what about whoever lives in that house?" i ask. "they're out here too."

one of dee's thick, black eyebrows lift. "house?"

"the little house - the one that's a few miles off in the hollow where the ground is all soft and rusty with pine needles," i swing a hand toward the window. "you ever seen it?"

dee's expression doesn't change from that serious one. his forehead is etched.

"don't you go snooping in where you don't belong,"

"who lives there, then?"

dee heaves a long sigh.

i bounce in my chair a little and plant my elbows on the table. "if you tell me the whole story, i'll be content. if - if you don't then you know how i am: i will think of nothing else until i've gotten myself twisted into a mess."

dee rolls his eyes and takes a long swig of cider, probably wishing it was alcohol.

"alright, fine - if you promise to just stop."

"that's a really vague request."

 "stop snooping around that house, you understand?"

i take a deep breath and consider it. it doesn't sound like a promise i'll be able to keep, but i know that if i don't agree to these terms i won't get even a scrap of the story twitching on the tip of his tongue. and dee is the best kind of story teller - the kind who makes really good sound effects and does the different voices and everything. the temptation is too great.

"alright," i sigh.

"alright," he repeats but in a satisfied tone, rolling up his sleeves and sitting back with his glass. "alright, then i will tell you the story."

dee pauses and sips his cider, then he settles into a different frame of mind, it seems.

"you know mrs. hilling, the old lady with the gray hair who lives -"

"the one who lives down by the river, a couple miles away? yeah. the one who makes the yarn that you gave me for christmas last year."

"yes, her. well, when i first moved out here after i got out of the military, i went down to her house and introduced myself to and let her know that i was building a place and moving out here with my niece. i didn't say a whole lot else, but you know how she talks: she told me, among many other things i cannot remember, that i should take care bringing a young girl out here because of the wolves and because you would get ugly hands from all the hard work, but most of all because..." dee gets quiet, his eyes sparkling with firelight. "...and this is the crazy part, so listen carefully."

i lean in.

"...'and because, mr. desmond,' she says, 'there's a hermit living in the cabin down in the hollow - a hermit who never leaves his house - a hermit none of the locals have ever seen' i just chuckled and said 'well, mrs. hilling, there aren't too many locals around here, and there's nothing wrong with liking a little peace and quiet'."

"and then?"

dee sips his cider, then he cracks a little grin.

"do you know that lady stabbed a finger right in my face and said with the most serious look on her face, 'mr. desmond do you know what people have called him? do you know what they say about him?'"

he pauses again and i raise an eyebrow.

dee looks at me for a long moment then smiles and shakes his head. "i told her thank you, but that my niece wasn't afraid of the occasional coyote or hermit, or of getting her hands dirty. but she did tell me that she'd heard him called, this guy who owns the cabin - she'd heard him called 'one-eyed billy'. i kid you not, it was like something out of a movie," dee drains the rest of his cider, setting the empty glass down on the table.

"one-eyed billy?" i repeat, stunned by the delicious mysteriousness of it all. "do you think that's true? do you think he's only got one eye?"

dee shrugs. "that's the man's business, not my own."

"yeah, but,"

"no, no, nooo, none of that," he shakes his head with a stiff lip. "people are unkind to say stuff like that, and to talk about it is to fuel it."

"but why do you think he only has one eye?"

"we don't even know that it's true."

"why do you think he never leaves his cabin? doesn't that seem kind of strange?"

dee gives me a long hard look and then points one weathered finger at me accusingly. "remember that promise you made me, hmm? you're not going to go poking around that poor guy's house. just leave him alone. do you think i'd want some irritating neighbor girl snooping around here because she'd heard some bitter old guy with big scar on his arm was living out here with his niece like some charles ingalls wannabe?"

i almost choke on my cider. i shake my head, wiping my mouth. "i guess not, sir."

he rolls his eyes and gets up to take my empty dish and his. "didn't think so."

i sit at the table for a minute, draping my hand down into the soft fur hunched next to me. thoughts swirl around in my head as i think about the house and the dark windows and the lack of smoke piping from the chimney. i think about how empty it looked and how lonely it must be to live there. i think about the prospect of only having one eye.

"how does she know he's only got one eye if no one's ever seen him?" i ask from the table.

"it's just a rumor. i think the kid who brings him groceries started it."

"hmm."

"what?"

"oh nothing," i keep petting dog. "i'm just trying to imagine it all now."

"well stop that."

i smile a little, biting my lip. "i promised not to snoop," i call back into the kitchen. "not to quit imagining."

"bet you wouldn't like it if someone imagined all kinds of things about you," dee retorts.

i trace my fingertips back and forth through dog's fur, thinking about it. i tip my head back, turning the idea over in my mind.

"i don't know," i say at last. "i guess it would depend on what they imagined."






it's been a cold cold but bright blue fall day here in vermont. the leaves are red and gold and the sunlight is falling in bright yellow beams. it felt like just the right sort of day to post this part of the story. not going to beat about the bush, i'm a little in love with the character of dee.

i've been over here writing and editing like mad, and doing yoga and drinking lots of tea in between. i have a few things i'm just bursting to share with you !!! ANYWAY, what's your favorite part of the week been?? let's catch up in the comments <3 

stay stoked,
kate

the house in the hollow | part one


the dawn is still so new; like a baby just born, it's eyes are still blue. navy drizzles down with just enough gray to illuminate the dull shapes of trees and the outline of the cider house and the stacks of wood beyond the frosty window. i'm still tucked under a thick wool blanket, nestled up to my nose. my exhales paint the air in puffs of white and i squeeze my eyes shut again.

cold, cold, cold. 

new sappy wood crackles and hisses in the stove, meaning it's already been tended; coals that had dwindled overnight had resurrected to flames. i can hear a distant thwack, thwack, thwack, coming from outside. i lay there listening, curled beneath the blankets and wishing dawn would ebb back below the horizon.

every morning comes cold and too early, sneaking up on our little cabin. i'm always the last one up; dee is up before morning gets here.

sliding from my bunk, my toes touch the cold wood floor. i wrap the blanket around my body and hobble into the kitchen, sucking back curses as the cold reaches through my skin to fill my bones. the kitchen is quiet and damp and dark except for the pale yellow oil lamplight casting shadows across the cupboard.

clink, clink. two mugs.

i set the water kettle on the iron top of the potbelly stove, warming myself there until it whistles, steam feathering up into the crisp air.

i fill the mugs and stir in milk from a glass bottle. swallowing it down, i fill my belly with warmth, muddling into my boots. i whistle quietly to the shaggy pile of slumbering fur heaped by the creaky oak door. his nails tick tick tick across the floor and he shadows me out into the cold cold cold gray silence that lies beyond the cabin, interrupted only by the continuing thwack, thwack, thwack. 

the woods are thick and still and the air hurts my face. the branches hang gathered like bunting, drenched in shades of rust and gold. dog weaves through the birches and maples, his nose inches above the ground. all seems newborn to him.

my feet crunch against the ground as i follow the sound of iron striking wood through the first touches of dawn. at first my uncle is only an outline in the distance; darker grays against a washed away sky. the ax swings up over his thick, wide shoulders, and comes down with a thud that rattles through my boots. i float closer like a ghost, my boots silent now as they pass over the soft ground and shuffle to a stop next to the big round trunk; sap drizzling from it's hacked away side.

when the ax comes down again, dee lets it stay put, straightening his back like someone who hasn't stood at full height in awhile. despite the cold, sweat trickles from his thick, curly black hair and rolls down his forehead. he wipes his face in the crook of his elbow and pushes up his flannel sleeves. i extend one mug and he wraps one hand around it. he takes a few big deep breaths and then drinks some down.

his real name is Frances, but no one ever calls him that he says; his men called him Desmond, his last name. and so i call him dee, instead of uncle. and he does the same for me - calls me emerald even though it's not my real name; he says i'm the only girl he's ever known with eyes like the gem stones. me and my momma; i'll have to take his word for it.

dee's eyes are the biggest and warmest brown you ever saw, and now they scan the woods as he hands his empty cup back to me.

tipping my head back, i look up at the towering old oak, it's spidery arms reaching for the leaves it had long since lost. dee looks at me and then up at the tree, resting one thick, strong hand against the rough bark.

"good morning, emerald," his voice a gruff mahogany.

"good morning," i say.

dee is tall and strong, and barrel chested. his arms are thick and one is scarred, a "tattoo from afghanistan" he calls it, though never explains how he got it; only that it was part of why he'd built the cabin.

"where's dog?" dee asks suddenly.

shivering in the blanket, i keep it wrapped around my shoulders as i twist around to glance through the shadowy trees.

"i let him out," i say. "i'm sure he's just over there."

dee gives a stiff nod, but then says "you watch him carefully," as he yanks the ax out of the tree's side again. "you don't let him wander - and you don't wander either."

"no sir."

dee stands straight and drinking in the air for a minute more, before giving a delayed nod. he swings the ax forward and little bits of soft tree flesh burst away like confetti.

i crunch back to the cabin, craning my neck to see around the trees, looking for dog.

i see blankets of golden needles covering the ground like silk. i see big, thick oaks, and white patches of overcast light coming down through the gray now. i see a cardinal dipping through the colors of the morning and i hear the wind against his wings. but i don't see dog.

i set the mugs on the sill of one of the two windows carved out the front of the cabin like gaping eyes. i shoot glances over my shoulders, hoping dee is still working. i hear the thuds of his ax.

my footsteps quicken as i dodge around the trees, puckering my lips to give a short, swift whistle. "dog," i whisper. "dog, come here,"

my voice is soft and swept up in the quiet as a breeze swells from the ground to push through the birches and sway the pines. i bite my lip as i stop, looking around me for glimpses of tan and charcoal fur passing through the trees like ghost.

"dog," i whisper again and again, walking farther and farther.

the thwacking sound grow more and more distant.

i keep walking and walking; listening to the birds chatter and my quiet exhales as they puff into the hard new england air like clouds.

finally, i hear a scuffle to my left, where a cluster of brambles and blackberry bushes lay. i stop, frozen.

i step closer, reaching out to brush aside the scruffy branches. my jaw stiffens.

dog digs among the brambles, his nose to a rabbit burrow.

i'm not sure how far i've walked, but i know its farther than i have before. i've never seen anything out here in the woods -  nothing but trees and the sparrows and the bushes full of berries in the summer. but here, the trees stretch away to circle around a hollow; around a little house that stands as quiet as the trees. no smoke rises from the chimney and the windows are black.

i sink back in the brush, softly whistling for dog.

he digs and digs and doesn't listen to me. my lower lip is pinned between my teeth.

i peer through the branches, catching snatches of the logs and mossy roof; a bewildered feeling filling my belly.

"psst, dog - dog, come!"

finally, dog pulls himself reluctantly away from the hole. he follows me back through the woods, and we move quickly and quietly back over the soft prints my boots made in the soil. in fact, i run. dog bounds along at my side.

soon i hear the thwacking of dee's ax again, and with it, echoes in my mind of words he had said to me ten thousands times over:

"it's good to be out here - out here alone. where things are real, em."

i'd always agreed. but now i can't help but glance over my shoulder, back to the brambles where the little house stood.

the little house in the hollow that i've never seen before.






hey sweet soul <3 i hope your week is treating you like gold. i thought since it was autumn now it was time for a new story. these cooler, drizzly vermont days drench my head with story. this one came to me yesterday and was still in my head this morning, so here you go. i hope you like it. i recommend listening to the violet hour by the civil wars while you read it.

stay stoked,
kate

i'm back

 
and just like that, i'm back. back in my home office, for now, sipping coffee and listening to good, long Jocko podcasts while I wait for my husband to get home from the base so he, my sister, and i can train together. for now i'm back in vermont after a long trip away, i'm back to long days of editing, working, writing, training karate, and spending time with the people that matter most in the world to me, my beautiful family.

it usually takes a bit of hustle to get caught up on everything, and that's exactly where i find myself right now: grinding hard to get caught up on everything - everything as in book 3, which is off to my editor the first week of november. (woo!)

but catching up on all the work is a minute price to pay for the incredible time Tyler and I had, taking a month to go backpacking in Europe. Ireland was by far one of the coolest places I've ever hiked, and on top of that, we were there for BOOK 3 RESEARCH PURPOSES. if you follow me on instagram, you might have caught me that time i hopped on for a quick story while i was hiking through the wicklow mountains, which are spectacular, pictured above, and a HUGE setting for this next book. (have i mentioned that i can't WAIT for you to read this book??)

so all this to say, excuse my silence, but i'm hard at work over here, thinking of you guys and looking forward to getting this next book into your hands. i also have a ton of Irish beauty to share with you guys; i was really relishing in my new camera on this trip. i think its safe to say you can't go to ireland sans-camera, because the landscapes are just too mind-blowing. it's the kind of place you want to soak in and remember forever.


but enough about me - what have you been up to this month? what projects are you tackling this fall? I'd love to hear all about what's been keeping you motivated this week. 

stay stoked,
kate

a sketch of a coffee shoppe


i am sitting by the large picture window at the end of a coffee shop. everything is mahogany, a dark encompassing shade like cocoa to embody the scent of ground espresso hanging as thick in the air as smoke. my back is to the bar, but i can hear machines whirring and buzzing from behind it along with laughter and chatter; someone announcing a caramel latte with whipped cream for tim.

the noise and the scents distract me from the blank page in front of me. the paper is thick, more like card stock and meant for something like watercolor paintings. instead an ink pen lays beside it and my gaze ebbs between the two objects. i rub my fingers together, thinking.

the window in front of me is painted gray by raindrop polka dots. the city lays past it; well, a street anyway- warm asphalt lined with lampposts draped in flags and flower baskets. there's a bike rack just outside and i watch a teenager experience difficulty with the lock around the front tire of his respective bicycle. he's the kind of boy that hasn't quite got used to the length of his own lanky limbs.

i decide to put my earbuds in. they're white and wireless and they play cream. i think about words - or try to.

all my friends write in coffee shops and it looks so great. but it's easier caught on film than carried out in reality. because the sounds are still whirring through the air with the scent of espresso, warm and rich, and tim still hasn't picked up his caramel latte with whipped cream. what kind of a person would just leave it sitting there like that?

back outside, the teenager is still struggling with his bike chain. since he's still here i guess he's enough of a character to earn a description: he is a baggy vans tee shirt with beat up jeans and sneaks. a tangled froth of black curls spill from his head. the apples of his etched cheeks redden. he kicks at the back tire and grabs a fistful of the froth.

a breeze combs the street, making the baskets sway a little, the poppies nodding to the tasteful rhythm of the drums beating through my earbuds. because of the breeze, i notice a swatch of bright fabric rippling like a flag across the quiet street. it's not a flag really, it's a dress; long and floral and worn by a woman who looks about fifty. her hair is pinned on top of her head and she has the sort of face that makes someone with imagination want to make up a story about her.

she sits down on a bench and places her white leather bag into her lap. she waits. and the breeze doesn't even budge her hair from it's tidy bun. i wonder how anyone can make their hair obey them like that.

i look back down at the paper in front of me and this time i pick up the pen. the tip hovers just above the page; not making contact. i can't remember what it was i had really wanted to say, but now i remember that i bought a coffee. it was just a hot black coffee though, not special like the coffee tim had apparently abandoned. it had been intimidatingly busy when i first came in, and because of this i'd decided that i wouldn't order anything that would cause me to be piled atop the mass of hollow eyes and hands clutching receipts titled with wrongly spelled names. no, i would be simple: a large black coffee please. and it would be placed in my hand only seconds after i handed the barista named elliot the three dollars it had cost.

there were downsides about large hot coffees with no milk, though. they weren't for the impatient; my tongue was already swollen in my mouth, throbbing to the beat of "strange brew". an injury like that just makes all your happy feelings for a hot beverage go away.

i begin to draw an angry flower on the margins of the page. i look back up through the rain speckled glass. the perfect bun is still seated on the bench, and her sharp eyes switch back and forth like she's waiting for something. now i see her lips are crimson. her long dress hangs past her ankles and settles in a puddle of fabric on the damp sidewalk. it pains me to think about how the dirt will stick, and how that will be such a misfortune considering all the effort she put into the rest of her appearance.

i decide her name must be juliana. she has a face like one.

meanwhile, on this side of the street, on one side of the glass i finish my angry flower. on the other side, the boy mounts his bike - which is now unchained! i can't help but feel a little let down: he'd already managed to liberate it. all that struggle and i missed the conclusion. it's like missing the best part of a movie you've never seen.

tim still hasn't picked up his caramel latte. how do i know, i have earbuds in? oh, i know because now i'm looking over my shoulder at the end of the bar, my jaw clenching with anger left over from missing the best part of the messy teenager's bike dilemma. now my anger shifts over to tim.

the whipped cream, i could see even from this inopportune vantage point, was loosing it's gusto.

no less irritated, i look back to the lady across the street just as the teenager peddles across to the bench. he turns sharp and accidentally rides across the hem of the anxiously long dress, instantly causing something inside me to recoil; i'd known some catastrophe like this would occur. it only increases when the boy almost falls into the street. the woman's mouth forms a horrified O. I turn cream up a little louder, which adds to the cinematic affect.

the boy sputters and wags his arms in a way that seems apologetic as he scrambles up. the situation seems like it might get worse, but then two other women in similar dress approach. this seems to all but melt away the bad feelings left by the filthy tire mark that marred the train of her expensive looking garment. i can imagine the shrieks that only women with large pocketbooks and lipstick can make when they see each other. hugs are being slathered as the boy deftly takes advantage of the situation and races the bike out of my frame of reference.

i can't help but feel a little bummed as i realize that juliana was just meeting two copy-and-paste friends. i'd hoped for a long lost italian lover from her twenties. it makes me even more remorseful about the ordeal with the bike; it had been the only good story in this window, and i'd missed it.

i yank one earbud out just in time to hear someone shout tim's name; monotonously summoning him to his long forgotten caramel latte.

it is too much. it is all too much.

snapping my sketchpad closed on the one angry flower, i slide down off the stupidly high stood and stride over to the bar, my nostrils presumably flaring. i slam to a halt in front of the bar, my sneakers squeaking loudly on the concrete. i snatch the neglected cup from the apron with a teenage boy inside it.

i grab a straw and stab it violently through the lid, lifting it to my lips to take a long, defiant drought.

"that's for tim," he croaks, defeated.

"i know," i reply, turning on my heels. "thanks."



__________




this is why i can't write in coffee shops.

stay stoked,
kate

A GIVEAWAY & a HUGE thank-you



happy friday, my friends! what a full and fulfilling week this has been. starting tomorrow or later today i'm about to dive headlong into edits on The Blood Race book 3, but to kick off the weekend i wanted to take a moment to thank every single one of you who has participated in the blog tour for worlds beneath, helped me spread the word, and of course, READ the book! 

you guys don't even know how much you mean to me, and how much i love you all. below, i'm going to list every single person (and their blogs) participating in the tour. please take a moment to go check out their posts and show them some love - they're all so awesome, and such a great bunch of writers themselves. 

i also wanted give you a heads up - i just kicked off a giveaway over on my instagram - There will be 3 winners: 1st prize includes everything you see in this photo - signed copies of BOTH my books (the first two in the trilogy), one handcrafted, 'The Blood Race' watercolor book marker (graciously donated by the brilliant McKenzie!), a vintage-style journal, a "Book Lovers Kit" (which includes a place-marker, a 'from the library of' stamp & slips, and a quote book), and a box of Tazo sweet cinnamon spice tea (because who doesn't love a hot cup of tea with a good book??) 2nd & 3rd prize include one beautiful hand-painted 'The Blood Race' bookmark, and digital copies of both books. 

TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY: 

1. Follow me (@emmonswrites) and The Blood Race series account (@thebloodrace)

2. Comment on the image with your FAVORITE THING about The Blood Race, or WHY you're looking forward to reading it AND tag a friend who might like to enter the giveaway! (They will also need to follow/comment/tag to be entered.) You must do ALL of the things listed, or you're not going to be entered.

I'll be announcing the winner on Saturday, September 15th


and now, a GREAT BIG SHOUT-OUT to the amazing bloggers without whom I could never have successfully launched worlds beneath:



^ that smile on my face?? YOU GUYS PUT IT THERE. <3 and i can't thank you enough. can't wait to write you another book!!

if you didn't get a chance to participate in the blog tour, but still wanted to do a post of some kind, no worries! just shoot me an email (you can find that on the about page up top.)

stay stoked!
kate

wandering: versailles





versailles was spur of the moment. it was remembering how much i had always wanted to see it on one of our last days in paris. it was dashing down the rainy gray sidewalks and buying tickets at a tour office. it was so exciting.

versailles getting up early and missing breakfast and filling ourselves with chocolate croissants and mini cream-filled doughnuts instead. because why wouldn't you? what else does one do when they are in love and in paris?

it was taking a bus and watching france pass the window in pastel blurs like marble and sunlight, all dressed up with rows of cottage like townhouses with beautiful architecture that seemed a little german-influenced to me. it was quickly eating the rest of my croissant because you can't bring food into a palace but you can't throw away a chocolate croissant either.

versailles was crisp morning air and sunlight as clear and sweet as nectar. it was crystal and gold and and mirrors mirrors mirrors. hallways marie antoinette once walked. golden walls warm with the sunlight. wide eyed me, trying to hear everything our tour guide was saying through my earbuds.

the hall of mirrors was the best part (google it because my lens didn't do the enormity of the room justice) and i wished i could stay until after closing and just lay in the middle of the floor and look up the the twinkling chandeliers and pretend they were stars in the dusty moonlight reflecting off the sheer glass walls.

versailles was roaming the gardens and weaving among the topiaries and snapping pictures and laughing and striking yoga poses and running around like two children in the warm sunlight.

and of course it was crepes after that.

_________________________


OK I HAVE SOMETHING SPECIAL TO TELL YOU.

it's a relief to finally take a quick break from desk work to post this fun little sketch of versailles, (which is well worth visiting if you find yourself in France) because it's something i've been wanting to post for quite a while. if you've been hanging out with me here on the goodness revolt for a bit, you know that traveling is in my blood - i love grabbing my backpack and heading out on adventures (and writing about them!!! that's one of the best parts!!)

wandering will forever be part of the goodness revolt, and you can expect 'wandering' posts just as frequently as i've been endeavoring to post them. however, as my husband and I travel more and more, i begin to find myself longing for a larger space to facilitate my madly-scribbled chronicles of our adventures and globe trots.

all that said, after lots of dreaming, planning, and encouraging discussion with Tyler, I decided now was as good a time as any to branch out and create a little extra room to share about travel, wanderlust, trips, and all things wandering. i've started a new chapter - a companion blog, as i like to think of it - a sweet little online space called An Adventure Called Us.

I'll let it speak for itself, but in a nutshell - yes! I've started a travel blog! I'm very excited to share more about our adventures (aaaand have a place to dump all my many, many, many travel photos, haha!).

So if you like my wandering posts here on the goodness revolt, you may just like what i'm blogging about over on An Adventure Called Us. ;) (hit up our instagram account here, I'll be posting LOTS of adventure shots.)



Alright, you know the drill! Tell me about the last BEST adventure YOU had below in the comments! was it close by?? thousands of miles away??? did you get there by pane, boat, car... space shuttle? (if you say space shuttle, pls take me with you next time)



stay stoked,
kate