Ep. 10 -- Lake Crescent


The one where everyone loses and finds some things in the woods.

Welcome, weary travelers, to The Inn Between. Join Gabriela Jones, a recent botany undergrad, in her new job as Innkeeper near the rural town of Shearwater.

New episodes bi-weekly on the quarter moon. Written and read by Bailey Loveless

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An extra special thanks to Michael Medler, this week’s guestbook contributor, podcast supporter, and the inspiration for this episode’s cameo. Michael writes because Nature wills him to it. He recently left a dystopian suburb of Seattle and retreated to the knee-hills of the Olympic Mountains, cut the cable, and bought whiskey. Now he finds inspiration from deep woods, less so from demons. Though they are there. His poem “Reflection” comes from his poetry collection Boundary Points, and both of his poetry volumes can be purchased here on Amazon.

Read guestbook submission guidelines here

LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This podcast is inspired by and recorded on the Indigenous lands of the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest. We celebrate and honor these ancestral lands and their stewards--past, present, and future.

THEME MUSIC: Yonder Dale / Tiny Surprises / courtesy of www.epidemicsound.com

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Episode Transcript:

[Intro Music]

Welcome, weary travelers, my name is Aleirbag, I mean, Gabriela. I’m Gabriela Jones, the new innkeeper of The Inn Between, where the trees are green, the rooms are cozy, and the woods are full of strange and beautiful places. Whether you’re listening for the first time or have been here before, come on in and prop up your feet-metaphorically speaking of course—and pour yourself a cup of coffee.

[Intro Music]

You can easily lose a lot of things in the woods: your hat, your gloves, a hiking boot. Your car keys, your sense of direction, the effects of time on your mortal existence. Personal experience, however, has also taught me that you can find a lot of things too: chanterelle mushrooms, an oak tree growing in an unusual direction, multiple species of moss growing on a fallen log, the occasional flash of inspiration, and an overall sense of wonder with the world.

Of course, the things I like the find and hate to lose in the woods are usually plant-related. But I’ve often heard artists and writers say they’ve both found and lost themselves in the woods. I always assumed they were speaking metaphorically, as creative people often do. But what if you really could? Find yourself or lose yourself in the forest?

…Sorry, what was I going say? Um. My apologies, dear listeners, I’m feeling a little dazed as I record this.

Oh, that’s right. I wanted to tell you about an older gentleman named Micheal who recently stayed at the inn. On the afternoon Michael arrived, he came with no suitcases, just saddled with brushes and painting supplies, wearing old denim flecked with every color imaginable, and sporting a giant white mane of hair.

After handing over the key to the Lion Room, I asked him if he needed help finding anything, and he looked at me with a totally vacant expression, as blank as one of the empty canvases in his arms, and said, “Young lady, there is absolutely nothing you can do to help me find the things I’m looking for.”

Then with a sort of grunt, he hauled all of his supplies upstairs.

He had reserved his room for the next few weeks, and over the next several days, I observed him as I went about my work. He’d set his easel up then put out a little fold-out stool and he’d stit the for hours, studying whatever subject was before him: the mountains, the money tree, the mailbox, a small cedar sapling, the garden box of tomatoes. His brushstrokes would masterfully copy out whatever it was in perfect, realistic detail.

But at the end of the day, he’d pack up his gear and retire to his room, and then I’d hear him pacing around whenever I came upstairs, and in the morning, I’d find a canvas with only a half-completed painting down by the trash can.

One afternoon, I looked out the kitchen window and saw him sitting near the goat pen, his shoulders hunched and his brush strokes so aggressive he was practically throwing paint onto his canvas. When I’m feeling distressed, I like something soothing and cool to drink, so I decided to make him a glass of lemonade infused with lavender. Not wanting to interrupt him, I simply handed it to him.

He took it and drank it quickly, and since he did not seem agitated with me, I stayed a minute to look at his work. It’s not enough to say that he had painted a lifelike rendition of the goats, Toil and Trouble. Honestly, it was a near-perfect depiction, capturing their strange red and blue heterochromatic eyes, the unusual twist and texture of their horns.

“I like that one. Please don’t throw it away,” I told him, as he began to slash at it with touches of black and red paint.

“Thank you,” he said. With a sigh, he put down his dripping brush. “You can keep it if you like, but I’m afraid it’s just a paltry copy.”

I thanked him and took it from his easel. As I did so, he stroked his bushy white beard.

“I need something special. Something that can shine for my art show next month, but I just can’t seem to do it,” he said, more to himself than me. “Maybe I’ve lost my touch.”

“No way. You’re so talented,” I said. “You just need to find some inspiration. Maybe this yard just isn’t big enough for you,” I said. 

“I don’t know what’s enough for me,” he admitted.

I then kindly asked if he had walked any of the paths through the woods, knowing full well he hadn’t.

“A walk does sound nice,” he said.

The glass of lavender lemonade emptied, I took it from him and retreated back inside with the goat painting to finish my work. But from the window, I could see him folding up his stool and packing up his paints then wandering into the woods.

The next morning, Michael greeted me at the front desk, asking to check out.

Disappointed, I asked, “Oh. You didn’t find anything out there?”

He gave me a toothy grin, and I realized it was the first time I had seen him smile. “On the contrary, I found a revelation. Let me show you.”

His hands, stained with blue and green, and orange paint, reached for something on the floor. He picked up a small canvas, maybe 8x10 at most. But the painting, while not large in size, was humungous in scale. Unlike his others, it was not very like-like, but it didn’t really need to be. In imperfectly perfect strokes of bright blue was a large lake in the shape of a crescent moon surrounded by huge, wobbly cedars and Douglas firs.  The lake perfectly reflected its painted surroundings as if looking at a mirror.

“Beautiful,” I said.

“Yes, I found exactly what I needed to find,” he said. “Why didn’t you just tell me about the lake?”

“Wait, this is a real place??” I said, furrowing my brow. I then explained to him that I had never seen this place before and ask if he could recount the way he went. He hemmed and he hawed, but he could not describe to me the path that he had taken, only that it involved a lot of trees but not too much walking.

“It just came to me. But I saw it with my own eyes,” he said. “Or at least, I think I did. Oh, wait! Maybe it went something like this.”

Pulling a brush and little palette of paint from his pocket, he calligraphed the following into the guestbook, writing frantically though in the way one does when jotting something down so as not to forget:

 It read

“The still pond lies to my reflection. I won’t 

see the bone map hiding behind the face, 

the Port o’ lan profile of nary a soul and

Lips singing “I’m almost there.” What falls 

To pond bottom has lost voice beneath the

Warp and weft of August sky. I touch the surface,

Know where Emerson found his “circles,” why

He anguished, why smiles repeat perpetuity.

My thumb bends below the edge of another 

realm, hitching a ride with a Koi where ripples

Spread the song of touch. Where ripples are

A circular continuity of smiles. Where the

Clutch of moments pass and the ripples speak

Back to the ceaseless center, where I am.”


He finished it off with doodles of crescent moons and koi fish and large black circles.

“That’s a beautiful poem,” I said. “But I have no ideas what it means.”

“Me neither,” he said with a glint in his eye. “Not the foggiest idea. Wish me luck at the art show then!”

Then with a hmm, he picked up his things, thanked me for my help, and walked out the door.

Once it was safe to shut, I put the guestbook away and didn’t think about Michael’s strange words again. Not until this last week, after a certain incident with Toil and Trouble, when I lost and found the pair of goats in the forest.

Toil and Trouble have received no lack of attention this summer. Popular with guests, they have been the subject of debate as grown-ups argue over what breed of goats the pair might be or why they look so weird with their abnormal horns and strange red and blue eyes. They’ve also been adored, especially by children visiting with their families and old women who like to sneak them treats. All this to say, that other than daily feedings, they’ve required very little of me since my arrival at the inn, and Michael’s painting of them has been a welcome addition to the reception area.

But the morning of said incident occurred last Wednesday as the sun began to set, when for the first time ever, they decided to jump the fence.

Fortunately, I just happened to be checking on my pumpkin seedlings when it happened, when they landed gracefully on the other side of the fence as nimble as deer. I think all three of us were surprised because I stared at them and they stared back at me, their matching red eyes side by side, giving them the appearance of a two-headed goat demon. Then without a glance back at me, they both shot for the woods.

I ran after them as fast as I could, but they had already disappeared among the ferns. Calling their names, I walked along the trail they had taken, staring at the ground in search of tracks, signs, goat fur, anything. Externally, I was reminding myself to breathe and listen, but internally I was freaking out.

What would happen if I couldn’t find the goats? Would Mr. Leake fire me if he found out that I had let him escape? Would he find out? What if it got dark and I still hadn’t found them and something ate them?

I walked as fast as I could, knowing time gets distorted in the forest. You see, the trees are so tall and so thick, that everything underneath is dark and shady, and it can sometimes be impossible to determine the position of the sun. Would it be dark in an hour or two or three? 

I came to a fork in the path and waited, looking for any sign of which of the two paths I ought to take. Then I thought I heard a distant bleat coming from the right, and breaking out into a run, I continued on with my search. The path took a downhill turn and gained momentum as I ran, the trees whipping past me. Then the path became dangerously covered in river stone and pebbles and I found myself trying to skid to a stop. 

Those of you back home, probably know where I am going with this. Let’s just say that unfortunately, I am not the most coordinated person, especially when it comes to running. 

So it didn’t take much to send me into a full-on tumble the rest of the way down the hill, not stopping until I rolled into a thick patch of some berry bushes, the thorns covering my arms in scratches. Silently I cursed the two goats, thinking perhaps Toil and Trouble were apt names for them after all. Picking myself out of the berry bushes and I stood up to see where it was I had fallen.

It is a strange feeling: knowing where you are while also having no clue at all.

Because I had seen this place before, or at least a place like it with technicolor leaves and wobbly tree trunks. There were none of that here of course, but there were the cedars, the Douglas firs, the reflection of the forest and the mountains on a bright blue surface, and, of course, the lake.

A lake in the shape of the crescent moon, as large and deep as a massive moon crater with impossibly blue water…

While in the back of my mind I knew I should keep looking for goats as dusk was falling, I just had to get a closer look at the water. Creeping towards the rocky shoreline, I looked down and gasped. The water went straight deep down, but so clear that I could see huge, fallen trees resting on the bottom of the lake, submerged branches spreading out wrapped in thick aquatic vines, like a forest beneath the forest. I knelt down to get a closer look but found myself gazing into my reflection, which stared back at me with uncanny precision. 

It was perfect, too perfect, to the point where the perfection of it seemed almost wrong. But I couldn’t determine what about it seemed that way as I passed my hand just above the water’s surface. I laughed realizing I was still wearing my name tag, having forgotten to take it off, and with my finger in the air, I traced the backward letters of my name: Aleirbag. Feeling compelled to touch the water, I barely dipped my index finger in. A wave of ripples distorted my reflection then, and then I was falling, falling into the water as if two hands had reached out of the depths and pulled me in.

Though I did not swim or sink or drown, my eyes were open, looking into a great, blue void that went on forever, that seemed to be pulling me in.

But then the way was blocked and I was staring into a pair of eyes, my eyes to be exact. I was in front of me. Or rather some version of me, wearing the same outfit, the same sweater, the same dark hair swirling around. I lifted my arm, and she lifted hers. I look right and left and so she did see. But my eyes went down to the name tag, where I again saw my face backward. Aleirbag.

Like the reflection, it seemed too perfect, then realized the problem: Aleirbag had no scratches upon her arms.

Aleirbag then smiled, and I mimicked her smile. She took my hands and I took hers, and as our palms touched, the water churned. We were spinning, twirling, and the water moved fast around us. Whether we created the vortex or the vortex created us, I wasn’t sure. But all around us, I could see things moving in the water. I could see myself falling into the water over and over again. I could see Aleirbag and I swimming synchronized in the depths one moment, then trying to hold each other down under the water the next. Both ended in the same way: one of us breaking free to climb out of the water again. Whether it was Aleirbag or myself or whether any difference existed between us, I could not tell.

But we were dancing in the deep blue, and it was impossible to distinguish who was leading and who was following.

Then the spinning stopped, and I found myself floating on my back, still under the water but facing a static blue sky. I was keenly aware of something beneath me, something missing me and searching for me far far below towards the center of the lake. But I was distracted by the girl above me, peering down in the water, her face slightly blurry, her arms bleeding, but still looking an awful lot like me. I wanted her to speak to her, but I also wanted to ask her to dance with me, but I couldn’t move my mouth as she observed me. Her finger pricked the surface, sending endless ripples across my face. I reached up, grabbed her arm, and pulled her in. I blocked her way so that she would not be dragged out further. I smiled, took her hand, and began to spin and spin and…

…So sorry, I dozed off there a second I think. I don’t think I got enough sleep last night. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, finding the goats. Anyway, after rolling down the hill, I guess I must have hit my head pretty hard or something. I really don’t remember much of anything that happened after that. Just opened my eyes to something wet, dragging across my cheek. Toil and Trouble were standing over me, nuzzling my nose and licking my chin. I guess I must have been passed out for a while because the full moon had risen in the sky, which was lucky for us because it lit everything up just enough to find our way home. The goats followed me back, and they have been nothing but perfect ever since. I’m just glad I found them. 

I’m a little sad I never found the lake, but maybe it was never really there to begin with anyway. Maybe it was just all made up.

Till next time listeners,

Be kind, be sure to find things in the woods, and don’t forget to water your plants,

Gabriela Jones

[Outro Music]

Hey there, it’s Bailey Loveless, writer and reader of Gabriela & The Inn Between. Thanks so much for tuning in to this week’s episode. If you enjoyed the show, please consider supporting via Ko-Fi, link in the show notes below. It costs less than your favorite latte, and your contribution keeps the show self-sustaining and more importantly advertisement free.

An extra special thanks to Michael Medler, this week’s guestbook contributor, podcast supporter, and the inspiration for this episode’s cameo. Michael writes because Nature wills him to it. He recently left a dystopian suburb of Seattle and retreated to the knee-hills of the Olympic Mountains, cut the cable, and bought whiskey. Now he finds inspiration from deep woods, less so from demons. Though they are there. His poem “Reflection” comes from his poetry collection Boundary Points, and both of his poetry volumes can be purchased on Amazon. Thanks again Michael for your contributions to this special episode!

To submit short prose or poetry to be featured in the Guestbook segment, please send us an email or visit our website for more information, links also in the show notes. New episodes of Gabriela and the Inn Between release twice a month during the quarter moon phase with the next episode on August 6th. I look forward to seeing you there. In between time, keep warm and keep well. See you next time, folks