SHOW NOTES & TRANSCRIPT
a tale of tourists, breakfast philosophies, and feathered dreams--
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.
Special thanks to an extra special guest book contributor, Hannah Wright. Hannah Wright is a storyteller, a chemist, and the writer and director of the fiction podcast Inn Between, which can be found at TheGoblinsHead.com. When she's not writing, she's playing Dungeons & Dragons, watching birds, or listening to audio drama. She has never once been cool and does not plan to start anytime soon. Hannah is here to make friends and drink coffee, and she's all out of coffee.
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
Welcome, weary travelers, my name is Gabriela Jones, the new innkeeper of The Inn Between, where the trees are green, the rooms are cozy, and the guests are only a little bit strange. 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.
Before this summer, I thought I understood what it felt like to experience the “summer rush.” Having just graduated from the Everglades College of Botany down in Florida, I’m familiar with what happens when the tourists overtake the town. The crowded beaches, the long wait times at restaurants, and the busy mornings at the coffee shop. But nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for what this means for my duties as an Innkeeper.
Shearwater has transformed from a sleepy, small town of 2,000 to a popular tourist destination. The town holds several outdoor events in the summer, including a Bonfire Festival for the midsummer solstice. Alongside the sunshine, summer has brought hikers, explorers, and wildlife enthusiasts eager to explore the mountains, forests, and oceans all in the comfort of perfect 70-degree weather. The Inn is an ever-spinning revolving door of people coming in and out, with constant calls asking about availability and open rooms, sometimes being angry when I reiterate that there is nothing available.
It has been a bit overwhelming and trying to keep it all straight has become a challenge. I’m just relieved that the porch and hallway look good as new after the recent lava incident, right in time for all the tourists arriving. Nancy, the general store owner and longtime Shearwater resident, wrangled 10 of her 26 grandsons to fix it all up in no time. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of their help.
Speaking of the porch, in search of a little solace and relaxation myself, I’ve taken to waking in the early hours and spending my mornings out there when everything is still quiet and cool. The warmer weather has brought wild animals back into the foothills, and every morning, I sit out on the porch with my latte.
One of my favorite recent guests took a liking to joining me out there. The guest’s name was Cooper, and both of us being very quiet sorts of people, we spent those precious moments in peaceful observation of our surroundings: me watching a family of white-tailed deer grazing in the yard, Cooper gazing through their binoculars pointed towards the mountain. Cooper likes birds and always keeps a pair of binoculars around their neck. They also kept their face partially concealed behind an avian mask, the kind you see in paintings of plague or plague doctors.
The first morning I politely asked them what the mask was for.
And in a chirpy voice, Cooper answered, “Bird flu.”
I thought this was a bit odd, but outside of pollination, I don’t have too much expertise when it comes to birds so took their word for it.
By far, out of all my guests, one of the most unique things about Cooper was that they insisted on preparing their own eggs every morning. They always had three fresh eggs on hand, a new and different color every day. They also carried their own honey in a little flask to pour across their pancakes.
“Is something wrong with my eggs?” I asked Cooper.
“No,” they said. “You are what you eat, and you are what you eat. But then you’re a gardener. I don’t need to tell you about the power of quality food.”
I couldn’t argue there, slicing up lovely, crisp kale and the first of my beautiful, homegrown onions. Besides, a mask and strange breakfast philosophies are hardly the strangest eccentricities I’ve encountered. I am from Florida after all, and those of you back home know that some folks are quirkier than your weirdest uncle.
Speaking of quirky, I’d like to share a delightful new story in the guestbook. I remember the author’s name was Hannah because it sort of sounds like Gabriela. She was a generous, delightful person and I found the following story very amusing. It reads quote:
Consider the Ants
By Hannah Wright
Consider the mushroom, the ceramic one that I thought would add a whimsical touch to my otherwise neglected flower garden. It used to be red and white, and now it’s more mud and mud colored.
Consider the tiny, yet intricate altar underneath the mushroom, which is sort of bulbous and organic-looking. I had to use a magnifying glass to see it properly. It’s truly a work of art.
Consider the collection of ants congregating under the mushroom, chanting my name in their tiny ant voices. Still not sure how they figured it out, but they seemed to be there every time I walked to my car, saying, “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah.” I felt bad passing them by, so I usually stopped. They always cheered, in a weird, skittering sort of way.
Usually, it was something they recognized as anthropogenic. A few pieces of Captain Crunch, some pretzel sticks. Stuff they’d want to feed their colony, but instead they offered it to me. When I realized this, it felt wrong not to accept their gifts. I picked up the offerings and said thank you very much, even when they offered me a dead wasp.
Consider the requests.
The first time they just asked me for a bountiful harvest to store for the winter. That was easy enough; I told them to look by the tree in a day’s time, picked up a bag of sugar on my way home, and then dumped out most of the bag among its gnarled roots. Not all of it, though, I needed some for cookies, for this bake sale for the YMCA—anyway.
Then they asked me for knowledge. What causes the rain? Had to look that up, read them an entry off Wikipedia, and then a few more entries, because neither they nor I knew what a convective cloud was. They asked me a lot of questions, some of them about me. If I am a queen, where are my drones, my workers? That one kind of stumped me. I ended up telling them I was more like a butterfly, chilling by myself.
They asked me, with an entire slice of watermelon, to please, please heal their queen. She was ill, and there was no replacement for her because beetles had just stolen their eggs. And…jeez, what do you even say? I told them I was sorry, I couldn’t do it. They begged me, they asked what they’d done wrong. I looked up ant diseases ‘til my phone ran out of battery, but I couldn’t even tell what species these ants were.
I didn’t take the watermelon.
The next day there were only a few ants left under the mushroom. A faithful remnant. I sat down and tried to explain, I’m not all-powerful, I swear I’m not, I’m just a bigger animal with access to the internet and a supermarket. Talking to a ceramic mushroom in the flower bed in my front yard, like a totally sane person.
Consider the disillusionment of an ant.
One of the ants still chants my name at the minutely intricate altar under the mushroom. I asked her for her name; apparently, ants don’t have those. I thought about calling an exterminator, but just once; it felt like a Brillo pad to my conscience.
All things considered…I make a pretty lousy god.
Wherever you are in the world right now, Hannah, thank you for making me smile. This story seems to capture a little bit of what I feel right now. I can barely manage the inn, let alone anything else. Don’t mistake me, I enjoy my job very much, but it’s also tiring. The busyness, the requests of my guests, and all the tiny things I need to manage— all dependent on me making it work. I’m still very new at this and I don’t feel that I know what I am doing most of the time.
I think Cooper must have sensed my stress and fatigue because on the morning of their departure, as we met down on the porch for our birdwatching ritual, they surprised me by cooking up some of their special eggs for me.
“You don’t need to do that,” I told them.
“I know,” they said. “I want to.”
If I hadn’t seen Cooper eat them over the past week, I would have been a little bit more suspicious of the speckled blue eggs they cracked open into the pan, sweetening them with a bit of honey. But they were the most delicious, fluffy eggs I’ve ever had, and over that breakfast, I learned that Cooper was not just an enthusiastic birder, but something of a bird wizard, who has traveled to see thousands of species across the world and can identify a bird in a glance, even midflight.
I also learned that this was not their first trip to the Inn, that they come here every summer.
“Why do you come back here every year?” I asked.
“Because it’s always different. See those?” said Cooper, handing me the binoculars and pointing way up to where I saw a hawk circling. “30 years ago, you would have never seen them around here.”
The hawk was nimble and slight, its wings covered in amazing pale, powder blue feathers with a chest of white and orange speckles.
As I handed back the binoculars, Cooper told me it was time to leave. I thanked them for the eggs, and I wished them good luck on their birding adventures, in case we would not meet again.
“No, I look forward to seeing you next year,” they said.
“How do you know it won’t be different?” I said. “That I won’t be gone?”
“Cooper knows these things,” they said, and I thought I caught a smile underneath their mask. Then they were gone, and I finished the rest of my eggs and carried on with my busy day.
That night, I had the most vivid and profound dream. I am usually the sort of person who forgets their dreams immediately upon waking, but I hope I will remember this one for a long time.
I dreamed that I was standing at my open window, looking towards the mountains at dawn. My arms became lavender-blue wings, and my chest sprouted the pastel orange and white feathers of that beautiful hawk. I took flight towards the horizon, cutting through the sky, high, high above the forest. Not only could my new hawk eyes zoom in and out at will, but they could detect alien colors, like the purple ultralight unseen to the human eye forming bright lines among the hunter green.
From my heights, I saw how far the treetops spread. I saw the mouse scurrying in the meadow. I saw the goldfinches gathering vines to build their nests. I saw the herds of deer crossing great distances in search of food. I saw the wild cats following behind, waiting to snatch one of the small, new fawns. I felt the sharpness in my beak, the violence of my talons, and I saw how beauty and brutality live side by side.
The sun went higher in the sky and so did I. I saw the town surrounded by trees of all shapes and sizes, and just how close the forest was to reclaiming that space if given the chance. I observed the early risers, the people heading out to work, and looking just as small as the rabbits and the birds from this perspective. I could see the road, that it was no more than a tiny artificial, asphalt vein in a great body of mountains and creatures and all manner of deeply connected life.
On borrowed wings, I looked at all these things, and it was so real that somewhere between being half awake and half asleep, I thought of how old and ancient this land was, and how little I really knew. How it all has been here hundreds of years before me. How I could explore it for the rest of my life and never know all of its secrets. How this place will go on long, long after I am gone from this world and all traces of me are lost.
But I also awoke thinking, my God, how lucky I am to have ever been here at all.
Till next time, listeners,
Be kind, enjoy the midsummer solstice, and don’t forget to water your plants.
Hey, it’s Bailey Loveless, writer and reader of Gabriela & The Inn Between. Thanks 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 contributions keep the show self-sustaining and advertisement free.
Special Thanks to an extra special guest book contributor, Hannah Wright. Hannah Wright is a storyteller, a chemist, and the writer and director of the fiction podcast Inn Between, which can be found at TheGoblinsHead.com. When she's not writing, she's playing Dungeons & Dragons, watching birds, or is listening to audio drama. She has never once been cool and does not plan to start anytime soon. Hannah is here to make friends and drink coffee, and she's all out of coffee. Thanks again Hannah, happy to feature another podcaster who appreciates unique inns and clever puns.
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, link also in the show notes. New episodes of Gabriela and the Inn Between release twice a month during the quarter moon phase. I look forward to seeing you on the next episode. In between time, keep warm and keep well. See you next time, folks