Episode #6: Finding Yourself At Lake Serene

This fictional drama is a love story about how nature helps us recover from heartbreak and find new ways of loving ourselves.

Rooted: Where We Stand Podcast cover

Our connections with nature can help heal and refresh our lives. Think of how your day can be changed by a visit from a tiny hummingbird. Or how different you feel after spending some time in a forest.

We created a story that brought this idea to life. It sounds different from the other episodes from this season of Rooted: Where We Stand. That’s because “Finding Yourself At Lake Serene” is a fictional love story with voice actors and sound design. Think of it like a modern day version of an old-timey radio drama. Happy listening!

Our cast includes Drew Hobson as Ryan

Gin Hammond as Irene

With sound design by Bethany Denton

Episode Transcript

Kyle Norrris: This is “Rooted: Where We Stand.” A podcast about nature and our connection to where we live. From Forterra. I’m your host Kyle Norris. This episode is a little different than the others. It’s a fictional story with voice actors.  Inspired by a real event. 

Basically, a couple of years ago someone anonymous donated to a fundraiser. That Forterra helped organize. The goal was to save some of the land surrounding a favorite hike in Washington State. It’s the hike to Lake Serene. And this person donated in honor of a first date they went on hiking this trail. 

That detail was the inspiration for this story. 

And here’s what you need to know: we have two main characters, Ryan and Irene.  They do not know each other, at first. But eventually they meet. They share their stories through alternating monologues and flashbacks. These flashbacks sound like mini-scenes with other characters. And that’s what you need to know. Hope ya like it. 

RYAN: The thing that made me know I needed to rent this studio was these two cedar trees outside the windows. One on the left and one on the right. They instantly caught my eye when the landlord showed me the place for the first time.

It wasn’t the fact that it’s on the third floor and looks out onto a cute courtyard. It wasn’t because of the neighbor’s chicken coop…and the morning soundtrack of chickens in the city. Honestly, it wasn’t even the ghost white tops of the Cascades you can see from the window. Or the view of the stunner Mt. Rainier…

It was those two cedars. I remember the first time she came over…

[We are inside the studio. The windows are open. We hear the breeze, maybe chickens, birds, and cars passing by.]

THE EX: It’s cuteeeeee…

RYAN: Yeah, right?

THE EX: Tall ceilings, crown molding…Oh wow, that view. And those cedar trees!

RYAN: Yeah that’s what got me. I like how it feels like a treehouse.

THE EX: (warmly, thoughtfully) Mmmm. (pause) They’re me, you know?

RYAN: (warmly curious) What?!

THE EX: They’re me. Always looking out for you. Always close to you.

RYAN: (sweetly amused) Okay!

THE EX: When you miss me, just look at the trees.

[Ryan Monologue]

RYAN: Damn. I always did feel her in those trees, too. (pause)

She lifted me. I’d walk down the street, with my chest thrust toward the sky. Feeling good in our love. I’d watch those cedars sway on the days when the breeze was easy. The way they were flexible and sturdy at the same time…(pause for a beat)

So when my relationship suddenly ended and the floor dropped out from underneath me…  as I was flailing, grasping at anything on the way down to the bottom…my eyes landed on those two cedar trees outside my window…

The dark green of the cedars’ sprays were like the beaded earrings she would have worn…I got up and closed the curtains.

[We are in Ravenna Park. Subtle city park/nature sounds]

IRENE: Shockingly blue sky. Crisp mountain air. God, it’s brilliant! Even in the city you can feel the mountains if you try. 

I just quit my job 20 minutes ago. This morning, I did not know that would happen. But if I’m being honest, it was always in the back of my mind… I can’t believe I actually did it.

And now I’m trembling and a bit dazed, walking through this neighborhood park. A ravine with some woods and trails. Mossy and fern-rich, smelling like earth and possibility.

Some of the oldest trees left in the city live here. Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, White Pines and Redcedar. They used to call this place “Big Tree Park,” and I appreciate that name. Like… you know what you’re gonna get when you sign up to go to a place called “Big Tree Park.”

Sometimes you just want to be a body moving through green. Feeling the grass tickling your toes. 

Not spending 50 hours a week in a stuffy conference room with stale bagels and burnt coffee. 

Look, they never heard me at that job. They never valued me or even saw me at that job. 

[Corporate office sounds]

THE BOSS: (excited, congratulatory, talking to his staff in a conference room) Now for a big announcement: We’re starting a new reporting initiative next month about teenagers in rural counties and mental health. And I’m pleased to share that the senior reporter will be…Josh!!

[Reaction: the room’s filled with a few hesitant claps]

IRENE: (mad, a bit in shock, incredulous) Wait, that was my idea! I pitched it to you last week. 

THE BOSS: (amused) Irene, no one’s idea is a private commodity around here. We’re all teammates, and every idea is a team idea. Plus Josh is experienced working with these kinds of communities. 

IRENE: I’m more experienced than Josh is! I was literally a teenager in a rural town not that long ago! (to Josh, funny aside) No offense, Josh.

THE BOSS: That’s not the kind of experience I’m looking for. I need more than that for a project like this.

[sound of Irene pushing back her chair and standing up]

IRENE: You know what. You don’t value me. I quit.


[Still in park, return to gentle park sounds]

IRENE: Damn. (pause) I walked out of the room, over to my desk, grabbed a photo of my dog Butterscotch and my purse, made for the lobby, and busted out of those frosted doors. 

RYAN: Six months, man. Six months after you moved across the country and turned away from me…towards something else. Other people. Other places. Other love. Other paths to wander. Not being chosen sucks. 

But my friends chose me. My boy Derrick came through big time.

[Derrick knocks on Ryan’s apartment door.]

DERRICK: Hellooooo! Bro, did you forget we were coming over? Why’s it so dark in here? (opens blinds) Woah, you look dehydrated. I didn’t even know you could look dehydrated! (laughs, then pauses) Man, we gotta get you out of this studio.

RYAN: Ugh.

DERRICK: You need a hobby. What about hiking? 

RYAN: Sounds like work. 

DERRICK: We should go to one of the islands. Or the mountains. Tell ya what, you do some research and pick a place, and Benji and I will take you.

RYAN: Okay, fineee. Now can we watch “Survive The Tundra”? 

DERRICK: Hellllll yeah.

[“Survive The Tundra” intro starts… ridiculously dramatic music.]

“SURVIVE THE TUNDRA” HOST: Tonight… bears [growl], romance [kissing], and hypothermia [teeth chattering]. Who will… SURVIVE THE TUNDRA?

[Show fades down]

RYAN: Besides survival shows, I watched mental health videos on YouTube–and got hours of free therapy right there. And I checked out a billion self-help books from the library. 

Music frigging held me like a baby. Especially sad white boys making gentle electronic music. And Luncinda Williams’ gorgeous, almost unbearable songs of heartbreak. Plus, ya gotta throw in some Drake break-up songs for good measure. 

I was starving for guidance. I clung to it: my lifeboat in choppy waters, out there in the black ocean of the night.

All the things I thought I needed to do to feel better. So what’s with this salty water on my face?

(Deep breath) It still sucks so much right now. Not gonna lie.

In our last phone conversation, you said we never had any space in our relationship. And it’s true. We never did. I was suffocating from that, too. We made each other into our stars and moon and sun and it was too frigging much. Too much to be able to find my breath in all of that. I guess for you to find yours, too. 

And now, you have an ocean of space. A mountain range full of space. Just for you. Just for me.

And those two cedar trees… Swaying in the wind, bending… I’m starting to be able to look at them again. They’re gentle and majestic. They tell me to be more like them. And I do. I wanna be more like them. Sturdy yet solid. Flexible. 

(beat) Should I try yoga? 

ONLINE YOGA TEACHER: “Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome to another episode of Sunrise Yoga!…”

IRENE: It’s been a month since I quit. 

A month of texts from my old coworkers — my only friends, I realized – about the fallout of my “departure” and if I wanted them to connect me to news directors at other miserable newsrooms. A month of reminders from my brother that I have no income or health insurance.

But you know what else I don’t have? Migraines. Panic attacks. Neck pain, back spasms. Five cups of coffee just to get through the day.

And you know what I *do* have? Dreams! I don’t have stress nightmares anymore. I have dreams, and they’re so vivid. 

I know I’m lucky to not have to work right now. I also feel like my body needed this break. I spent a lot of my life ignoring my body, or hating my body… and I kinda want to celebrate it, apologize to it for all the hate and neglect…

It’s wild and also liberating. I’ve got a nice little pillow of savings to last me for a little bit.

That job was a bunch of no’s, and I’m ready for a bunch of yesses.

Now I’m trying to treat life like a blank canvas. Everyday I pick one new place to explore, like a park on the other side of town. While I was going through some old boxes, I found a book I bought years ago in Port Townsend. “100 Classic Hikes: Washington.” I remember I was so excited when I bought it, but then I got that job, and it’s been collecting dust ever since.

Here, listen to the back of the book:

“Sun-kissed hills and waves of wildflowers. Turquoise-blue glacial lakes, burbling brooks, and thundering waterfalls.””

Who would I be if I did 100 hikes in Washington? Like,  how would that change me, besides becoming ripped? I wonder what I would learn from all that fresh air, from being part of something bigger than yourself? To learn I somehow fit into this giant puzzle of it all. 

Ok, honestly. 100 hike’s is a lot. Bet I could do…50. Actually, Butterscotch and I could totally do 50 hikes in what, a few months?? Whaddya think Butter? 

[Ryan monologue]

RYAN: Last night I woke up in the middle of the night, furious with a bitter taste in my mouth. How could she just ghost me like that? Didn’t I mean anything to her? And I can’t even remember the good. (pause) And then, I do. 

The memory. Of her intense love of those tiny croissants that come rolled up in a tin can. Buttery and rich and zero nutritional value. I would buy them for her as a treat to make one of our regular meals next level special.

Then more memories come flooding back. I remember how in bed, she’d throw one strong leg around me and curl herself up against my chest. 

Or I’d press my ear against her chest. Her heart beat so strongly. Full of living & heartbreak. Man…strongest of any I’ve known. 

Most generous, too. She taught me that, to be as generous as you possibly can with your money. 

Once we were in the desert and she bought a 10 dollar bouquet from a man selling flowers at the crossroads. I watched her hand him a hundred dollar bill and walk away into the sun.

That’s how I see her now.. Lit up by the sun. Walking away from me, into a red desert sky. 


Maybe she misses me. Mourns me. Aches for me in those quiet moments. 

Maybe there is nothing that touches her love for me. 

Maybe the grief will break her open like it has for me. 

(pause, pivot)

Guess I’m able to see things in a bigger way. 

I stopped feeling her in those trees and started to feel them, being with me in their easy sway. I felt those cedar trees outside my window holding me. 

Ugh, nature is good. I should go on that hike with Derrick and Benji.

(pause, shifting to a little more of an upbeat mood)

Ok, let’s search for “cool hikes near me.” (sound of keyboard tapping). 

“Rattlesnake Ledge??” Hard pass on rattlesnakes. Doot duh dooo…”Kendall Katwalk”…12 miles, hell no! “Seward Park”…ok that’s too easy. “Lake Serene?” Hmmm. I like lakes that are serene. “…a  moderate uphill hike that culminates at a turquoise, alpine lake with glorious views…” Cool cool cool. Get ready Derrick and Benji. We’re goin’ to Lake Serene. 

[Irene monologue]

IRENE: Finished hike number 35 out of 50, baby! 

Doing these hikes is the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve seen an eagle carrying a snake! I saw a couple get engaged on a cliff! I’ve walked hundreds of miles in a place I call home. And I’m learning more about the place *I* call home. And whose home it actually is. Hiking through the homelands of the Nooksack, Tulalip, Coast Salish. The Makah, Squaxin Island, Puyallup, and Snoqualmie. People who have been here for tens of thousands of years. And continue to be here, but whose words and names the rest of us don’t even use. 

Like, did you know Mt. Rainier’s true name is “Tahoma?!”

I’m a guest here. What does it mean to be a guest? I don’t have the answers. But I’m humbling myself trying to find them.

Butterscotch comes with me on each hike. At first it was tough. Lots of stopping, saying I can’t… I can’t make it up to the top, I can’t finish this hike. It’s still hard, but I’m doing it. My calves are getting bigger, stronger. And I’m thankful I quit that dumb job. 

The other day we were hiking along the beach and we passed an older woman. She stopped to pet Butterscotch, who ate it up, and she mentioned her last hike. 

LADY (to the dog): Well hellooooo there, sweetheart. Aren’t you happy? (To Irene) And hello!

IRENE: Hiii. (pause) What a day.

LADY: Exquisite all around! The salt, the sea, the magic, the mountains… 

IRENE: It’s pretty cool.

LADY: Last week, the gals and I went to a glorious alpine lake in the mountains. Lake Serene. It’s a winding, rocky trail that climbs to the top. Oh–and the bluest water I’ve ever seen. Cold, too! A few of us even jumped into the lake to celebrate! Ha!!

IRENE: Funny you should mention that. Lake Serene is our list of places to hike.

LADY: Oh darling, Lake Serene is waiting for you.

[Irene sits outside in front of a small country cafe. Wind lightly blows, birds chirp happily.]

IRENE: Okay, I’m doing this. Big deal today: Lake Serene: Hike 50 out of 50. The sun’s creeping up higher into the sky, it’s getting hotter. I’m sitting outside this cute country cafe with Butterscotch. Got my coffee and breakfast sammie.

[A car door opens and closes closeby. Ryan and Benji walk to the patio where Ryan ties Benji up.]

RYAN: C’mon, boy. Sit. SIT… (not confident) Do you not know how to sit? Here, I’m gonna tie you up to this chair, and I’ll be riiiiight back… STAY. (notices Irene, a little embarrassed) Oh, hi.

IRENE (amused): Hey.

[Ryan walks to the door. A bell chimes as he opens the door.]

IRENE: Uh oh… looks like someone does not know how to stay.

[CHAOS! Benji pants and drags the metal chair. Scraping! Butterscotch whimpers. Irene tries to intervene.]

IRENE: Woah woah woah, hold on! You’re okay! Stay, stay!

RYAN (hurries back outside): Oh god… BENJI! HEAL! SIT! Uh… STAY! (shuffling as Ryan tries to gain control of Benji, but he struggles) I’m so sorry! He’s not my dog. I mean, he IS my dog. Today. (gets a hold of Benji, takes a breath, turns back to Irene to explain) He’s my friend’s dog. My friend was supposed to come hiking with us, but then he couldn’t, but he wanted me to go anyway without him… with his dog… (cringes) Sorry.

IRENE: (very amused) It’s okay! He just really wanted to say hi to my dog.

RYAN(observing Butterscotch): Cool dog backpack.

IRENE: Thanks. Butterscotch is an avid hiker. 

RYAN: Nice, Butterscotch. (pause) This is Benji. 

IRENE: Hi Benji. 

RYAN: We are not avid hikers. We are more of the couch potato variety. But we’re gonna try Lake Serene today.

IRENE: Oh no way! We are too. Maybe see ya there!

RYAN: Yeah, maybe! See ya.

[Ryan walks away with Benji to the car.]

IRENE: Huh. He was cute.

[At the trailhead. Sounds of nature: birds, chirps. Ryan’s car struggles to a stop in the parking lot. Boots and paws on gravel as Ryan and Benji go to the trailhead.]

RYAN: Alright… where’s the trailhead? (spots it) Over here. (walking, then stops) So, what do we need to know, Benji? (rushes through reading some of the words out loud) “Berries… waterfalls… bears!” Doubt we’d see any… “ONLY 7.2 miles roundtrip…” (scoffs) Why did I think it was shorter?…

[Another car enters the gravel lot in the distance, gets closer, and parks. Boots walk on gravel closer to Ryan, accompanied by dog tags jingling softly.]

IRENE: Hi again!

RYAN: Oh, hey! 

[Benji and Butterscotch greet each other. Dog tags. Happy panting.]

IRENE: Hi Benji!

RYAN: Sup… backpack dog… I’m sorry, I forgot his name.

IRENE: Butterscotch!

RYAN: Butterscotch, yes, of course. Apologies. Uh, uh oh.

IRENE: Oh no, they’re getting tangled!

RYAN: Classic… here, you hold that there…

IRENE: Maybe if you stepped over that…

RYAN: Success!

IRENE: (laughs for a moment, then remembers something) Oh shoot! I forgot my hiking poles in the car! I’m gonna head back… nice to see you again! Enjoy the hike! Bye Benji!

RYAN: See you! (to himself) “Hiking poles…” what have I gotten myself into? Alright, well, Benji. 7.2 miles. Let’s do it.

RYAN: (Exhausted) Phew! Ah, I need a break. How long has it been… (checks watch) A mile?! Just a mile?! Dear god… 

[Ryan cracks open a can of soda. Footsteps approach.]


RYAN: Aye! (beat as Irene meets up to him) Are you following me?

IRENE: Technically, yes, that’s the thing about hiking to the same place. But now I’m going to outpace you, and you will be following me 😉

RYAN: Well, at least I’ll know I’m going in the right direction!

IRENE: (laughs) Ever been here before?

RYAN: No, first time. You?

IRENE: Same! You going to the falls? 

RYAN: The falls?

IRENE: Yeah! Bridal Veil Falls? You can take a little detour.

RYAN: Oh, I didn’t even realize there were waterfalls. (hesitates) How little are we talking?

IRENE: Mmm, about one mile, total.

RYAN: Uphill?

IRENE (laughs): Yes, lotta stairs. But then downhill!

RYAN: Uh, I’m gonna pass. (jokingly apologetic) I think Benji needs a break…

IRENE (laughs): It’s all good. We’re gonna go check it out. Enjoy the lake!

RYAN: Yeah, you too! Happy trails!

[Irene and Butterscotch go on their way.]

RYAN (internal thoughts): “Happy trails”? I’ve never said that in my life… (cringe) Alright, Benji, let’s keep going. Then we’ll take a break, and I promise to share my Cheetos with you.

[Ryan munches on Cheetos. Footsteps approach.]

IRENE: Oh, hey! I was hoping we’d cross paths again!


IRENE: (laughs) Highly recommend it if you come out this way again. Once you get to the waterfall, you just stand there and let the spray cool you off.

RYAN: Nature’s sprinkler system. Well, I highly recommend bringing Cheetos if you come out this way again. That’s what we have been doing.

IRENE: (laughs) Flamin’ Hot or regular? 

RYAN: Flamin’ Hot, but then I almost drank all of our water so I had to slow down…

IRENE (something catches her eyes): Hey look! Berries! (stretches up) The best ones are always high above your head.

RYAN: You’re just gonna eat that?!


RYAN: How do you know it’s not poisonous?

IRENE (mischievous joke): I don’t. (beat) Just kidding, they’re just salmonberries. Go ahead! Try one! It’s the perfect time of year for them.

RYAN (tries one): Oh that’s good.

[Benji and Butterscotch are playing.]

RYAN: These two are fast friends.

IRENE: Yeah! I haven’t really seen Butterscotch care about other dogs before, so I’m pretty surprised… (beat to decide something) Hey. Would you wanna… hike together? 

RYAN(smiles): I think Benji and Butterscotch would like that. I would too.

[Irene, Ryan, and the dogs now hike together. We hear boots and dog tags as they continue up the path.]

IRENE: So, you said you’re not a hiker, right?

RYAN: Oh, yeah, not at all. This is my first hike in like, years.

IRENE: But you decided to start with this one? It’s not exactly a walk in the park…  

RYAN: Um… gotta be honest, didn’t think it would be this hard. [Irene laughs] But you and Butterscotch are pros?

IRENE: I had this goal to do 50 hikes this year, and this is actually the last one!

RYAN: 50 out of 50?! Holy shit! 

IRENE: I just know I’m happy when I’m hiking, so I want more of it. What about you, what brings you out here?

RYAN: Uh… (pauses to think of how much to share) Just some life stuff… I’ve been feeling stuck. And this is me trying to get unstuck. 

IRENE: I get that. (footsteps continue crunching on forest floor) I was feeling stuck too… 

RYAN: How did you get unstuck?

IRENE: I’m still figuring it out. Actually, that’s why I’m hiking. I quit my job a few months ago. It was one of those dream jobs that turned into a nightmare… like, you know when your worth is tied up into this one thing, and then you realize that thing doesn’t actually care about you the same way?

RYAN: (exhales) Yeah. I know exactly how that feels.

IRENE: I put my all into that job. Probably too much. I didn’t have anything left in me to give… not even to myself. 

RYAN: Oof, that’s real.

IRENE: And I kinda quit on a whim. Like, literally in the middle of a team meeting, in front of everyone. Something in me just snapped. And I dipped.

RYAN: Oh shit! That’s like a movie. (laughs) Congratulations.

IRENE: Thank you 🙂

[The conversation pauses. We hear birds, the shuffling of two people hiking, dog tags jingling, dogs panting.]

RYAN: Can I give the real answer to your question? About why I’m out here? 

IRENE: Sure, if you want.

RYAN: I had a really shitty breakup a few months ago. Like, pits of despair, bleak shit. 

IRENE: Ah, I’m sorry. 

RYAN: Thanks. It was rough. Still rough. I’ve been trying to pick up the pieces: of myself, finding parts of me that I thought I’d lost… parts of me I thought only existed with her, because of her… I don’t know… Like, when you were talking about how sometimes you make something your everything and then you lose it, and you don’t know what to do or who you are… 

I’m figuring out who I am, without her… and I think I like him. The person that’s left.

IRENE: I think he’ll surprise you, the more you get to know him. Like, to be real… I used to go to sleep every night dreading waking up. That’s when I knew something was wrong. But now, I wake up, and I’m excited… for the day ahead of me, for what I’m going to explore… 

RYAN: I know what you mean. I think I’m just starting to enter that “hopeful” phase. 

IRENE (stops abruptly – sharp whisper): Shhh. Butter, stop.

RYAN (whispers): What’s wrong?

IRENE: Bear.

[Benji whimpers.]

RYAN: Holy shit.

[Butterscotch growls.]

IRENE: Easy…

RYAN (whispers): What do we do?

IRENE: Black bear. (thinking about what to do) Okay. Talk to the bear. Calmly.

RYAN: What?

IRENE: We want it to know we’re humans, not prey. (to bear) Hi, bear! (to Ryan) Don’t move.

RYAN (follows Irene’s lead): Hello, bear…

IRENE (to bear): Nice to see you… you’re okay, we’re cool… we’re just walking, taking a little stroll around your neighborhood… (to Ryan) Slowly wave your arms…

RYAN (waving arms slowly): Um. You are a very beautiful bear.

IRENE: We don’t mean any harm… you go your way, we’ll go ours…

[The bear grumbles and walks away – we hear it slowly shuffle across the forest floor. Ryan and Irene let out the breath they’ve been holding in.]

RYAN (relief washes over): Oh my god! 

IRENE: A freaking bear! We saw a bear!

RYAN: And we didn’t get mauled! 

IRENE: Most bears don’t want to attack you. (pause) But yeah, we didn’t get mauled!

RYAN: Ahhhhhhhh!!! My heart is beating out of my chest! I feel so alive!!!

IRENE: Right?! I feel like I was just hit with a defibrillator!

[Shared laughter/catching breath.]

IRENE: Let’s keep going! I think we’re almost there!

[Hiking continues. Two sets of boots on dirt. Dog tags jingle. Dogs pant.]

RYAN: I just realized that although we’ve shared a near death experience and shared our souls, I don’t know your name.

IRENE: Okay, that was not a near death experience. But… Irene.

RYAN: Ryan.

IRENE: Pleased to meet you 🙂

RYAN: Right back at ‘cha. Irene and Butterscotch.

IRENE: Ryan and “not-my-dog” Benji. (laughs, then excitement) I think we’re here…

[sounds of last climbs – shuffling of boots on ground – sonically the atmosphere opens up]

RYAN (amazed): Wow…

IRENE: Look at that…

RYAN: This was worth it…

IRENE: I’m gonna walk around and take it in. Catch you in a bit?

RYAN: Great idea.

[Irene monologue]: 

IRENE: I get why they call it Lake Serene. Time stands still here. Crystal-clear, blue-green water. Clear enough you can see the fish at the bottom. A secret alpine lake surrounded by high ridges. With patches of snow. It’s so fresh and wide open here…

This is hike 50 out of 50. I thought everything was building up to this hike. That by the end, I’d have transformed and realized something profound about myself, and be ready to work again.

But there has been no a-ha moment. I still don’t know what I want out of life.

But here’s what I do know: this feels good in my body. I feel rooted, like I’m growing from the earth too. My muscles used to ache from tension all the time. Now they sing from being outside, all day long, moving. I need more of this.

I think I want to move. Away from the city. Somewhere quiet, a tiny place in the mountains…

Plus…I already did 50 hikes… why stop there? I’m already halfway to 100!

I wonder if Ryan’s still here…

[Ryan monologue]: 

RYAN: I don’t know how Irene’s still moving… this boulder is calling my name. (sighs as he sits)

I haven’t felt this good since…well  in a long time… And it’s not because I met someone. Although I’m glad I did. She seems cool…

It’s more like: this breakup has taken over my life. I’ve been consumed by it. But right now, sitting on this magestic mountain, I feel so fucking tiny. A baby crumb of possibility in the giant universe. And that’s actually…comforting. I’m a small part of something bigger. And I feel less alone.

I want to do stuff. I have a lot to give… to myself, to others… Should I get a dog?! Have I become a pandemic cliche?! (Notices Irene approach) Oh, hey! 

IRENE: Hi! Am I interrupting some introspection?

RYAN (smile): You’re not interrupting. (beat as Irene sits next to him) This is ridiculously beautiful. Like Bob Ross painting beautiful.

IRENE (laughs): It really is. 

RYAN: When I was a kid, I used to watch Bob Ross for fun, and I always wanted to just walk into one of his paintings.

IRENE (laughs): Well, you can! You could just walk into the lake. (Ryan laughs) No, seriously! People swim in this lake!

RYAN: No way. It’s gotta be freezing.

IRENE: Nah, it’s like a swimming pool with some ice cubes!

RYAN (laughs): Not gonna lie, I’m thinking about it…

IRENE: You gonna jump in? 

RYAN: I might.

IRENE: If you will, I will. 

RYAN: For real? 

IRENE: Yes. Promise.

RYAN (beat to decide): Ok. I’m in.

IRENE: Ah! Okay! Let’s do it! 

RYAN: Oh god…

IRENE: Ready?

RYAN: No… but I’ll do it. Count us down?

IRENE & RYAN: 3… 2… 1… GO!

[SPLASH! Moving to the surface, big gasp of air at the surface – reactions to the cold!]





[Dogs bark.]

IRENE + RYAN (hollering to the dogs at the same time): It’s okay! (laughter)

RYAN: I haven’t felt this alive in months.

IRENE: First the bear, then this.

RYAN: Ya know, I wouldn’t have done this a month ago. Or even yesterday, honestly. 

IRENE: Here’s to getting unstuck! (laughs)

RYAN: Hey. Thank you. 

IRENE: For what? 

RYAN: For today. For taking me under your wing. 

IRENE (laughs): You’re welcome. And thank you! For keeping me company. 

RYAN: You’re very welcome.

IRENE (beat): I’m hungry. Are you hungry? 

RYAN: Oh I could eat.

IRENE: Would you wanna… get some tacos after this?

RYAN (smiles): That sounds perfect.


Kyle Norris: You just heard “Finding Yourself at Lake Serene.” Written and produced by Kyle Norris & Mary Heisey.

Our voice actors were Drew Hobson as Ryan. And Gin Hammond as Irene. You also heard the voices of Bethany Denton, Pat Grimes, Will James, Kyle Norris, Sonya Harris, and Alyssa Keene.

Our engineer was Joel Maddox at Jack Straw Cultural Center. Rooted’s Host and Executive Producer is me, Kyle Norris. Our editor is Mary Heisey. And our sound designer is Bethany Denton. Our music and sound effects came from Sound Stripe–which is an online music library.

“Rooted: Where We Stand” was created by Forterra. A land trust that envisions people and nature thriving together in a place where everyone belongs. Find out more at

Thank you for listening. Happy trails. 

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