Random

Adventures in Butternut Squash

My Little Love,

Six months ago I called your father at 3 a.m. and gave him the news. It was time. We had suspected it was approaching, given I had lost what I affectionately refer to as my “jelly center” the day prior, but my mom had assured me that it can take up to a week for labor to start after that, so we weren’t holding our breath. FB_IMG_1544232522897

When your father answered the phone, the cadence of his voice instantly changed. At once we both knew our lives were about to make a hard left into uncharted territory and we, like all new parents, were vastly unprepared.

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I was deep into labor and contractions by the time they got me to the O.R. for surgery. I had to be put under, thanks to what you will someday realize is a very gammy spine. I would miss your first few minutes on earth, but that had never been a concern to me. There would be hundreds of thousands of minutes after that I would get to share with you. The first few ought to be dedicated to making sure you are safe and healthy; that you had the appropriate number of digits on the recommended number of limbs.

You came out with nearly a full head of hair; the darkest brown, almost black, like your father’s. It has lightened since then, looks more like mine, with the same wave and curls that have a mind of their own most of the time. I’ve already had to cut it three or four times, first around your ears, then your forehead, and just the other day, the baby-fine rat tail which I told people you were growing out for the playoffs. I don’t even know when playoffs start. Or if they’ve already happened. We aren’t a sporty household.

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You went from looking like your dad to looking like me (even those solidly in your grandparents camp agree.) It is the cheeks, I think, and the eyes, though they move from blue to grey, there is a slight ring of brown to them. You may have your father’s eyes yet.

You are good-natured, almost to the point of disbelief. You only cry when you are hungry or the odd moment when you get a bump. you sing the song of your people, a guttural ‘guhh’ sound, while you try to force your favorite rattle, a soft, rubbery dragon, into your mouth. Monkey, a gift from your Irish relatives, is your best friend in the whole world, and you love to hold him by the tail. Your smile is pure, and your laughter is music to my ears.

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You’re learning to give kisses. You put your hands on my cheeks and pull me forward, mouth agape like a hung-over fish, and plant your mouth on my cheek. It is a work in progress, but the show of affection warms my heart.

Every day we go for a long walk around the pond. We listen to the birds, and have a greeting for each of them. Good morning, Sergeant Magpie; Hello, Brother Sparrow; Keep Bobbin’, Mr. Robin. But you like the chickadees the most. They conglomerate in the choke cherry bushes and flit about, and if you are sleeping you will smile at the sound. If you are awake, though, you crane your body as hard as you can to try and see them.

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You have an abundance of dinosaur clothes, and I hope you like them when you are a little older. I loved them as a child. The birthday cake I brought in to my grade one class was a dinosaur cake taken from a DK baking book. I will try to find it and recreate it for you.

The cats are unsure of you, although surprisingly it is Vivi who has taken to you, who seems to have the most patience. Beemo doesn’t seem to care for your flailing and laughing, but he’ll warm up to you in time. We are learning to be gentle, gentle when touching animals, and when holding mommy’s hair.

When you are sad, we sing to you. The Baby Wiggle Dance, or Banana Kiss, both original compositions that seem to make you smile.

20190606_113458Today you tried butternut squash. It was highly overrated, but the squishing noise and the ability to make it splatter brought you plenty of joy.

You laugh and giggle and smile and your face lights up when you see daddy come home. You chitter and talk and tell me stories that I don’t yet understand, though I am trying my best. Every day is a new learning experience.20190330_165251

It is difficult at times, my little love, to remind myself to trust my instincts. To remember that at least for now I know you better than anyone, and all well-meaning advice should come with a heavy heaping of salt. It is a challenge, because every who has raised a baby thinks they know best. You will be too cold without socks. You will be too warm with that hat. You are munching your hand because you are hungry. You are kicking your legs because you are ready to crawl. In reality, you hate socks and shoes because they are too warm; you enjoy wearing hats as long as they don’t cover your eyes. You are munching your hand because you are teeth (it is coming in at the top, on your right hand side). You are kicking because you need to be changed. I know you better than anyone else right now. I know you love little dances when you feel sad. I know pressing monkey up against your face is a surefire way to make you content. I know all these things and more about you and I hold each piece of information, each daily change, close to my heart and treasure it dearly. 20190505_171959

The days are long, exhausting. You father works especially hard, and sacrifices a lot of potential time with you to ensure that we want for nothing. The trade off is a sense of loneliness that I cannot wrap my mind around at times. You are there, always. Twenty-four/seven. Attached to my hip. I feed you and change you and put you to bed. I wake up with you and walk with you, I bathe you and dry you. What need is there for loneliness when the only moments of privacy I experience now are the ten minutes in the shower in the morning? (If I should be so lucky.) At times I wonder if I crave conversation or emotional support for like-minded mothers. I suppose I do. That need is in me, somewhere, but for the time being I am content in the relative silence, filled by your burbling and babbling. If the need ever arises in a sudden and heavy way, I can seek out solace with other young mum’s at the local playground. We can talk about how much we adore coffee and need a wine break. About how our husbands bonded with their offspring. About how we need some time to ourselves, just a moment to catch our breath and cry a little.

 

20190228_112845There is no room for weakness in motherhood, but there should be. There should be time and space to let it all come tumbling down; to let ourselves be vulnerable and show the world that we are struggling. That we cook and clean and maintain our own sanity while keeping the foundation of the home secure. And we should acknowledge how funny it is that the world seems to want to talk about how strong mothers are, and how much they do, without actually doing a thing to relieve that pressure. Imagine what we might be capable of if someone bothered to act on those ridiculous “Strong Mother” memes. But no, people are content to continue sharing them without acting upon them. People are content to sit around agreeing with each other. Oh yes, they do so much. They are the heart of the house. Without taking that single step further to act upon and relieve that insurmountable strain.

Being a mother to you, my Little Love, is the most rewarding thing I have done. But it also paints a stark image of what must be endured in silence. Because there are no words, not really. You can never adequately express how isolating it is, or how frustrating it can be. You can find synonyms galore and they still don’t quite create a vivid enough picture.

You are six months old today, Little Love, and there is still a long way to go. I will be there beside you, silently memorizing the shifts in your personality and the new developments as they take over. I will watch with trepidation as you grow and move from me, into the greater world.

You are so precious to me, now and for always.

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Of

Of words. Of thoughts. Of the indistinguishable hum of your body and the city, moving together, crumbling in tandem. Of your smile through teeth, your laughter through emptiness. Of the definition of your life, laid out before you as a dissembled puzzle needing a steady hand to help you piece it back together.

Of the words to family and friends, kind whispers that what they see is true and real and nothing else could be held beneath your skin, buried within your bones, guiding your every breath.

Of the break of blue in the swell of grey, so rich you feel your soul spoon it from the sky and consume it. Nourishment where none exists. Of the spread of air through lungs and veins, igniting the flame within, reminding you that it is possible to feel beyond the tinder and the match. Of the blaze that can feed and grow, if only you knew how to tend it right.

Of the crystalline, the shattering, when the blue is no more and the fire is out and you curl upon yourself to protect the spark that surely must stay alive. Of the life you live, in spite of it all.

Of the crunch and the craze and the sense of existing as nothing in a world packed full of people and their everything. Of the beauty in the mirrored city and the anonymity it reflects back, reminding you that to be faceless is to be fresh and clean and without sin or struggle to your name.

Of the first breath in Spring, reminding you that even beneath all the dead and dying, a crocus may still emerge and create colour.

Chronic Pain Diaries – The Menial

No one celebrates the menial tasks when you have chronic pain. No one celebrates any accomplishment when you have chronic pain, because there is an overarching belief that you should just do it.

Bullshit. I want a tickertape parade for getting out of bed every day this week. I want a plaque engraved with Kathleen Sawisky Managed to Make Dinner Instead of Ordering Skip the Dishes. I want a round of applause for being able to walk to and from the bus stop every morning and evening (approximately 4 minutes worth of consistent walking, traffic notwithstanding. Might as well be on the other side of Canada.)

I’d like a certificate that acknowledges my ability to continue smiling through the pain while I interact with coworkers, or listen to the troubles and woes of others. I’d love to get some sort of trophy for not throttling the next person who tells me I have back pain too. Pulled a muscle working out. I’d love an all expenses paid vacation out of chronic pain for a week, a day, even an hour.

I’ve earned a commendation from the Mayor, noting my supreme ability in being able to sit for a 45 minute bus ride without crying from every bump and jolt. The Prime Minister should proclaim the 22nd of June a day in which we celebrate my skills in being able to bend over to put my shoes on while what surmounts to lightning shoots through my lower back. The Queen herself ought to sassily remind everyone that I am a goddamn champion for cleaning the bathroom or wiping down countertops or giving the hardwood a cursory sweep.

No one celebrates the menial tasks when you’re normal. But when you live with chronic pain every day, these things are taken for granted. To get out of bed, to make sure you eat, to put your clothes on, to have the same work ethic of those around you, to appear as normal as possible while your body rebels in abnormality. These menial tasks take everything out of you, and no one knows it, because you are very, very good at playing pretend. Still, a certificate acknowledging your skills in basic survival might be nice.

There is Snow

Natalia learned how to muffle her crying, how to put on a mask that said to the rest of the world I am a well-adjusted individual. Pay no attention to me.

Winter isn’t like I remember it. When I was a youngun’ in Kelowna I remember heaps of snow that dominated the world. They peaked like egg whites whipped to perfection, so thick you could burrow into them and tunnel like a prairie dog to the other side of the world.

I’m sure climate change is the reason for the grey, barren world outside of this bus depot now. I find it strange when there is no snow to hide the earth in the winter. Snow is like a magician’s cape pulled over a box containing a rabbit. In the spring it is pulled back to reveal flowers where there was once something else. Without snow, the magic of the seasons seem somehow more hollow, almost exhausting. I’m happy for the blue sky, and the sense of infinity that comes from living on the prairies during this time of year, but I wish there was snow to blanket the earth and create that sense of incredible wonder again.

In the winter I always find myself stalling when it comes to writing. Maybe it’s the fact that I am cold 90% of the time and my fingers would much rather be buried in a blanket than tapping away at a keyboard. I can’t do that now. There is a sense of ownership to this journey, that even the three or four people who have read Between Fire and Pines and The Skeletal Bird are owed an ending, and unfortunately I am still rather far away from that. There is a lot of work to be done this winter, and I have to drag myself out of this melancholia that had set in and remind myself that in my very tiny world, I too am a magician.

Plot, characters, setting, events, deaths, births. They are all woven together to make my cloak, and beneath them exists a final product, another book. It isn’t as simple as the cry of Abracadabra or Alakazam. The end product of this magical act must be tended to like the snow tends to the earth in the winter. It is done beneath the surface, where no one can see what is taking place.

I like being a magician with words, although I’d hardly call myself adept at the craft yet. But magic can be learned and the bulbs in the frozen ground can be tended to, and amazing things can grow where you least expect it.

Book 3 has been a challenge for me, and I’m not sure why. It is at least  partially a case of “I wrote the original plot so long ago that it no longer fits with the overall narrative, and also it was stupid.” At the same time, something hasn’t been fitting quite right. It’s like a shirt that’s been washed too many times. It no longer fits right. Without a finished draft I can hardly go back and begin to identify the problematic feature. Instead I have to barrel on through the whole thing until I have that beginning, middle, and end. That’s when my favorite part of the magic show takes place. The illusions, the  misdirection, all the bits and pieces that I get to put into place. The moments of quiet reflection and the other moments of explosive action.

I was speaking to a writer friend of mine not too long ago and he was just about halfway through The Skeletal Bird. I always get nervous when it comes to my friends reading my work, especially when they have the same desires that I do to succeed in the industry. We’re hard on each other, if only to help each other improve and succeed. This friend told me that he was enjoying it, but in particular he loved the moments between action and dialogue. The little reflective moments that don’t build on plot or characters, but create a striking visual and help cement an author’s voice. I was extraordinary happy with that, and quite embarrassed by the praise. It meant a lot to me, and helped carry me through some severe moments of doubt.

At the same time, I think maybe doubt it a product of a winter without snow. You look around the world and wonder if its possible this cold will ever cleave itself from the earth, if you’ll ever feel the warmth of a spring sun. Winter is a time of doubt, and it can be remarkably exhausting if you don’t have the means to survive it. I have words; a little bit of magic in my hands.

I wouldn’t mind a bit of snow either.


Between Fire and Pines  and The Skeletal Bird are both available on Amazon, Kindle, and Kobo! If you’e read them, please consider leaving a review on Goodreads! It helps readers make informed decisions. Like, “This book wasn’t as bad as I thought”, or “This book is like a Michael Bay wet-dream”.

Photo by Nancy Wong, 1977

Let’s Talk About Cults

Or more, let me introduce you to my new favorite obsession. Three years ago it was biker gangs, last year it was viruses. This year is the year of cults, and I am so giddy that my astral cocoon is fit to burst!

I’ve been busy working on Book 3 (reminder, you can buy books 1 and 2 on Amazon), but as always I’ve also been working through replotting book 4 (because writing a series, let alone one nine novels long requires a bit of foresight on my part.) And as with all the previous books, something about the plot of #4 just wasn’t sitting right.

And then I listened to Cults, a comedic investigative podcast that looks into various cults throughout history, their activities, recruitment methods, all that fun sort of jazz. As hosts Paige Wesley and Marie Bello explain on their inaugural podcast, they’re interested in cults because they live in California and cults are literally everywhere. Oddly enough, that was the same thing Gregg Hurwitz said in an interview about his second Tim Rackley book.

I love comedy. I love cults. If there were a cult based around the Marx Brothers, I would probably join. (The password is always Swordfish). As it is, I live in Canada and the only Cult I have access to has a history of cutting off people’s arms and I need mine for writing purposes (Hello, Ant Hill Kids.) Therefore, I live vicariously through the work of people like Paige and Marie who are deeply ensconced in the cult-scene and, on at least one occasion relayed to listeners about a weekend visit to a farmer’s market for a massage (which might just be the most hipster thing I’ve written in the last few months) about how they were nearly swindled by a cult.

The point is, knowledge is power. I have a notebook chalked full of notes thanks to these two lovely ladies about the cult that will be dominating book 4, and I am excited to see where it takes me.

However, as with all things in life, they couldn’t have expected to poke the hornets nest for so long before something came out to sting them. A couple days back a message was posted on the Cults Facebook page regarding the removal of Part 1 of a particular episode. It doesn’t take a backrub peddling pontificator to know that someone got a little uptight about being called a ‘cult’ and didn’t appreciate having their presumably very white, identical pants and shirts all laid out to bare for the public to see. It looks like they have avoided litigation, at least for now. But that sort of subtle threat against your creative work can be a serious downer, and word can spread and sometimes impact that potential audience you are trying to reach. That’s why I’m encouraging all of you to go to your favorite podcast provider and give Cults a listen.

Okay. Maybe not the first few episodes. Pre-Armando episodes, or Pre-Mando episodes as I will now call them. Armando, their hilarious sound guy, was sorely needed in those early days. But don’t bring it up to Paige or Marie. They know their sound was crap. If you can deal with ratcheting your sound up to eleven, they’re still worth checking out. I promise, there are no audible jump-scares to ruin your hearing.

Cults are fascinating. They’re all around us (some more than others, I guess. Stupid, lame Canada with its lack of interesting cults.) They prey on the weak and most vulnerable in society and manipulate them into acting outside of the social norm. They are awful, but sort of cool, but really actually awful, but also, like, sort of really cool in a sick sort of way.  I have a lot of different feelings, but given my history of writing explosive, violent scenes, I suppose an interest in cults isn’t that unusual.

The point is, go listen to it. The crimes of these cults and leaders aren’t exactly friendly jaunts through fields of daisies. Paige and Marie are dealing with dark, uncomfortable topics on a weekly basis, and interjecting an overtop level of humor that a person could argue reflects the overall nature and response of general society when we hear about people getting caught up in cult activities. Ha ha, look at those chumps! This could never happen to me! That’s about as academic as I’m willing to get on the topic at the moment given the high levels of morphine currently in my system.

Anyways, give it a listen. It’s well worth it. Also buy my books. Those are also well worth it.

Or don’t. See if I care.

(I do.)

Header Photo by Nancy Wong, 1977

The Skeletal Bird – Now Available!

This post is an unfortunate month late, but that is what happens when you try to balance work with writing and a whole other sundry of fun activities!

Book 2 of The Code Series is now available for purchase at the finest Amazon retailer near you! That includes Kindle (Huzzah!) I’m very proud of the end result. Writing is about evolution of skills, and I’m proud to say that I, at the very least, can tell that I am slightly less awful at putting sentences together. I hope those of you that enjoyed Between Fire and Pines might be intrigued enough to consider picking up a copy of The Skeletal Bird! There is less gratuitous violence because I got that out of my system, but plenty of lovely explosions and biker gangs to keep you occupied if you have a short attention span like m-

And for the weekend, the price for both Between Fire and Pines and The Skeletal Bird will remain at $1.99 for Kindle users because I am too lazy to change the price, so grab it while you can! Links to purchase are below the break

Three months after the Siege on Alcatraz that almost took her life, Natalia Artison returns to New York to confront the evil that has relentlessly pursued her since her parents’ death. With her reluctant new guardian in tow, Natalia learns that her parents legacy, one steeped in blood, is endangering both her and everyone she holds dear.

As her enemies begin to converge, Natalia struggles to manage her survivor’s guilt and find her place in the world of the Special Operations Initiative. When her guardian’s family is taken hostage, Natalia must choose between what is safe, and what is right. She will have to push her fears and insecurities to one side, and prove to all those who doubt her that she will not be broken.

Natalia Artison is no victim.

Not then. Not now.

Not ever.

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And once you’re done, please consider leaving a review on Goodeads! It helps other potential readers find The Code Series and, in turn, assists in my life goal of not having to wear pants to work because I work at home and at home I don’t have to wear pants.

Happy reading!

-Kathleen

An Open Letter to Andrew, Who Just Wanted to Share a Quote

You might remember Andrew. Andrew emailed me again, this time to share a quote:

You’ve got to let it go and say it was the best I could do at that time and place in my life. You hope that the thing you’re doing next is a little bit better.”

-Todd McFarlane

Here is Katarina Savatski’s response.

Dear Andrew,

I thank you for your words of encouragement. When last we spoke I was returning to Russia and, I believed, my likely demise at the hands of Putin’s entourage of gnome-like FSB agents. I was certain my cover was blown, especially how Mr. Turd Ferguson, who you remember to be my handler, I’m sure, refused to see me off.

I spent several unfortunate weeks upon the boat, the SS Hipsmasher. One might believe that to be a comical name, a play on the absurdity, but it was indeed a most harrowing ride and I am grateful that I have survived to tell you the tale. I was brought onto the ship under the cover of darkness the night prior to its departure, carried in my faithful potato sack which once acted as a sleeping bag for me during my youth when my father and I traveled with the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Now, my faithful burlap, would accompany back to the old country and, god willing, convince those meeting me on the other side that I was still loyal to Putin, Mother Russia, and perhaps even the ballet.

I was directed to not leave my sack until I was certain the boat had departed. Oh, how those hours wore on! I was tucked among ballasts and boilers, next to a noisy pipe that was either used for transporting water or rats. I made myself as small as possible, which was no small feat given that part of my obligatory ballet training included spending several hours each day on a rack, meant to stretch my limbs so I might achieve maximum ‘willowiness’. After what felt like days and days, curled in the cold corner of the boat, I felt the world shift around me. Praise me to Saint Jude, we were off!

I emerged from my burlap sack and was quickly escorted to the bow where I met the captain, a Mr. Burt Lancaster-Steele. In the old country his arm hair would indicate he was a man of high rank. As it was, he explained he had some sort of allele condition and that I should not use the women’s razors in the ships bathroom, as they were meant specially for him. Captain Lancaster-Steele explained that he had been paid to bring me back to Russia, and that I should not feel even remotely uncomfortable despite the fact that I was the only woman on a ship full of men who would be isolated from the rest of the world for the next month. In hindsight, I suspect Captain Lancaster-Steele was trying to subtly warn me that the crew were not to be trusted.

I spent my days wandering the deck of the ship, making polite conversation with a young shiphand named Daniel who seemed relegated to what I believe you Americans call ‘Charlie Work’, as more often than not he was covered in some form of human excrement or handling rats. Nonetheless, I found Daniel to be a clever conversationalist. He was born in New Jersey, but I do not hold that against him.

Ah, Daniel. Were it not for Daniel, I would have surely perished upon that boat.

It happened the second week. We had been forced to sail into a storm, or else bypass it and add another three weeks onto our journey. Have you ever been trapped on a ship with a group of sweaty, sea-salt licked men, Andrew? It is deeply unpleasant.

During the night, as the SS Hipsmasher was buffeted about by the wind and waves, there came a commotion from outside of my quarters. Since I had volunteered to tend to Captain Lancaster-Steele’s chest hair he had graciously upgraded my living space from a corner in the hull to a broom closet. I was quite content there given I now was able to lock out the rest of the world if I so desired, but with Daniel sleeping down the hall, and frequently suffering nightterrors brought on by his fear of open water, I was never concerned that anyone would be able to sneak up on me.

I called out, thinking it must be Daniel, come to curse Poseidon in his terrified state. Upon opening the door, I was terrified to realize that the second mate, a wormy-like man I had only known as Dwight, was standing at my door. I learned, not long after reaching shore, that Dwight was actually Dimitri, and was, as I suspected, a plant from Putin, sent to kill me. Dwight lunged, his hands wrapping around my neck. Now, I must caution you to not dear for me, Andrew. Do you recall I mentioned my willowy stature? Dwight’s efforts to wrap his fingers around my neck were halted as I was able to deliver several swift blows to his kidneys with my lanky arms. I drove my toned ballerina foot directly into his sternum and managed to haltingly leap over him. Alas, Dwight recovered from my attack and lunged towards, me, tackling me just as the ship lurched to one side. We crashed into the wall of the hallway, and began to kick out fiercely at Dwight, landing blow after blow on his delicate man bits.

Temporarily free, I made my way down the hall, thinking I might make it to the deck and take one of the life rafts to safety. Alas, as I reached the stairs, the SS Hipsmasher at last gave way to the power of the storm, and a torrent of water surged down the stairs, knocking me back down the hallway and into Daniel, who was just emerging from his quarters.

Now, Andrew, I must tell you what happened next is a blur. I recall the sea, cold, empty, and endless. It churned around me, frothing. I recall seeing Daniel and Dwight both grapple for a knife, and the sudden and complete submersion of the boat below the water. I cannot say where I found the pipe or what I thought I was doing, but as I delivered a first, second, and then third blow directly to Dwight’s hip, I knew the SS Hipsmasher had remained true to her name.

But oh, that water, Andrew! So cold! And I say this being Russian! Do you know how much it takes for a Russian to admit they are cold? I would not admit it even if Putin had had my father hung over a bear pit! We Russians are proud people.

I’m not sure how Daniel delivered us from that balmy abyss. When next I woke I was curled on a life raft with Daniel on one side of me and Captain Lancaster-Steele on the other.

And my hands. My glorious, Putin-Oiling hands, bandaged using my faithful burlap sack. The pipe I had grasped, the very same that kept me awake during those first few hours on the boat, had been a steam pipe. Even now, as I write to you, Andrew, my palms blister and pus. The pain is excruciating.

We were not on that raft for long. Land was already in sight when I awoke. But I already knew that I would never be able to return to Russia. Were Putin to see me now, he would surely have me killed. His favorite prima ballerina and chest-oiler, now disfigured, useless. No man wants scarred, lump hands massaging unscented baby oil into their ripped pecs.

I could not go home to Russia, for I would be killed., I could not go to my adopted country of the United States of America, for I betrayed their trust in rigging the election. I was anchorless, homeless, and country-less. And so, when we arrived on the Irish coast I knew at once, Katarina Savatski surely died on that boat.

Kathleen O’Whiskey, on the other hand – oh, hands. It still pains me – Yes, Kathleen O’Whiskey would make a new life for herself on this emerald isle.

Dawn is breaking, Andrew, and I must be off. If I stay in any city too long I run the risk of being spotted by one of Putin’s spies. There is so much I wish to tell you. That your President Trump is not who he seems; that Bannon is not the puppet master you should concern yourself with. There is much you need to know, Andrew. When I am next able to contact you, I will explain much more.

Yours truly,
Katarina Savatski