The Kingdom’s Rocky Peaks

Hiking the peaks in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, it’s easy to see how glaciers and rock and time have shaped the northern landscape where my family lives, once-upon-a-time channeling immense grooves into the earth and strewing the territory with boulders. Clear, deep lakes – tantalizing for swimming – lie in these cuts.

Maybe it takes the sweeping vista of a mountaintop view over immense valleys, coupled with the immediacy of childhood, to place time in that perspective of distance juxtaposed against the immediacy of the here-and-now: our world was shaped and formed by ancient movements, and yet we go about our day-to-day lives as though the past was merely story, an anecdote over lunch’s cheese and mesclun sandwiches.

Yesterday, my 11-year-old, dutifully and non-too-cheerfully starting out on yet another hike, came around a wooded bend to the base of an immense boulder where she gasped with pleasure. Scrambling up the rock, she found herself stranded at a steep pitch on crumbling lichen. Afraid, she edged to the trail again, summited, then later feared again, seeing stormy clouds rolling in from a distant horizon, foreboding lightning and thunder.

I can’t help but think that’s an encapsulation of time: the radiant pleasure of a child swimming in a lake and discovering one tiny shell on the sandy bottom and the real presence of an electrical storm moving in. All that in one day: and then the journey back home again.

Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.

– Cormac McCarthy

Lake Willoughby, Vermont


By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

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