Murky Matters of the Heart

I’m in the firewood chore time, a task I’m embracing with gusto. Wood stacks satisfyingly, drying for toasty winter evenings sprawled before the hearth, with tea and books and board games. The chore is pretty much zero-loss; if the piles fall down, I’ll restack, a redoing with little loss but of time – perhaps even a gain in the muscle category.

Not so, in other aspects of human life. Last night,  I lay awake late, sucking lemons and reading Jung Yun’s Shelter, a novel about specific family actions with that extremely gray subtext of what I can only call ‘matters of the human heart’ – the moral (or immoral) meanings of our actions, the elements of our lives that mean the very most to us. The novel reminds me of Steinbeck’s East of Eden, a family saga about human choice: the uniquely human element that often seems so baffling. What the heck must I do now?

Hence, the pleasure of stacking wood on a balmy August day, with the bittersweet scent of freshly-drawn sap, the dryness of dust on split logs, and the tidy wisdom of ordering a piece of my land for the colder days to come.

Of all the people in the world, he (Kyung) never expected Reverend Sung to be a source of comfort, the first real sense of comfort he’s felt in so long. He’s thrown by it, stunned silent by the possibility that he isn’t so underserving of kindness as he believes himself to be. Kyung sits down and takes the reverend’s hand, squeezing it to convey the volume of things he can’t, and the reverend, in another act of kindness, simply stands there and lets him, saying nothing in return.

Jung Yun, Shelter

Woodbury, 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.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s