Leaving the library in the dark tonight, with fresh snow sprinkled over the black sidewalk, I remembered a Mark Richard story I once read, about two institutionalized orphaned boys, talking in their beds at night. One boy relays the story of the Christmas angel appearing to the shepherds, who were “sore afraid.”

Although I haven’t read that story in years, I often think of it at winter, when there’s much to be sore afraid of. Cold, and more cold, and the infinite varieties of how cold makes life more difficult all the way around. Dying car batteries. Frozen pipes. The cold kitchen floor.

The darkness is profound at this time of year.

Maybe it’s merely the moon shining through scrim of hazy cloud, a mysterious beacon, or that the heart of winter tugs one deeper inside, but winter appears radiantly beautiful this year. I loved when my girls were babes in arms, toddlers pulling at my knees. But I love this age, too, with each of reading by the wood stove, together, but a little less intense.


…..My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year….

– Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”


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.


  1. Winter Solstice Chant, By Annie Finch.
    Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
    now you are uncurled and cover our eyes
    with the edge of winter sky
    leaning over us in icy stars.
    Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
    come with your seasons, your fullness, your end.

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