Chipped Lives

It’s so darn cold here I woke up in the dark this morning with the cold scraping my cheeks. Leftover pork bubbles on the wood stove with red chili and beans: we need heat and bright color.

Despite the cold, the March light is sparklingly beautiful. My young neighbor and I slid around the ice surrounding the sugarhouse, covered with a few inches of sugary snow. I offer him salvaged doors and windows, piles of wood; he’s happy.

Less here; more down the road. This morning, while my wood stove slowly warmed our house, I remembered a Hemingway line about the surprise at the end of Ulysses. Finishing Finkel’s new book this morning, I discovered an incredible surprise in his ending. The line I snipped below is perhaps one of the few pieces of advice I could truly offer my 18-year-old daughter, this young woman who has already met the hole in her heart with burning rage.

The neighbor loads his Subaru. I’m relieved to have these potential pieces of home travel down the road. Build a greenhouse. Plant more seeds. Thrive.

I think that most of us feel like something is missing from our lives, and I wondered then if Knight’s (the hermit) journey was to seek it. But life isn’t about searching endlessly to find what’s missing; it’s about learning to live with the missing parts.

– Michael Finkel, The Stranger in the Woods: the Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit


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. Thanks for writing this exquisite book! I haven’t read anything in a very long time that took my breath away so completely. I was lucky enough to find this book at the right time in my life. Reading it did exactly what I needed: it opened my life up beyond my own self, in a completely unsentimental way. I appreciate your visit here….

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