Standing in our open kitchen doorway this morning, waiting for coffee to brew, I watched a turkey vulture sweep silently over the barn, wings outstretched, so near I saw its feathertips fluttering in the air currents. Hours before, walking in the evening’s mist-soaked gloaming, my 12-year-old daughter counted 40 vultures dropping and ascending over an empty ballfield. Gradually, their drifting and layered circles widened, so we appeared to be in the center of their vortex.

Carrion eaters.

I looked at my daughter, wondering if she was afraid. The vultures – black against a gray sky – dipped especially low, reminding me of Andrew Wyeth’s stunning painting of a single vulture. I had seen it for the first time in a museum’s basement room, beautiful and ominous, imbued with human emotion. But my daughter kept walking beneath these circling birds, face tipped up, curious.

Under our feet, earthworms, grubs, centipedes, work in the soil in my evolving garden, in the forest behind our house, beneath the stream hidden in the thickets of August’s greenery. Between the earth and the sky, human life unspools busily all day, sometimes into the night in our small town. Then, these birds. Silent, skilled. How could she not admire them, as I was again, this early morning?

I light
a small fire in the rain.

– Galway Kinnell, from “Under the Maud Moon”

Abandoned granite shed. Hardwick, 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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