First Star I See Tonight

Dislike of burning fossil fuels notwithstanding, I love driving through the White Mountains, this journey from my brother’s house to mine. Last night in the crepuscular light, my feet wet in sandals from kayaking, my 12-year-old daughter quiet beside me, we wound through the granite mountains as dusk fattened into dark.

Just before we left, my brother and I walked through his house, talking, feeding his dogs leftover bits of dinner. My brother remarked how much he remembered this one particular hike we took as kids on countless Saturdays: in black-fly spring, humid summer, autumn’s splendor. We saw a snowy owl, an opossum in a tree hanging by its tail, scads of wildflowers, a few other hikers.

Driving through that gorgeous sprawl of granite and forest, white-clapboard towns and curvaceous river, with the sky morphing from blue to onyx by our evening’s end, my daughter and I talked about little things, her hands around glass my brother had given her from his brewery. Playing music from her teenage sister, she asked if I knew a particular song she didn’t: AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. Sure, I knew that one.

Through all the other junk in my head, I realized about the time we saw the first single star poised over a St. Johnsbury steeple that the infinity of childhood hiking – through days laughingly glorious and those heartless ones when we bickered and were terribly out of sorts – braided in one long inseparable whole, as sacred as I’d ever get in this earthly realm.

Will my daughters, looking back on their childhoods filled with both love and grief – as we all come to, in some variation of measure or another – see the same? Perhaps that actually may not matter. Maybe the journey together will be sufficient.

that midsummer night…
the cold moon
fills my whiskey glass

– Chenou Liu

Sacco River, New Hampshire



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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