See Our Territory

Small town living isn’t always so saccharine sweet — I’m no great fan of Norman Rockwell.

At soccer games, you’ll meet the parents of the child who slighted your own. Argue at school board meetings, and you’ll discover one of the four chambers of democracy’s beating heart is listening. Walking down the sidewalk on Christmas Eve, you might see your former spouse eating dinner in a restaurant, laughing. I’ve never lived in the anonymity of a large city, but in these small towns, you can’t help but suck up every bit of sorrow, of bent desire, of the generosity of strangers, the pleasure of walking with friends under open skies.

My daughter and her friend report seeing a man flying a drone in the cemetery adjacent to our house. From behind tombstones, they spy on him.

Through a chance encounter from the couple who sold me my house, I learn of this arial footage of our village, Hardwick. My daughter pauses from her homework to watch with me. In this muted winter palette, the town sprawls ragged and enchanting, with an ice-choked river, yellow school buses, and the dead laid down between the trailer park and the white houses on the hill: here’s an illustration of poetry I aspire to in my own writing craft.


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. Google Satellite photos update ever year at my place. Last year I mowed a peace sign in the front pasture but you can barely see it. This year I am going to try irrigation art.

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