In a Funk….

On a Saturday afternoon of errands, I yield to my 13-year-old’s desire to drink a latte. There’s no way, she insists, looking down merrily at me, that coffee will stunt my growth.

Surrounded by the gaiety of Montpelier’s holiday shoppers, I overhear a man seated behind my daughter, speaking emphatically, gesturing wildly with his hands. Listening, too, my daughter leans across the table and whispers to me that the man is a member of the sovereign citizens. Both she and I know the phrases he uses, the code, the promise of unfettered freedom to do exactly as you want.

Through the window, I see people I know walking by, talking and laughing.

My daughter asks me why someone would join a cult. I answer I don’t know, but even as I say this, I know I’m half-lying, skimming over the surface of a black miasma rising around us, as I keep watching through the window families walking by, holding packages.

This afternoon — I can feel it deeply inside me, hard as obsidian, as we pass through the dim afternoon and home again — marks the unstoppable point for this girl of true teen — not the bratty, lip-curling caricature our society portrays as adolescence, but a relentless, adamant, justice-driven quest to know why the world is flipped upside-down.

“First Sight”

Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth's immeasureable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.

— Philip Larkin

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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.

3 comments

  1. I have always thought many join religion because they fear death, and many join cults because they cannot bear unanswered questions. Cults always seem to have the reason for everything, but like death the unanswerable is part of life.

  2. I think both; fear is the why and lack of common sense is how; although I think the term “common sense” overstates the availability of it; truth is good sense is hard to find these days. Isaac Asimov said the problem was the idea that “my ignorance is as good as your knowledge” ; I don’t know when he said it, but not much has changed since then.

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