Slanted World

In the evening, we walk on a narrow footpath through a cedar forest where I’ve never been. In a worn-down kind of fog, short of sleep, I abruptly realize the trees are somewhat slanted. Through the forest, the dwindling light highlights scattered bit of white birch bark.

Ending, we descend backwards through a trail I’ve walked up many times. From this angle, coming down along a hillside, we hear a running stream. Save for the three of us, we see no one else in the town forest.

Someday, of this strange time, I’ll remember the unusual kindness and intimacy of people towards each other. That day, taking photos of our friends’ farm, my friend walked out of her greenhouse, and we stood apart in the road, just talking, sharing pieces of what’s going on in our lives. She asked my daughters’ plans, and what’s going on with them.

In other days, maybe we would have hugged. But over and over, in this time, I find myself exchanging only words — what we’re afraid of, what we’re struggling with, sometimes threads and stories of our past — who we’ve been and who we might want to be again.

It’s a fragile time, these days. We’ll remember these endless, daily walks, too, threading through our lives, stitching us together. Take heart, friends. Day by day.

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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.

6 comments

  1. On Friday I crossed paths with a dear friend, our librarian, at the post office. I respected physical distancing but it was hard to not run up and give her a hug. It’s been a long six weeks since we have seen one another, though we exchange text messages often. I had to remark out loud how I feel more socially awkward now than I did in high-school. Everyone has a different view about what is acceptable interaction right now and it feels really hard to navigate. It IS all slanted. Thank you, as always, for a thought provoking read. Be well. ❤

  2. First, it is amazing and uncanny how if a small forest all has similarly aged trees and then if hit by a sleet/windstorm/hurricane early in its youth….the scar never heals and the forest will remain 5-10 degrees tilted…for its lifetime, never to correct.

    Second, I echo the awkwardness, and like junior high I think it stems from a virus induced self-consciousness. Once you see an acquaintance, you pause when within 10 feet or so, and then a silent calculus of distance, affection, respiration, and body language seeps in with painful nostalgia from only 2 months ago. The overflowing and even jilted words then assume a prominence, since they are savored- because at this point that is all we have besides (physically distanced) actions…like your neighbor bringing cookies in the last blog entry:).

    As a society will we be permanently tilted like your aforementioned forest?

    I guess time will tell. Keep going on your walks…and keep letting us know how they go. GT

  3. Those are really interesting observations. I’ve noticed that — pre-coronavirus — my daughters’ generation seems less physically intimate — the result, I think, of social media. What will be the affects now, of maturing in a time when physical contact isn’t simply disapproved of, but cast in fear?

    Right before I closed my library, there was a little girl who hung at the door and wouldn’t come near me. She had always been an affectionate little girl and hugged me when she saw me. But that day, I might have appeared as a leper to her.

    That’s a slanted forest. I didn’t realize that could happen to a forest in a storm during youth. Yet more metaphor transformed into life…..

  4. “…. by day, by day, by day, by day, by day, by day, by day, by day, by day, by day.”

    There. Fixed that for ya.

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