Fire and Dark

I parked at the wrong entrance to the Enchanted Forest walk in Montpelier’s Hubbard Park, so we walked backwards down the path in the dark for a while before reaching the beginning and backtracking.

Rain has been scarce in Vermont all summer, but the path was lit with hundreds of white paper bag luminaries. Fires crackled in cauldrons. Women danced with fire. Paper lanterns glowed in trees. The effect was not frightening, but magical — my teens murmured that we had stepped into Lord of the Rings. I imagined we had entered Shakespeare’s world.

As we approached the final hill, a torch burned on the stone tower’s top. We spread out on the lawn — socially distanced, all of us bundled in coats and masks — and watched a simple light show with hand-cut slides featuring a snail traveling through the woods and fields and ocean.

We were in Montpelier — Vermont’s leftist capital — and I wondered if the climax would bend towards an urge to vote. Instead, the simple and not-so-simple ending was that the slow-moving snail carried a galaxy on its back. Carry hope with you. Don’t lose your path in the great, wide world.

Along that path lit only by fire — in jack-o-lanterns, torches, lanterns — we walked through the dark woods.

All the drive home, the girls laughed and talked. We are snails.

Survival often depends on a specific focus: A relationship, a belief, or a hope balanced on the edge of possibility.


― Elisabeth Tova Bailey. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

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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