Small Journey

My younger daughter drives the two of us on a cold January afternoon to Montpelier. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to the state capital, although (pre-pandemic) I was in Montpelier at least once a week.

We’re in search of a birthday present for my oldest daughter — a single present, that’s all I’m looking for — and we go into only one store. At the register, the owner tells me how happy she is to see people; the city has been a ghost town for the last week.

In the downtown’s heart, we pass empty storefronts. I’ve never seen so many vacancies in Montpelier before. On one main corner, my daughter notices the bakery where I once bought her chocolate chip cookies is locked, too.

Where I can’t bear to pass by is the library, the beautiful stone building where a year ago I often spread out my laptop and papers and worked for hours. In the large reading room, the well-heeled snapped on lamps and read and wrote. There was a couple who always appeared who seemed to be gambling online. The homeless and college students filled chairs. After school, children ran through.

At my daughter’s request, we walk through Hubbard Park in the cold and up the stone tower to see the city surrounded by mountains.

When we walk down the snowy steps, a mother and her daughter are sitting on the tower’s stone floor. There’s only openings for windows and doors, and the girl is crying with cold. The mother struggles to tie an icy lace on the girl’s ski boot.

Been there, I think, done that.

I no longer have the keys to my own car. My daughter drives past the state house where no one is out. Not a single person on the granite steps. Driving home, she suddenly says, The good thing about living in Vermont is spring. Even if winter seems forever, there’s always spring.

[Kintsugi], the Japanese method of repairing broken pottery [uses] gold to bind the pieces together. In this way, the break becomes what is beautiful, what is valued. It is a way to embrace the flaw, the imperfect. In place of the break, there is now a vein of gold.

— Nick Flynn, This is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire

Photo by Gabriela S.

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.

12 comments

  1. I haven’t been to Montpelier in months. I mostly miss the coffee at Bohemian. Have you read Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles? It’s pretty remarkable.

  2. As always, you hit familiar chords. Yes – been there, done that with the crying child whose frozen laces need tying and my nose was probably dripping adding to my annoyance. So hard when they’re little and we’re alone.
    Did you like the Nick Flynn? I found it beautiful. Another suggestion is Grove: A Field Novel by Esther Kinsky. I think you’d like her – her writing, passing through the days – poetically (in fact, she is a poet) reminds me of your and vice versa. Keep warm!

    1. I loved Nick Flynn, and interlibrary-loaned his first book, too. I never heard of Esther Kinsky and asked for her book, too. Thanks!

      I loved your last blog post with Amanda Gorman’s awesome words. How fitting that a new administration begins with poetry…..

  3. One of the things I miss the most in this pandemic is being able to go in a library! That’s right up there behind not being able to see my adult children and grandchildren – who are flung far and wide across this country – because none of us can travel. I am deeply grateful for being able to browse books and authors virtually on the internet, and for seeing loved ones on the World Wide Web…all the virtual threads which connect us. Hubbard Park evokes many memories for me, so I’m glad your daughter asked to walk up and I’m glad you wrote about it.
    I am trying an idea using the application of Kintsugi. I have a lampshade on a floor lamp which cracked when the lamp fell over. Lampshades are quite expensive, so I had the bright idea (I hope!) of buying a $8.99 gold leafing pen and tracing the cracks. My Vermont thrift style;)

    1. I am so with you on missing libraries! Despite the kind librarians, the curbside pickup is really difficult to use.

      Let me know how the Kintsugi works — and send a photo of your work!

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