Heat. Past. Swimming.

For a chunk of this weekend, I read Susannah Cahalan’s memoir about the madness that attacked her body, the book so many people I knew read a few years ago, and I picked up from a roadside free pile this week.

The heat’s returned, with fine swimming weather and thunderstorms. Sunday evening, we kayak in Greensboro, carrying out bacon and tomato sandwiches and watermelon. Afterwards, I swim far out from shore, and swim back slowly, watching my daughters who lie on the pier, talking.

At home, I walk around the house, opening windows to let in the evening’s cool air, hanging towels over the porch railings, talking to my brother on the phone. He tells me about listening to S-Town. Over the porch railings, I see Japanese beetles clustered on the primrose.

Cahalan’s book asks that hard question: how much of our lives do we direct? Who’s in the driver’s seat? My brother keeps talking, and around us the past rises. “You can’t escape that shit,” he says.

I stand on the porch steps, watching my daughters unload the kayaks. Rain has skipped over us. In the morning, I’ll need to water.

“Maybe it’s true what Thomas Moore said: “It is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed.” 

— Susannah Cahalan, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

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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