Ordinary Mystery.

The moon shines brilliantly tonight as I walk down the street to the co-op for cheese and cauliflower. Lady Moon: round as a dime and luminescent like no earthly thing.

In the best of times, January can rage like a shrieking stranger, a visitor who’s arrived with too many needs.

This year, time has slowed to incomprehensible. We wake; we do our things. Work and email. I paint a room. I endeavor to write another book. I keep Unstitched moving along.

The ordinary happens: snow falls. All day and into the night. When I wake in the morning, there’s inches and inches of fresh, sparkling snow. It’s not a blizzard, not feet upon feet. I have little trouble finding my Subaru in the morning. But the snow sugars our world for this day in utter beauty.

The rest of everything is still there — the pandemic, the crumbling American Empire, the chaos of human relationships in my house and all around — but walking home, the cold is so sharp that the snow squeaks beneath my boots. For a moment, I’m a child again, mystified that fluffy snow can yield a squeak. But there you go. A mystery incarnate.

Here’s an interesting essay emailed in by a reader about growing saffron in Vermont — yes, saffron & Vermont.

Order. Gratitude. And Other Things.

Sunrise, Hardwick, Vermont

January — the time of year when ash from the wood stove has settled into the crannies of our house — beneath the couches and along the woodwork. I listen to The Daily about FBI files released about the insurrection a year ago and take a soapy rag to my house.

I tell my daughters I’ll paint the walls of the upstairs hall spring grass green and stencil dandelions around the doors. What are you doing? they ask.

Some people are drawn to chaos. I crave order, a schedule, neatly pencilled lists to guide me through my days. To write, I travel to hard places, and I want to return to order. All around us now, chaos streams in, as the pandemic turns our world inside out. In the midst of this, I rearrange my woodpile. In the evening, while my daughter writes a school paper, I take the compost out to the bin. A light snow falls, sparkling in the light through our house windows. There’s no one out, and I keep walking. I head down the road and stand on the sidewalk. These neighbors have fully decked out their crab apple trees with twinkling colored lights. In my younger years, I would have scoffed at the use of electricity, much as I once hated paper plates.

Now, in the dazzling bits of snowflakes, I stand there for the longest time, thinking of nothing at all, just taking it in.

On a different note, Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont State Health Commissioner, read and blurbed Unstitched. I am among the many, many Vermonters who look to Dr. Levine as a beacon of calm, rationality, hope, and decency, as he’s guided our state through two years of a pandemic. In the mist of this, he took the time to read my book and called it a “tour de force.” Endless thanks, Dr. Levine.

Unstitched “…is both a page-turner and a primer in understanding the many complex dimensions of the opioid crisis in a rural state, where the reader accompanies the author in her own recovery and process of discovery. Ultimately, it is impossible for any of us to be totally disconnected from the impact opioid use disorder has on our communities, and it is through reading Stanciu’s skillful, compassionate and thoughtful rendering of personal stories that we can all gain valuable insight, diminish harmful stigma, and foster true healing.” — Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont State Health Commissioner

Poem for America.

I was pruning the rose bushes along our house, pressed up against the clapboards, when I had the strangest feeling that I had stepped into a snapshot collage of my life: thorn, blood, house, half-hidden, wet moss under my knees, a cat bird screeching in the lilacs. This morning, I’m wearing a bulky sweater. Oh, Vermont July, how I love you.

Every year, my daughters and I end up in some lengthy discussion about the Fourth of July. This year, as if jointly agreeing to avoid words, we ate ice cream and lit sparklers after dark. The fireflies blinked, in their own particular journeys.

Here’s a poem in its entirety from Tony Hoagland’s Twenty Poems That Could Save America:

Even if the geraniums are artificial

Just the same,

In the rear of the Italian café

Under the nimbus of electric light

They are red; no less red

For how they were made. Above

The mirror and the napkins

In the little white pots . . .

. . . In the semi-clean café

Where they have good

Lasagna . . . The red is a wonderful joy

Really, and so are the people

Who like and ignore it. In this place

They also have good bread.”

“The Geraniums” by Genevieve Taggard

Hardwick, Vermont

The Giving Closet

In the town building where I work, there’s a room upstairs called The Giving Closet, jammed with the town’s cast-offs and free for the taking. Clothing, dishes, puzzles, books (from self-help to Isabelle Wilkinson’s brand-new Caste that I snapped up.

The space is infinitely fascinating — who gives, who gives what, and who takes. The wealthy who donate boxes of never-worn clothes. A widow who wept when she dropped off her husband’s suits. Those who leave handmade quilts or winter boots, to empty their house, but also hope that someone else might use these things. One woman handed over a pair of child’s boots, saying, But there’s so much use left in these…

The takers (mostly women) form an unending stream. In an unintentional way, The Giving Closet bucks capitalism. Need a coffee pot? A packet of seeds? A child’s snowsuit? This is the place.

It’s a place without policies, cobbled together, that moves along the uniquely local story of humanity — a solid plan.

Ceremony.

High school graduation this year is under an enormous white tent, surrounded by the community. Not everyone is pleased with the arrangement — that’s pretty much a given — but the tent looks regal, the weather is magnificent, and, well, we’re still pulling out of a pandemic.

I chose a seat in the sun just under the edge of the tent. The principal’s speech goes on and on, and I begin to wonder, where are you headed with this, David, when suddenly I begin to guess. He’s facing the sixty or so graduates, speaking directly to them, about the hard year and a half they’ve endured. A few months before the pandemic, a member of their class committed suicide. Shortly afternoon, the pandemic shut down our world.

Looking through the tent and over the soccer field, I see people I know in one way or another, and many more I don’t know at all. Listening, I feel the principal’s speech pulling us together, acknowledging the difficulty of these past 15 months without bitterness or regret, the layers of isolation and anxiety, of political division, of frustration with a world turned awry.

He asks us to breathe in deeply, collectively.

Around us, the sunlight sparkles on the grass. A tiny girl stands outside the tent, her long hair unbrushed, staring in.

The strange thing is, I can’t breathe in deeply; I’ve been holding my breath for so long. But looking around, I realize these friends and acquaintances and strangers are collectively here for one reason — to champion our youth forward — and for the first time, I begin to feel (not think, not believe, but feel) that the way forward is indeed opening.

Unfolding, Opening Up

Midday Friday, I’m driving and listening to the Governor’s Friday press conference. For maybe 14 months now, the Governor and his cabinet have answered questions from the press all over Vermont every Tuesday and Friday — with no time limit.

I’m listening so intently, I make a wrong turn, back around, and drive on a dirt road along a river, looking for a bridge and the chance to cross. It’s May, and the roadside are strewn with brilliantly gold marsh marigolds.

I cross, then pull over and clamber down a steep embankment to the river. I’m late, already, to where I’m headed, but this May midday is so green and warm, so filled with sunlight and the promise of spring, that I feel out-of-time, as if this moment might linger forever.

I crouch near the current, broken in place by rocks that have been worn down by the ages of water and ice. I remember, so long ago, in March 2020, listening to one of the Governor’s first press conferences about the pandemic, standing in my living room with my youngest. She was delighted to be out of school for a bit; I kept wondering, what is happening?

Now, so many months later, I’ve heard hours of: look at the facts, admit what you don’t know, be decent to others, and act as a member of a society. As a writer, I interpret this as context matters. We live in the context.

We’re somewhere in May now, the ice cream cone season in Vermont. Eventually, I take off my sandals and walk barefoot up that riverbank, the day drenched in beauty.

The cool breeze.

With all his strength

The cricket.

— Issa