My Favorite View: At Home, with Moonlight on the Snow

Briefly, we were almost completely without snow. For several days, our lawn had been visible (our messy, muddy, stick-strewn lawn). Heavy fluffy flakes began falling in earnest this morning, and now the neighborhood is blanketed in white again. Should there come a time when the snow melts for real, there is one aspect of it that I’ll miss. That’s the vision of moonlight on the snow.

My all-time favorite view is the one from our upstairs windows onto the snow-covered front lawn on a moonlit night. February’s full moon, according to my Farmer’s Almanac desk calendar, is known as the Snow Moon. Here in Virginia it’s certainly lived up to the name. During our recent snowy spell, many nights were clear, the sky black, the stars intense, and the moon big and bright. So bright that it lit up the snow with a gasp-inducing glittery incandescence. Against the glowing white snow, the shadows of our maple trees were dramatically dark blue. This magical view always takes me back, back to the first January we spent in our house, when our daughter was a year old. That winter I often gazed out at that view, brand-new to me, rocking, nursing, cuddling my baby girl. It felt good to be in a place I could call home.

The memory of that time is perhaps particularly vivid because, for so many years, I had postponed settling down. By my own choice, I was a latecomer to marriage, motherhood, and a fixed address. When I arrived as an eighteen-year-old at UGA, I discovered how much I enjoyed campus student life. Thanks to a taste of the working world following college, I soon realized that graduate school offered the chance to return to a life free from many cares of traditional adulthood. I managed to be a grad student for eight years. That sounds like an incredibly long time, I realize, but there were many in my field of art history who lingered far longer. I relished that busy peripatetic life, happily unsure of where I’d be the next year. I moved at least ten times during grad school, including two house-sitting stints and a year-long residence in London for dissertation research. Traveling as a student was cheap and easy. I had acquaintances scattered across continents and no strings to tie me down. I made wonderful friends, met a great many unforgettable characters, and had exciting adventures.

But even I couldn’t sustain such a rootless lifestyle forever. By the time I met H, I was feeling the need for a change. Yet because he was seven years younger, I assumed our timelines would always be hopelessly out of sync. Wouldn’t he need another decade or so to figure things out?

Fortunately he required only half that long. Five years later we began our married life together in a tiny Butler Tract apartment in Princeton. It took us only two more moves before we landed in our old Virginia farmhouse. It seemed to wrap its arms around us and say, You’re home. You’re a family. Stay a while.

We have, and we will. On every snowy, moonlit night, before I go to sleep, I look out the window and give thanks that I’m here in this house with my husband, daughter and dog. My only regret is that my parents aren’t nearby. All else considered, I’m right where I want to be. Right where I hope to be tomorrow and for years to come. After so many years of running, it’s good to rest and be home.

My favorite moonlit view is unphotographable. But this recent early morning scene of Kiko on the lookout gives some sense of the blue shadows on the snow.

H and D in front of our house, soon after our offer was accepted in December 1999. That was back when the maple stump was still a full tree.

Our daughter in the spring of 2000. Back when she enjoyed playing with a basket of crumpled paper. And when her eyes were still blue. They’ve since changed to green.