William Sharp, a Scottish poet, once wrote, “There is nothing in the world more beautiful than a forest clothed to its very hollows with snow.”
While I was born in Ohio, I spent most of my growing up years and my adult life in New York. No, not that New York. Upstate New York. My husband spent his whole life there. But when our children made North Carolina their home and then began to have children, trips here became more and more frequent and leaving more and more difficult. So after many car rides with me in tears after waving good-bye we agreed to move, and my husband said, “This time you find a job first. You’ve followed me everywhere for jobs. Now it is your turn.”
So….after a lot of looking, I got an offer with an organization that served 19 counties on the coast. The job was interesting, though not in Raleigh, but Doug had 19 counties worth of possibilities. We made the leap of faith. Doug would stay in Syracuse and begin his own search on the internet. I would move and scout out job locations.
I drove down the first weekend that June. North Carolina was in the grips of a drought. The corn in the fields was burned and withered. That month would go on to set a record for the most days over 100 degrees ever. Doug has never liked heat. I kid him that he is a true Scot. He loves cold, blustery weather. So I was glad he wasn’t with me…sort of. The week after my arrival brought the first anniversary for us ever that we were apart. Now, I was happy to have regular time with kids and grandkids but missed him.
Within weeks of my move, he had some possibilities. Over the summer I made some weekend trips home to visit, weed out, and pack, and he made trips here to interview. Labor Day found us moving into a 100-year-old house we love. New jobs and a new community brought us lots of energy. We felt a lot like we did when we first married. But even though he loved everything here, Doug found that he missed ‘home’ a lot, vastly more than I did. Perhaps with my new job, unpacking and setting in, and lots more time with family, I was just too busy, but I never experienced homesickness.
One of things I found I loved about the South in the years we visited here was that Fall was extended, slower, more gentle. Instead of only a week of “Indian Summer” warmer days lingered longer. Colors and leaves remained until Thanksgiving. So that first Fall brought leisurely walks to the waterfront to watch the glorious sunsets over the Sound, or to see the Harvest Moon cast its magic silvery light on the waters. We walked the charming streets of this colonial capital of the state, past the stately homes, and I was content. For Doug, it was more complicated. He loved ‘here,’ but he missed ‘there.’
My family will tell you I am a Holiday warrior and a Christmas junkie. By that October, like I always do, I began to look for just the right things for the special people in my life. My husband is always the hardest. I always approach asking him what he wants for Christmas with some reservation. I cringe a little, steel myself, ask, and wait for his usual response, “Nothing.” This year I wanted Christmas to be extra special in our new home. So when October came, taking a big gulp, I asked my Christmas question. And surprise, surprise, he had a new response, though still a one word answer, “Snow.”
Hard to believe that one word could speak as many volumes.
Yesterday, following one of our new October traditions we drove out to “the Beach.” That’s what those of us from North Carolina call what Northerners name “the Outer Banks.” We crossed the Sound Bridge with the sunshine sparkling on the water while a few gentle waves rolled past us toward the Ocean. Our road wound through stands of pine and miles of farmland, the occasional tree just beginning to show some color at its crown.
If we were in New York, the October trip would have been to the country to orchards of pick your own apples, and we would have returned with various eating and cooking varieties, along with squash and freshly pressed cider. The roadside ‘there’ would have been at “Peak.”
Yesterday, ‘here,’ the road led us past familiar fields abundantly rich in hues of yellow and gold with peanuts, ready for harvest. We were expectant and waiting for what we knew was coming next. The road curved and there it was, rolling out before us, rounded billows of white, covering the landscape as far as we could see. Southern Snow. Pristine and pure, the cotton fields drifted past our windows as we drove along, the brown bolls split open by its soft but insistent lushness, the whiteness breathtaking. We had lunch in Manteo at an outside table at one of our favorite restaurants, then headed to the Elizabethan Gardens where butterflies covered fragrant flowering bushes. We came home with a Mexican sage bush from their garden store that I will plant today.
Over the five years we have been ‘here,’ I have given Doug lots of ‘snow’ presents. That first year, when he first asked for it, I gave him a winter landscape that hangs over our mantel. There is a house in the foreground, the porch light on and welcoming, its light reflecting off the fallen snow. The sun is setting in the distance behind the little town in the background that looks as if it grew up around a steepled church in its center. This print is by Philip Philbin, a North Carolina artist.
I don’t know how often he looks at it. Or how often he wishes he could step into it. In Upstate New York snow is an icon. The fall is the preparation for the winter. The seasons and lives there feel anchored in part by it.
But for me, ‘home’ has been forever changed. It is marked by different rhythms, new experiences, changed expectations of what is around the curve, and what the seasons will bring. And now and then the snow does fall.
Actually, it really doesn’t matter what the season is or where we live, because wherever Doug is will always be home. I think Doug believes that, too, even if he still walks in two worlds. And if you want to know, yes, he still misses ‘there’ though not as much. Yet, I do know this, yesterday when we went for one of our fall rides, both of us smiled at the now anticipated, yet still amazing, gift of “Southern Snow.”