This month I journeyed to my mountain house in North Carolina. The clouds overhead were thick and gray and I hoped to get to my destination before the rain hit. I hate driving in the rain. When the rain falls, my hands tighten around the steering wheel and my shoulders tense. It’s just a miserable, slow trip. As I passed the border from South to North Carolina I think I might just make it.
At last, I exit the highway and my body sags in relief as I wind along the curving mountain roads at a slower pace. I take in the changes in the scenery up in the mountains. It’s still deep winter and I don’t come north often in this season so I’m curious to see the broad expansive views of mountains often cloaked by heavy foliage. I think about stopping at my favorite coffee shop as I pass. A heady, steaming brew would be nice after the long drive, but I push on. Covid discourages my getting out of the car, but too, I’m eager to get home. I recognize a few of my favorite farms. See a few horses in the fields.
My dogs have been asleep in the back seat for the past several hours. I hear a rustling in the back seat as Vega, the Bernese Mountain Dog, rises lugubriously to look out the window. Cosmo and Luna, my King Charles Spaniels, follow suit and from the front I hear their excited pants. How do they know we are getting close, I wonder? Have their bodies memorized the twists and turns of the road? Or are they picking up on the excitement thrumming in my own veins?
Because I feel like them, looking out the windows expectantly, my heart rate accelerating. I think of the line in the John Denver song, “I should’ve been home yesterday.” Now I see cross the river…my river… and see the mountain…my mountain… and finally the big wooden gates of Windover, yawning open now in wide welcome.
The car churns and groans in low gear as we climb the mountain driveway to the house. I note the condition of the road, the stone wall covered with moss, see where tree limbs have fallen. No spring buds yet but there’s beauty in the gray stillness. Then I see the sienna-colored roof tiles and my face breaks into a grin. There’s my cottage in the trees, stone and stucco, white and brown, with yellow light flowing from the windows.
I park the car and the great engine settles. The miles still roll in my veins. Taking a breath, I push open the car door and am met by an icy moist air that both chills and refreshes me. I open the back door and Vega leaps like a lion to the ground, landing on huge paws, then runs in joyful laps. Yapping and pacing, the cavaliers paw at the crate until, set free, they chase the big black dog across the icy grass.
That’s when the first snow begins to fall. Big, fat, soft flakes, a few at first then a stead swirling mass that float in the breeze like feathers. Snow! I hadn’t seen snow in several years. It is so unexpected. So beautiful. The snow is a gift. I lift my face to the sky and feel each flake on my skin like a kiss. I stretch out my arms and begin to twirl with wonder. I am the character in Edward Scissorhands, awash in wonder. All the miles, the worries, the pending work, and decisions, slide away in the centrifugal force of joy.
An hour later the snow stopped and there was no sign left of the surprise snow. But even still, as I write these words, my smile breaks into a grin and my heart dances in memory.