Place Where You Live:

Lexington, Virginia

On the first night we went to bed in our new house, I flicked off the overhead light in our bedroom and couldn’t see the way to my side of the bed. There was no moon, no glow from the naked bulb of a neighbor’s porch light, no yellow streetlamps to guide me. I held my hands out in front of me and felt my way.

I had loved our life in the city. Our old house had sat on a busy downtown intersection. At night, as I lay in bed, the laughter of inebriated college students drifted up from the sidewalk as they moved from one downtown bar to another. A traffic light swung just outside our window, turning the dark bedroom into a disco of color every time the light changed from green to yellow to red. At least once a night, a fire truck or ambulance rushed past, blaring their warnings to pedestrians and late night delivery drivers alike. In a stairwell of the church behind our house, a man with no home slept. The intersection felt like an aortic valve of the city, my place in it a heartbeat.

In the country, I heard no sounds at night, save the chirping of crickets in summer. That first night, as I lay in bed, my eyes open, unable to make out even the ceiling, I heard only my own heartbeat and, eventually, the quiet breathing of my husband, asleep beside me.

It wasn’t until winter, when the leaves were off the trees, that I discovered I could see the mountains from my kitchen window. Standing at the sink, I studied the way they swelled, blue in every light. In the evenings, when it grew dark so early, I reminded myself that the mountains were still there, beyond the naked trees and the ridgeline I couldn’t see.

On a warm night the following spring, I trudged out to the mailbox. There was no moon but, when I looked up into the dark sky, I could see the stars.