My steps fall silently on earth softened by recent showers. A quiet breeze stirs the trees and the air is thick with the clean scent of more rain to come. The legislative session must have ended, I think, because nary a soul but me ghosts through the yard’s rich shade.
I wander the grounds of the capitol plaza for an hour, running my hands over the rough bark of deciduous sentinels and studying the way the light falls through a canopy of leaves. Buff limestone peers at me through that chiaroscuro—a stony face with so many windowed eyes. I squint at the gold of the capitol rotunda and feel a pull to stare up into its domed belly from the inside. So I find the steps that ascend the portico and count them as I go: forty-seven.
“West Virginia is the child of divorce,” Mrs. Young told us in eighth grade history class. “When the Civil War tore the nation apart, eastern and western Virginia decided it best to part ways.”
I remember how I sat in the front row and swallowed hard—the ink on my parents’ divorce papers still fresh. As my teacher spoke of the “impenetrable barrier” of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains between eastern and western Virginia, the barriers separating my family loomed large.