The unnamed narrator relates her story as if she is speaking to her former lover about the time they shared together. She recalls details and events from the winter that they lived in the country, providing information in short vignettes, much as if she were paging through an old photo album, occasionally pausing to describe the scenes it contains. She recalls a chipmunk that once entered the house on a load of firewood and ran for the door, and she remembers when they first moved furniture into the house and accidentally scraped a wall, revealing old layers of wallpaper hung by former inhabitants. She remembers the day of the big snow, when her lover went out and shoveled, and unable to find a hat, wore a bath towel that she helped him to twist on his head like a turban. She recalls the visits of friends who told amazing stories of marvelous good luck before their fire. She also remembers the snow, wonderful and silent, beautiful like an enormous field of Queen Anne’s lace.
The narrator divides her attention among memories of that winter, her realization that her lover’s vision of the same events differs from her own, and her account of her return to the place of their happiness when the winter is passed, their relationship ended, and their friend and former neighbor Allen has recently died. She sits with Allen’s wife next door to where she once lived, and they watch the rain outside fill up the black plastic pool cover and spill over onto the concrete that surrounds it.
She surmises that the story all comes down to the barest outlines: love found and love lost, with the love in this case symbolized by snow.