Thursday, January 16, 2014

Zen and the Art of Snow Shoveling

I mocked the warning of the Woolly Bear caterpillars with narrow brown midsections. I laughed at the extra thick skins on the onions at the farmer's market. I never noticed the thinning crotch in my thermal undies.

Ignoring all the foreboding signs, I plowed ahead with my plan that this winter would be the one when we would remove all the snow off our driveway by hand.

Call me macho, call me masochistic or, like my mother did when leaving me the number of her plow guy, just call me stupid.

We had contracted with snow removal services for years but the only thing they proved dependable at was billing us. If just an inch or so fell, a crew's appearance was as reliable as that Nigerian prince emailing for your bank account number. If more snow fell than that, the question was never "Will they ever come?" It was "By the time they dig us out, how close will we have come to cannibalism?"

That's life in the one-acre 'burbs where we take Frostian pride in good zoning setbacks making good neighbors. Instead of walls or a moat to keep invaders out, my wife and I mistakenly opted for a driveway with a 30-degree slope that keeps us in. The slightest coating of precipitation makes leaving home in either of our two-wheel drive vehicles as risky as an Alcatraz prison break and usually just as successful.

Nonetheless, I felt encouraged by my efforts at clearing the few dustings of the previous winter with just the help of Big Blue -- my reliable 27-inch, patented Steel-Core push shovel. I achieved a sort of Zen-like state, opening one stripe of pavement after another for 20 minutes. How could I, in the winters to come, not want to give it a go on my own?

And by "on my own," I mean I bought additional snow shovels for My Love and two kids.

"But we wanted a trampoline," complained one child.

"Don't be crazy. You'll bounce your eye out," I said. "Besides, shoveling offers you a cardio and strength workout without the risk of trip to the ER. Now, pass me the gravy."

The first snow hadn't even appeared in the long-range forecast when My Love initiated a rebellion. I caught her perusing for snow blowers. I expected this. Every time a bill from the guys who tend to our rolling acre of land arrives, she starts pricing out lawn mowers and weed whackers.

"You've got time," she'd say.

"You've got ears," I'd counter. "Isn't the money we pay these guys worth the whining and complaining you DON'T have to hear from me?"

Though quiet and cost-effective, being an equal among our unpaid workforce is also not to my wife's liking. One time, after helping me plant a row of bushes in our backyard, she did an excellent Scarlett O'Hara, claiming, "As God is my witness, I shall never spend another afternoon digging holes!" She hasn't since and complains about every landscaping bill that proves it.

Our children, while not the ablest of workers, at least gave shoveling their semi-best and proved open to any tip I offered. I can only assume they believed my suggestions might actually help them get back to conquering the next level of Candy Crush before their fingertips went numb.

The sole holdout in my scheme is the one most built for digging us out: our dog, Murphy. Still, he has a role. Rather than get paws deep into it with us, he runs around the yard like his tail is on fire for a bit before coming to a complete halt. Usually right in front of my shovel.

Good boy -- phew -- Dad needs a breather.

Photo by Jill Wellington from Pexels

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My Uncool Past