A Winter Adventure

Although not an art-related post, I feel obligated to express to my friends and family the little adventure I went on this morning. Like most non-fiction adventures this one involved more character-building and effort than it did fun or excitement. Yes I do embellish the story a bit, but I am a fan of more than just art. Ever hear of creative license?

Part One: The Mindset

Wednesday, February 10, 2010. It is winter in Mid-Michigan, and being such, involves two things; cold and snow. It has been cold since December, but it really hasn’t snowed enough to warrant shoveling on more than four occasions. Two days ago the snow and ice were melting, and I could have worn a t-shirt, yesterday we got three to four inches of snow, but last night Mistress Michigan showed us her true colors.

I didn’t really need to shovel yesterday, but I did anyway in anticipation of the 8-12 inches that the weather men had been warning us that we would get for the past two days. Yesterday was windy and every time I tossed a shovelful of snow away from my driveway Michigan would say, “Here, faithful resident, have two percent back,” and as I watched the wind would change the color of my driveway from its clean dark brown to a near-white. Between the wind and the oncoming snowfall that refused to pause all day, that near-white became pure white and an inch or more of snow by dinner time. The snow fell all the more diligently as the night wore on.

My wife has to work earlier in the morning than I do, and while I realized our driveway would collect more snow than her little car could handle, and subsequently I would have to get up earlier to shovel it, there was another factor I forgot to include in my equation. Yes I would have to get up earlier than normal to shovel before she left, but she would also have to get up earlier than was normal for her to get to work on time because the roads could be bad. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a morning person to begin with.

The first alarm rang. My wife got up and informed me that I did not take out the trash last night like I said I was going to, but there was still time to take it out if I hurried. She got in the shower. As I lay there, my thought process went something like this: This bed is so warm! You should really take the trash out. I didn’t get to bed until late last night, and this bed is really warm. You don’t know how much it snowed, it could have been a lot. Then again, maybe it didn’t snow that much, and I’m tired. You’ll probably fall asleep if You think about this much longer. That wouldn’t be so horrible. You forgot to take the trash out last night, need we bring up the grocery fiasco? Take the trash out and shovel the driveway, You’ll kill two birds with one stone and show your adoring wife you’re still capable of being a good husband. The sound of a huge engine moving a heavy truck interrupted my inner dialogue. The second alarm(which was set for and by me) had not yet gone off – due to the aforementioned miscalculation – the chances of me killing the trash bird had just flown out the window, and I had yet to shovel an unknown amount of snow by the time my wife got in her car(And anyone who knows me knows how I feel about deadlines). My mood did not improve.

Part Two: The Battle

My wife got out of the shower and informed me that the sound I had heard was not the garbage truck, but in fact the recycling truck. I saw a glimmer of hope. Upon opening the back door I saw that my preemptive shoveling countermeasures of yesterday had been counterproductive. It took time and energy and as I sit and write this my back tells me it was covertly stabbed. No matter, ‘Hope for the best, expect the worst,’ as I always say. I had expected it to be cold, windy, and that the driveway had a full foot of snow on it. I was not surprised. The fulfillment of my expectations allowed me to keep a level head. It would be hard work, and I would do it. What I couldn’t hope for, and what I did not expect was hidden from the eye like quicksand, and like poison, though hard to distinguish, would assault the body. My back would soon wish to dissociate itself from me, and when it would find this to be impossible, would fight me and complain every step of the way.

I started into the snow with my shovel and much enthusiasm, but my optimistic thoughts quickly turned anecdotal. For instance; when looking to buy or rent a house, a driveway with a few cracks in it is common in Michigan, and preferable to a gravel driveway. However, when shoveling large amounts of heavy snow, the shovel is pushed firmly downward onto the smooth surface, and cracks quickly become a counterproductive annoyance. I now had half of the driveway done, and so far my battle had been internal. I didn’t mind the cold so much, and though the wind blew snow in my face from whichever direction I was facing, the path I was to shovel to the street was downhill. One can take comfort in small mercies.

As I reached the end of our driveway, the unexpected beast raised it’s head. The road plows had taken half the snow from the street and used it to build a heavily compacted wall at the end of my driveway. I had confronted and defeated this monster before, but the four occasions which warranted shoveling earlier this year had been five inches, more or less(Which I’ll say for those who don’t live here, doesn’t always warrant the road plows). I hacked away at this monster with my shovel, and it was blind in both eyes before my wife came out to go to work. Her car is one of the new, ‘Snap-Tite’ cars; small and made of plastic, so I said, even though I got most of the snow out of the way, go ahead and get some speed, just in case. I watched with glee as here little car took off the top of the monster’s skull. It was quick work from there, and the end of the driveway was completely cleared in a matter of minutes. I watched with satisfaction as the monster sank beneath the surface of the water, defeated.

As I looked down the sidewalk, my brain came up with another anecdote; While corner houses are nice and have bigger yards, they also have twice the length of sidewalk. Though my back hurt from my previous battle, I started with fresh enthusiasm, thinking the great beast behind me. My heart sank as I realized the great beast had not died and sank beneath the surface, but had merely submerged, and swam to a better position to launch its counter attack. My patience wore thin. Rather than take my time getting the entire sidewalk clean, left to right, I decided to go for the quick kill, and make a thin, shovel-width path right down the middle of it. I set my shovel to the sidewalk and ran at top speed, straight down the middle–for about two steps. The snow was quite heavier than expected. You see, the plows had flung snow not just in front of our driveway, but out across the sidewalk as well. What I thought to be eight inches of fluffy snow turned out to be twenty inches of snow compacted down to seven, with a half an inch of deceptive fluff on top. The beast would not die easy. I shoveled vigorously, foot by foot, rib by rib, all the way down that monster’s spine and around the corner.

The beast, though dead, thrashed its tail about, like the tail of a worm you cut off to use for fishing. I had yet to shovel the walk to our house, and a path to the mailbox for our sweet princess who delivers bills every week. My back was on fire, and screamed in protest, but I willed it into action, desperate to prove that chivalry is not dead. As I looked back down the sidewalk and contemplated shoveling left to right all the way back and actually completing the job, my back threatened me with a seizure, and we came to a compromise. Little chunks of snow had fallen in my wake, like little boulders from tiny cliffs upon which they sat(for the snow was deeper than my shovel was tall), and I would shovel these away, but nothing more. My back promised me I would not enjoy the rest of the day. I filled my lungs in anticipation of a sigh that would signify the end of a great adventure. Instead my sigh of relief came out as a shaky laugh, bittersweet and full of weariness.

Now as I sit and write this, my back hurts, and I have an eight-hour shift ahead of me, but as I look out the window I see the sun shining down on the dead beast. Its scales glint like a million tiny diamonds in the sunlight, and I know when I get back, the white powdery blood strewn about my land will melt back to water, and my land will be safe to traverse once again. There’s a smile on my face.

P.S. Last year we had more snow and my back didn’t hurt nearly as bad. Either I’m getting old or soft. Or both.

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