Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Shovelsful of Snow

Let me tell you about snow. About how here in Anchorage we have missed it terribly for the last two years, about how we require its reflective light to brighten our barely-there daylight, about how we need it for our outdoor life of skiing.

Now, after shoveling almost three feet of snow from our driveway, let me tell you how I really feel about snow. There is snow for skiing (good) and snow for shoveling (bad).

Light, fluffy snow is not necessarily easier to shovel than wet, heavy snow. You pick up light, fluffy snow, and it fluffs right back at you. Those are the four words I have for snow. Other people may have 43, but I also have four categories of snow shovels.
The blue shovel: It’s big and substantial and heavy. It’s the push kind, but pushing is limited in Anchorage. You push till you get to the berm, and then you have to lift. (Note to non-Alaskans: a berm is the mound – no, the mountain – that collects after you have moved the snow to the sides of the driveway, roads, paths, etc.) Maybe the first snow presents no problem, but when the berm is several feet tall, lifting is impossible. Except that you have to do it, so …
…you switch to the aluminum shovel. It’s also a push shovel, but it’s smaller and lighter. Unfortunately, it’s also too shallow, so when you lift it up, the snow falls out the back end. On you. On what you’ve shoveled. So you come up with a newer plan: you scoop up snow and FLING it towards the berm, high in the air, hoping it will clear five feet of berm. Some of it does … and some of it slides back down the slope of the berm. The angle of repose.

So where, on a first snowfall day, you can push the blue shovel all the way across the driveway in one load; now you have to take six pushes. Push, fling, push, fling, push, fling, clean up stray snow.

I am a fastidious shoveler. I won’t let a car run on the driveway before I’ve shoveled because the tire tracks make stripes of packed down snow. Then you have to use the blue shovel with all its weight to dig into the stripes and scrape them off.

But by Day 4 of snow and husband’s exquisitely-timed convalescence from surgery and prohibition on strenuous activity, stripes are the least of your concern. Your big concern is lifting your arm to brush your hair. The whole driveway is one big, white stripe, and besides, it’s getting longer. It’s not your imagination. The plows are running out of space for their berms. The street gets narrower and you have to shovel out to where it begins – about seven feet from the curb. Tim says the plow guys must have decided the mail carrier is on his own. He actually climbs UP the berms to reach the mailboxes, and one of these days, he’s going to flip over.
I try to run out when the plow comes so they’ll see me struggling with my shovels and take pity. If they don’t, they spill plowed snow across the driveway. Plowed snow is like concrete. Blue and aluminum won’t do it; then you need the real shovel. The kind that shovels dirt. Or concrete.

My neighbors on either side have a different kind of shovel. Theirs is called Snowblower. They are in their 80s, and it reminds me of moving my mother years ago. I’d called up my cousin and asked, “Do you have a pickup so you and I can load up the furniture and take it to her new place?”

“Barbara, we’re 60 years old. If I move a household of furniture, I won’t be able to move for a year.”

And then I realized we weren’t in our 20s.

The day I moved two feet of snow, I wondered when I’d stop shoveling. I wondered it when I swallowed my Advil, when I soaked in my first bath in about eight years, when I tried to remember which truck had run me over. When will Snowblower move into our garage?

I’m not 20 and I’m not 80. I’m in my Third Third, but I still look out at our shoveled driveway and feel insanely proud and satisfied. It may be cognitive decline or delusional thinking, but right now, I’ll take this sense of accomplishment. And another Advil.

1 comment:

  1. And then there's that big, lightweight scoopy thing when you have to shovel the roof. Or, in my case, when my spouse has to shovel the roof.


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