Carl Bosch loves shoveling snow. But not because it makes him feel manly.
I love to shovel snow.
Let’s assume that I’m a bit crazy, and we’ll work from that premise. But I can’t be the only one. This long, cold, snowy New England winter has produced a good amount of snow, some billowy and feather-like, others like you’re attempting to shovel frozen sand. Here, every week or so comes a new attack of Polar air coupled with some offshore moisture and—bingo—the snow flies. The last storm took me three and a half hours to clear. Long driveway (can’t be plowed, I’ll explain later), deck, sidewalks to the front and side doors, even paths to the bird feeders and shed. It’s O.K. if you think I’m crazy, my wife does as well. But shoveling snow is charming (that’ll come later too).
While the storm is raging or simply steadily falling, I put on the fireplace, have tea or something a lot stronger and just watch. The best is when it snows into darkness and I can put on the big floodlights to watch it fall. When the shoveling commences sometimes I venture out at dawn, sometimes I wait until the moon has crested and I shovel in the silent dark. Occasionally, I’ll wear headphones and listen to acoustic music, most often not. In a huge snowstorm some years ago I had a plow come and do my 250 foot stone driveway. I spent two weeks in the spring carting the stones in wheelbarrow loads to spread back up along the drive. Never again with the plowing. I have a big two stage snow blower that does the trick, but you can’t hall it up onto the deck or across the grass or even up the steps to the sidewalk. And, of course, the town comes and plows my driveway closed two or three times. Last year there was a 36 inch Nor’easter. A mega-snowstorm, a record setting, mind-blowing, Godzilla sized storm. Its name was Nemo.
I also love that the storms now have names. A local Connecticut television station has actually been naming storms for over 40 years, but they’re just a little lame. This year the names are based on state towns that could actually be a person’s name. Ashford, Bethany, Chester, Franklin, Hampton. I prefer the Weather Channel’s only two year old naming of storms. Bring it on! Atlas! Maximus! Ion! You snow cauldron Kronos! Hercules! Orion, I laugh in the face of your minus 20 degree wind chills and two inches an hour snowfall!
Alright, let me get a grip here.
My wife and daughters worry about me. They call and ask, “Is Dad O.K.? Tell him to come in now.” I joke with my wife and say if you look outside and see me prostrate on the ground just leave me there for an hour and go have another cup of coffee. It would be a good way to go. She doesn’t like it when I joke like that and I understand. But would it be better to be hooked up to some machine in a hospital. Maybe I wouldn’t mind as long as the machine was a snow blower.
Earlier I mentioned the “charm” of snow shoveling and I meant it. Here’s where it plays. For an afternoon, an evening and sometimes for even a couple of days, I’m a boy again. I’m excited about the event, it’s an adventure, and it’s the unknown. It takes the humdrum, adult sameness out of daily life and throws it to the blowing wind. I might not be making snow forts, having snowball fights or sledding (although on occasion I have been known to pull my toboggan from the shed and take a ride down the middle of the street.) but I am out right in the middle of it. I wear the most outlandish winter costumes and no one laughs. I watch the snow mount and I build big piles around the driveway. I breathe in the cold air and remember how we used to play for hours on end, coming home frozen and wet and exhausted. The first whiskey I ever tasted was a tiny shot given to my by my mother when I was probably 12. And that’s its charm. I can never be 10 or 14 again, and I don’t want to be. But in the middle of shoveling snow I feel exactly as I did 50 years ago.
Wait a minute; the kids across the street are building an igloo. Let me check to see if my gloves are dry, maybe I’ll go back outside.