After a hearty cooked breakfast we set about clearing the snow that fell yesterday. Official snowfall total at the Mullering residence: 19 inches. We discovered during the massive fall during `03 that snow stops being fun at about a foot, so we knew this was going to be a bit of a chore. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day: clear blue skies, and a weak sun shining on an unbroken sea of white.
I’ve always loved snow. I don’t really know why. My clearest early memories of snow are from when we lived in Maine. And in Maine they get serious snow of the kind that makes the great East Coast Blizzard of `09 look like a dusting. At the time I was old enough that I retain some pretty clear recollections of frolicking in mountains of the stuff, but I was not yet old enough to be asked to do much in the way of the serious work of removing the stuff so that life could go on. I had a kid’s snow shovel. Probably didn’t use it for much except to hit my brother. I suspect the whole experience of a Maine winter was a lot less fun for my parents. Especially for my mother who faced the Hobson’s choice of trying to occupy three bundles of raw energy trapped inside or bundling them into snowsuits–a process that took only slightly less time than suiting up an Apollo astronaut–and booting them outside only to have them need to pee after five minutes out in the cold.
People were already out and working and the priority of most people seemed to be to free the cars parked on the street and which had all been reduced to indistinguishable lumps. The plow came through again as we headed outside, adding to the woes of the vehicularly entrapped. Our first task was clearing our neighbour’s driveway. Even at 90 Ed is still a powerhouse but as he admitted, shoveling is now a bit beyond him. (I hope that when I get to that age I’ll be grudgingly forced to admit that I might not be able to clear a 40 foot of driveway of a foot and a half of snow). Yesterday a bunch of “kids” (i.e. twenty somethings) had helped clear Ed’s driveway but had done so while the snow was still falling, so there was several inches of snow that had accumulated since then. We got that done and then cleared his walkway and access to the front of the house.
I also remember that we had this ridiculous sloping driveway up into our garage. It probably wasn’t really as precipitous as it seemed to my eight-year old eyes, but steep nonetheless. My Dad shoveled that. And then shoveled it again when the snowplow walled us in again. The bigger mystery to me is how he ever got the car up and down that slope. Of course, this was the seventies when even compact US cars were encased in more steel plate than an M1 Abrams. Our trusty old Mercury Montego wagon, a direct ancestor of the Hummer, was, in fact, regularly absent on field maneuvers. Or maybe it was just in the shop a lot. As most US cars were in those days.
Snow in New Zealand was a rare treat, and where we lived it was usually something you had to travel to see. I was in my twenties, at university, before snow actually came to me.
Unburying our own cars from the driveway proved to be an effort in its own right. I couldn’t even reach half the snow piled on top. I tried to widen the path enough so that someone could get a stroller through if they wanted to, but it was a strange feeling to end up with a this long snaking trench. I’m so used to a big snowfall in DC being on the order of 6 inches. Eventually we had managed to force a path to our front door, clean off the front porch, and cut an access point to both our rubbish bins and back gate. Then it was time to unleash the dogs on the back yard.
The beauty of snow isn’t just that it changes the world. It simplifies things. The harsh outlines of a manmade world are softened, disparate things start to resemble one another. Its like the effect of memory in that regard. Some things disappear together, some still retain a recognizable outline with the hard edges knocked off, other things look completely different. There’s a reality under there, somewhere, but you can only guess at it. Snow is the passage of time: white, all-encompassing, creative and deceptive.
We’re babysitting a friend’s dog, Wrigley, and its hilarious because the three dogs have completely different play styles. Dylan, the Border Collie, is up for anything all the time. He flings himself about the yard, chasing frisbees and searching frantically for buried poop and leaf mold. He ends up completely encrusted in snow and will stay out there forever, even as the ice starts to build up between his toes and causes him so much pain that he stops every couple of steps to try and lick it out. When we put him inside to melt off he acts as if it is a personal betrayal. Tina, the German Shepherd has the usual teflon coat of her breed. Nothing sticks to her. She plunges after the ball into a giant snow drift, creating a miniature blizzard and emerges immaculately groomed. Wrigley, the Lab cross, is somewhat challenged when it comes to outside play. Toys are but a temporary distraction from his real toys which are the other dogs, who need to be chased about the yard and barked at loud and long. Said dogs typically ignore him, but he seems to be of that species of male that finds that a come-on. Watching the whirling chaos is hilarious and tiring at the same time.
Maybe I just like snow because I am coldblooded.