Regret is an unfortunate side effect of twenty-five years of parenting. I definitely could have done some things differently. For example, I regret not insisting more often that my kids help with the snow shoveling. That’s how I was raised: if you’ve got two arms and two legs, then you’d better get yourself outside and start working! Maybe that’s exactly why I didn’t. Anyway, most of the time I just couldn’t be bothered with the extra effort it took to request, demand, coax, and threaten them. So, between my parents’ resolve and my own stubborn approach (it’s easier to just do it myself than to ask for help) I’ve had plenty of experience with a snow shovel.
Here in New England, there seems to be little consistency in the weather from winter to winter. Some years, we get to April and are still wondering when winter’s going to start. Other years, like this one, we get pummeled week after week for months on end. And, of course, it’s the first winter without a single kid living under our snow-covered roof. For the first time, I’ve actually entertained the idea of owning a snow blower. But not really. Shoveling’s good exercise. At least, that’s what I tell myself. And there’s a bit of a mental challenge to the task, as well. That got me thinking, as I attacked a fresh blanket of snow the other day, about what jewels of wisdom I could bestow on those less experienced (like my own kids).
#1 Divide and Conquer
A foot of snow in a driveway that can squeeze 6 cars during a street-parking ban may be daunting. But if you employ the divide and conquer strategy, as one might with any of life’s overwhelming obstacles, the task can be broken down into manageable pieces. Begin by parting the area down the middle. Push the snow away from the center, toward the edges. Then scoop it up and throw. If it’s heavy, wet stuff, instead of light, fluffy stuff, you may need to part it into thirds or even smaller portions. The point is it’s doable when taken in small doses. Don’t give up.
#2 Listen to Your Heart
If all that hard work gets your heart pounding, take a breather. Literally. Stand still and enjoy the view. Lean on that shovel, take a few slow, deep breaths and watch the snow fall. Nothing will be accomplished if you end up face down in a snowdrift. So, stop for a moment and reminisce about that snow fort you built when you were a kid — the one that made you feel like you were a lone explorer in the great frozen wilderness. Savor the muffled silence that a blanket of snow creates in a loud and busy world. Wait for your heart to slow down a little before you dig in again. It’ll be worth it in the end.
#3 Work With Nature
If it snows all day, don’t wait until it’s over to tackle the shoveling. It’s easier to clear 4 inches now and 4 inches later, than 8 inches all at once even later. And your back (or arms or knees or wrists or whatever body parts that regularly protest) will thank you.
If you’ve waited until the day after the storm to finish the clean-up and the sun is shining, let it work for you. If your significant other had to drive over those last few inches of snow to get to work, leaving packed tire tracks in his wake, don’t exert a lot of needless energy scraping to bare pavement. Remove what’s easy and let the sun do its job. Come back to the nicely melted patches later. Smile and appreciate the power of the sun.
#4 Think Ahead
If it’s only December, fling that snow as far as you’re able. It’s mighty difficult to heave it up and over six-foot snow banks in February! (Especially if you’re only five feet tall!)
Don’t put off ’til tomorrow… Tomorrow might bring rain, turning it all to slush; or a 5-degree day, making it a driveway full of pretty white concrete; or tomorrow may bring MORE SNOW! (Is it spring yet?)
I could go on. No, really, I could. There’d be “Choose Your Weapon,” spouting advice on choosing the right shovel for the job. And “Do Unto Others,” encouraging you to be extra helpful to that next door neighbor when she’s stuck ( I mean her car is stuck!) in a snowbank and maybe her son will offer to use his plow to clear out the end of your driveway. You get the picture. I’m sure some of you who are more experienced shovelers could even add your own tidbits of advice. In the meantime, hopefully a relatively short meantime, happy shoveling!