Shoveling snow again this morning, after our second “plowable” storm passed through overnight. Since it is a weekend, I was in no particular rush and waited until well after daybreak to start. Church this morning for me was going to be the cool, dry air of a winter morning and the fresh feel of snow blowing off the pines, scattered by the wind, and brushing against my neck.
As a double bonus, it was very quiet. My neighbor had already used his snow-blower to clear his driveway, apparently while I was still snoozing (since it was a weekend, and a holiday weekend at that, I opted for the rare pleasure of pulling the covers over my head after the dawn had woken me). Across the street the young couple who lives there had been visited by their “plow guy” and was off to somewhere together.
I worked slowly, letting my body warm to the task. After I shoveled out the car and the walks, I make a trek out to the bird feeders so my feathered friends could enjoy their morning as well. Now the chickadees recognize me and I have to shoo them off the feeder to fill it. I scattered some food on the ground and the table feeder for the dozen or so blue jays that would soon congregate for their morning meal.
Back to the snow. I shoveled a two-foot path down one side of the 120 feet or so of drive to the end, and took on the mailbox. The town plow had been through, of course, so this part of the job is always the most work. Fortunately, the snow was light so even the packed bank was not too bad. Retrieving the morning paper, I headed back in to give it to my wife for her morning Sudoku.
I didn’t take my boots off as I wanted to finish the job before getting too comfortable. I headed back to the end and dug into the last of the plowed bank, knowing that when that was done the last half of the drive would be easy. Since I am in my mid-fifties, I have learned to stop when I feel my heart and breathing begin to reach a certain point. It is one of the pleasures of shoveling, just standing there and feeling the wind and letting my heart rate settle back to something close to rest.
I looked back toward the house. There is something magical about seeing a bird that is flying straight at you, right at eye level. I watched, struck by the unique profile coming straight toward me as if on a string. Just before reaching me the blue jay pulled up short and flirted into the small pines next to the drive. One of my guests at the back feeder, come to say thank you, I thought as he scratched his beak on a small branch.
People ask me why I don’t get a snow-blower, living in the northeast and all. I am not a machine-type person, for one. I like to remember what the human body feels like when physical labor is required (for the record, I am a process engineer in a local manufacturing facility, so I am not required to perform a tremendous amount of physical work on a daily basis). One of the best things I ever did was to give up my gas-powered lawn mower for a Fiskar’s reel mower. I hated mowing the lawn. Truly hated it, trudging behind a noisy, gas-burning machine. With the reel mower I am forced to stop and rest. I use the time to look around and feel what nature is giving me to learn, just like on this morning-after-the-storm.
I don’t know what works for you. It seems to me that we have traded one kind of connectedness for another in our modern age. One is sensual; the other is cerebral. One is vague, shifting, diffuse and intuitive; the other is digital, defined, and precise. How do we balance these two forces? Is it important? What do you think?