Editor’s column: Let it snow — just clean it up
The snowfall that greeted us Sunday morning launched me into an inadvertent meditation on my lifelong relationship with snow, which for the most part I have considered something between a nuisance and an enemy.
The Roaring Fork Valley is the first place I’ve lived where snow, rather than being an inevitability, is mostly welcome — a white gold of sorts, and I’m good with that. It’s fun to go play in it, it helps reduce summer fire risk, and it’s pretty in our valleys and on our mountains.
So Sunday morning, the short sidewalk leading to my condo was blessed with about 6 inches of Rocky Mountain powder — in contrast to the heavy sludge of my Midwestern roots. I grabbed the shovel by the front door to clear a path to walk out later to grab my Sunday New York Times.
Digression: Yes, I could read the Times online, and do many days. But I’m 58, and admit to loving both the feel of a thick Sunday newspaper and the serendipity of what I might stumble upon on its pages. I also marvel at the logistics that, by 7 a.m. even on snowy Sundays, deliver liberal media marching orders and New York values right to my door in a mountain village.
Back to shoveling snow. I don’t like it. When I left Des Moines, where shoveling snow is like weightlifting while being grabbed around the ankles and simultaneously slapped by a north wind with bared, sharpened fingernails, I hoped I was done with this task.
Not that we moved to a tropical climate. From wholesome Iowa, we landed in downtown Detroit, where the snow often seems gray even before it hits the ground. But we were in a high-rise and weren’t responsible for the walks. Same thing in Cincinnati, where it rarely snows more than an inch, but the locals run screaming like schoolchildren for shelter if so much as a flake is in the forecast.
Sunday’s snow in Carbondale was so puffy that it was a breeze to clear the stub of sidewalk between my door and the public walk. I got to our little decorative fence and thought, well, I’ll scoop in front of our place so the paper doesn’t get sucked into the powder.
Then I found myself compelled by something deep in my upbringing and psyche to keep going. I did the length of the walk in front of our six-condo development. It wasn’t much work because the snow was so light, and I wasn’t really being a good neighbor — the HOA pays to have someone do this.
I just couldn’t make myself stop.
Perhaps it has to do with the accompanying picture of me as a first-grader, which my mom snapped in 1965, on my first snow day from school. We got 24 inches of wet Nebraska sky dandruff — or, to put a happier face on it, what I still call snowman snow.
I had to help shovel a path to the garage that day — I don’t recall actually being much help, but it was an assigned chore — before I was allowed to build a snowman.
Ever since, I think, I have been offended by snow that’s somehow in my way. I don’t mind looking at snow on fields, along streambanks, on mountains. I learned downhill skiing in my late 20s when I lived in Boise, and have taken up cross-country skiing upon my return to the glorious West. All good. But, wow, I hate this junk on my sidewalk or where I must drive.
Part of it is disliking what happens when people walk on snow-covered sidewalks and pack it down. The snow is no longer pretty after that, and it complicates my life as a runner. (Thank you, Carbondale Clay Center, for buying a shovel.)
This also may be related to the fact that I grew up in an area dominated by descendants of orderly northern Europeans. Our lawns and walkways are crisply kempt. Even though I’d rather not do the work myself, my sense of unease at messiness is a potent motivator.
Having finished shoveling to my ancestors’ satisfaction Sunday, as soon as I stepped inside the front door, the paper delivery person zoomed by in an SUV, tossing the Times into the pile of snow next to our fence. I got the paper and of course had to clean up the snow that it knocked down onto the front walk.
Having done my chore for the day, I was able to play later with a clear conscience, just as when I was a first-grader. This wasn’t snowman snow, but it was really great for cross-country skiing on the Rio Grande Trail — though I didn’t care for the footprints and dog tracks next to the ski ruts.
Randy Essex is editor of the Post Independent.
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