The Book of Shoveling: a story told in five monthly installments.
November, in which the household shoveler spends the day of the first (early, unexpected, robust) storm locating snow boots, shovels, car scrapers, snow tires, winter gloves and Yak Traks. The strategy required of the first shoveling event is critical, because it determines the outer boundaries of the shoveled areas. Make them too big and you’ll be needlessly shoveling extra terrain all winter; too small and you’ll box yourself in. November shoveling is precise, symmetrical, with tidy walls and clean edges. Emily Dickinson said November is the Norway of the year, but she never visited Norway, let alone the Methow Valley.
December, in which the household shoveler scrupulously maintains the military precision of the snowbanks, despite volume-based fatigue. They say that San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is always being painted; as soon as the painters finish one end of the bridge, it’s time to start over again at the far end. December’s shoveling feels like that; by the time you get the path to the woodshed cleared, the patio has filled in again. It’s still possible to toss a load of champagne powder to the top of the banks, but barely.
January, in which it becomes no longer possible for the average middle-aged shoveler to throw a scoop of snow to the top of the bank, resulting in the necessity of relocating the tops of banks beyond the perimeter of the shoveled areas in order to make room for more snow. At some point in January the snow becomes more like wet cement than dry fluff. They say the Inuit have dozens of words for snow. You learn them simply to add some variety to the relentless monotony of removing said substance from pathways and parking areas.
February, in which the household shoveler regrets griping about the tedium of shoveling pathways and parking areas. February brings paranoia about snowloads and roof ratings. February calls for a scientific measurement of one cubic foot of snow and despite its weighing only half of what the roof is rated to, the household shoveler cannot stop fretting and insists that the roof be shoveled. The boredom of clearing pathways is eclipsed by the terror of roof work.
March, in which the household shoveler remains in denial about the continued need for snow removal. For three weeks people have been crowing about spring’s imminence. March brings another 6 inches in two days. They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In April we’ll stow the shovels, and you’ll hear us roar.