Freshly Shoveled

I love the look of a well shoveled sidewalk. There’s nothing that improves the “curb appeal” of a home during winter in Minnesota more than snow that knows its place. The act of removing snow welcomes people during the holidays, provides a little exercise (consult your doctor,) and creates the illusion that you are in control of your own environment. It’s a simple act and one I want to talk about this week.

First off, if you are unable to remove snow because of age or other disability, feel no shame that you are unable to participate in this activity. Snow removal means more to me than just clean sidewalks; it means I can live in the country. If I don’t keep our driveway and sidewalk clean then Lisa and I cannot get to work and then we can’t live where we do. Letting the snow know where it stands also make me feel accomplished; piles of snow plowed nice and high tell visitors that I know how to work and how to keep things organized and that this farm is well run. I hate when I see sidewalks that are only one shovel width clear or left with patches of snow everywhere; the narrow ones are like walking a tightrope and small patches of snow need only a little traffic to turn into patches of ice.

Failing to prepare is preparing for failure; the opposite is just as true. I keep close tabs on the weather so that when a storm approaches I drive my pick-up to work so when I arrive home I can plow our driveway first. That accomplished, I shovel our sidewalk then scoop snow away from each building about four feet into a pile that I can push with the snow plow. After the yard is finished I take one more lap down the driveway to add some width and the same on the way back. This is the final act for my pick-up after which it gets a bag of oats, a quick rub down then into the garage for the night.

The last thing I do is clear our main sidewalk, if the snow is deep I use the ‘blower first then scrape the sidewalk clean with a shovel but if it’s not bad I just shovel. My usual weapon of choice is a grain shovel for clearing sidewalks or garage ramps and there is one in every building on our farm. The grain shovel is an unheralded hero when it comes to snow removal and never gets the recognition that fancier shovels receive. A grain scoop has the capacity you need for fluffy snow, the strength you need for hard snow and a cutting edge sharp enough that I can clean sidewalks down to the concrete-task completed, my time is now my own.

I’ve tried to understand my need to remove snow on many different levels but I think there is something even deeper to this act; peace and a calm mind. I like the freedom that comes with the knowledge that, unimpeded by snowfall, I can come and go as I please however the peace is something different. The simple, taxing act of shoveling and the rhythmic rowing of cleaning the sidewalk edges is almost like meditation. It occupies my body and mind just enough so that I forget myself and my concerns. My focus narrows to the point where I concentrate on my breath and the next step. Cold, breathless and tired, I feel at peace, without a care in the world, at least until the next snow fall.


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