January 8, 2017 (Sunday)

by Yule Heibel on January 7, 2018

All is white – or mostly – in bright sunshine, the heat of which is already melting rooftop snow while an occasional wind gust shakes it off snow-laden branches. Poof, another batch loosens, and as it falls, it disperses once again into many individual flakes. United we clump, divided we fall?

I went out last night at about 9pm and shoveled for an hour. Cleared the walkways to the house and the sidewalk, as well as part of the driveway. It was still snowing, but mostly it was also blowing a stiff and very icy breeze, which in turn worked to refill some of my cleared areas with another inch or so of snow. We got about 8″, more in some spots. But because it was so cold, the snow was very light and easy to shovel.

All day I’d been agonizing over having to get together with [neighbor] to re-figure out how to use the blower after not touching it for months. And I really didn’t want to get into that. Once it was clear that it would snow heavily all day and into the night, I texted her to say, “let’s work this out tomorrow morning when it has stopped,” but I continued to obsess over how much I dislike both the machine and the co-ownership arrangement. Part of my problem is that neither one of us has a garage, and the thing is stored in her enclosed and locked back porch. So, I can’t go and grab it when I want, we have to coordinate. And store gasoline, ugh! Because of the steep terrain (steps!), we can’t store it under a tarp in one of our backyards, either. And it’s an absolute beast to boot. Sure, it’s reasonably maneuverable, but it is heavy (the ex, who bought it, picked the biggest model – but he’s no longer in the picture), and it makes so much noise that you have to turn it off to understand anyone speaking to you. Finally, especially for light snow in very windy conditions, its use is a constant tricky calculation of where actually to “throw” the snow so it doesn’t blow back in your face and lands on your property (you can’t blow it into the street), but not on the areas you’ve already cleared. I freely admit that while I may have been a mistress of the snow blower once (when we had one at our previous Massachusetts house), I don’t aspire to that title anymore. It not only troubles me to use this thing, it bores me.

In addition, as much as I hate the hassles of clearing and dealing with snow, I experienced a kind of zen trance (well, almost trance-y) last night, wielding my shovel in short, controlled strokes, calibrating the amount I could scoop, the trajectory of the throw, the level of grooming (e.g., how precisely should I hew to the outline and edge of the walkway? the sidewalk?). These were all things I couldn’t have felt if the blower had been my intermediary. The shovel – pace, Duchamp with his “In Advance of the Broken Arm” – proved a far better tool than a gas-powered blower could. I suppose it’s similar to the difference between using a gas or electric mower (or a ride-on) versus a scythe to cut a meadow.

In other news, A. arrived safely in Montreal, likes the apartment, too. Phoned via Skype around 5 or 6 after he and D. got back from a late lunch followed by a walk through the neighborhood, which struck A. as remarkably quiet, subdued. Perhaps they were expecting too much the boisterous, party-loving Montreal, but I reminded him that it is winter and it is bitterly cold there presently. Not really surprising that the streets (even in as happening a ‘hood as theirs) aren’t thronged.

Okay, W. went out to shovel; will join him, I guess.

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