Last Tuesday's blizzard left significantly more than a foot of snow on the ground, meaning there was no school that day. Now my fellow public school teachers and I won't start our summer vacations until June 27 or so, a state of affairs nearly as horrifying to us as it undoubtedly is to the young people faced with the prospect of sitting in our classrooms until then.
I never have liked winter. It's always been my least favorite time of year. I've never skied, nor have I snowboarded. My at-best modest hockey skills have long since disappeared. I see snowmobiles as producers of nearly as much air pollution as noise pollution. And as for ice fishing......really?
For me cold weather and accumulating precipitation mean backbreaking hours of shoveling, ice-chopping and roof-raking; hazardous driving conditions; and potentially expensive problems brought on by power outages and/or frozen pipes.
Given all that it seemed a foregone conclusion last week's Nor'easter would have me feeling angry, frustrated, sad, disgusted, indignant and paranoid, not to mention envious of anyone and everyone currently residing somewhere warmer.
But just when I thought I knew myself my emotions threw me a curveball. While my mood during the hours prior to the storm's start wasn't great, the way I felt during and after the lengthy event was a combination of fortunate and grateful.
At dawn last Tuesday where I live nothing was falling from the sky, so on the theory I'd likely be shut in later on I opted to hike a mile or so to the post office to mail a letter. But walking felt good, so I opted to extend my sojourn. Snow had just begun falling when I strolled another mile or so down to the start of one of the town's nature paths. Time stood still as I meandered through the woods, encountering no one and hearing nothing save for my own intermittent footsteps.
Even better than experiencing the indescribable natural silence of falling snow in the midst of sylvan loveliness: knowing for certain that, on this 15-degree day at least, no miniscule, disease-carrying bloodsucker would attach itself to me, even if by some off-chance a tick-sized portion of my skin were inadvertently left exposed.
Two hours later I got home and realized I had a huge block of quality time to spend with my sons, the sort of opportunity that, given our respective ages and schedules, happens all too infrequently these days. We chatted, played cards, and had a nice lunch. Later on I called an old friend, and even managed to catch up on a bit of correspondence.
The ongoing storm was still going fast and furious when the three of us finally went out to begin shoveling late in the afternoon. Close to a foot of snow had accumulated by then, and the wind was biting. But thoughtful inward reflections, I've found, come naturally when one is simultaneously engaging in some sort of physical exertion.
Among last Tuesday's shoveling-related epiphanies:
My two able-bodied sons were available to help me with a daunting job, worked diligently, and did so with far less complaint than I'd have had a generation ago.
We got to interact with, help, and get help from some great neighbors who were outside cheerfully dealing with the same issue(s) we were.
Even the harshest Maine winter is less unpleasant than an average summer day in most of America. Thick socks, appropriate headgear, and multiple layers of clothing make staying warm possible (if awkward) on the coldest day of the year here, but there is absolutely no escaping the oppressive heat and humidity that's a daily reality south of the Mason-Dixon Line. And I can testify from experience: Florida's horrific summers are significantly longer than Maine's winters.
Some people cannot leave their homes without aid; others spend every waking moment in the seat of a wheelchair. What right does a person with a fully functional body have to complain about shoveling snow?
Every stormy and/or sub-zero Maine day is just more insurance against venomous snakes, scorpions, fire ants, cockroaches, and similar scourges commonly found in many other American locales.
Thanks to the widely-held misconception Maine is merely a smaller, equally frigid, slightly less remote version of Alaska, our state doesn't need to build a wall to keep undesirables out! (Note: for the purposes of this article an "undesirable" is anyone who thinks Maine is a frigid, slightly less remote mini-Alaska!)
The bottom line: last Tuesday's weather event wasn't a hardship; it was a reason to rejoice.
And I plan on celebrating the next big snowstorm too.
That is, assuming it commences shortly after sundown this coming Christmas Eve.Andy Young
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