Driving back from a ski yesterday near Paul Smiths, the narrow lane of open highway was threaded with people, in clumps or standing solitary.
The were bundled up to their noses, thick gloves, layered coats. And each of them carried that no-nonsense banner of the North Country, the snow shovel.
I’ve spent a lot of time out on the side of the road myself the last few days, shifting the white stuff from one place to the other, watching the snow plows and the sky fill in my driveway again.
As a matter of fact, the most deliberate one-on-one time I’ve spent with my son Nicholas this week has involved the two of us wielding our shovels.
No cell phones, no TVs, no gotta-get-there-quick. Just man (and boy) vs. nature, one shovel-load at a time.
I get it. All this snow can be a hassle. I have the back ache to prove it. But I’m a winter culture guy. I like this kind of weather and I like people who know how to cope with it and even enjoy it.
I don’t mean to be pollyana-ish, but a lot of those folks looked like they were having fun, or at least getting a breath of air, and enjoying the powerful sight of a big winter storm.
The lingering Puritan in me keeps whispering that the inconveniences and trials and burdens of this season set us apart in important ways from the flat-landers and sun-junkies who have fled our part of the world.
There is something satisfying about this kind of manual work, with success measurable and definable.
Again, I get it. I understand the siren song that calls to the snowbirds, offering ice-free pavement in January and green lawns in February.
But those of us who stick it out here can lay claim to a stubborn contrariness that’s worth a nod of self-congratulation. So dig deep and hoist those shovels high.
(Slate magazine has an article about healthy snow shoveling practices, which you can find here.)