Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Zen of Shoveling Snow

By about 5:00 p.m. yesterday, it dawned on me (ha! maybe it sunset-ed on me) that daylight was fading and the snow had not magically disappeared from the driveway. My car stood rooted to the icy ground, buried in snow and ice. The drive looked particularly long. So, I hoisted a shovel to my shoulder and got to work, digging out the car and clearing the cement of the 10 inches of accumulation. And I didn't mind. I like shoveling. It's a bit like mowing the lawn or ironing. You see instant progress, you get into a "zone" where each "row" feels like a micro-achievement in the larger project of clearing the whole. In a season where my internal world is at loose ends, where shoes rarely get put away, where days bleed into each other without much definition and no clarity about tomorrow, shoveling snow brought a profound sense of accomplishment.

While I shoveled, I plugged in my headphones... which had the annoying habit of popping out of my ears as my arms or the shovel handle snagged the cord each time I shifted my body. It became quite the antagonistic relationship - me and my white cord vying for control: that slippery snake with the earbuds marked R and L to tell you which ear they must go in, which I can't read without my reading glasses! I couldn't allow the music to stop (shoveling routine would lose rhythm) yet I couldn't seem to keep the earbuds happy enough to stay put. I tried hanging the cord off my back (but the twisting motions dislodged them again). I tried stringing them through my coat, putting the iPod in my back pocket instead of front. The whole struggle became epic, including a few choice words I launched audibly at Steve Jobs for not caring about me in particular, stranded here in Ohio in the knee-deep snow! (Uh, yeah, I got carried away.)

Eventually, I yielded to the halting success, enjoying the music while the buds stayed plugged in and stopping to adjust them as they subtly shifted. I focused on lyrics. I let Oasis blare guitars. They soothed and spoke for and to me. And weirdly enough, the mix began with my first scoop of snow (starting with song one "Wonderwall") and literally ended with the last scrape off the frozen windshield of my car as "Champagne Supernova" erupted and fizzled at the end.

The push, lift, hurl and retread habits of shoveling got all my body parts working. The music accompanied my loud (seemingly acapella) singing (I have a habit of belting out tunes while mowing too, but at least the mowers drown me out). I didn't care. The fading light made the icicles glitter. I even licked a few of them on a low hanging branch. The snow moved easily with a push and made a nice long row of mounds. I like to keep my edges crisp, so I would work a lane and then push the little scattered snowballs up the edges on a second pass.

As the moments went by, I felt an increasing sense of well-being. Words spoke to me:

And all the roads we have to walk along are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding

Maybe I will never be
All the things that I want to be
But now is not the time to cry
Now's the time to find out why

But the little things they make me so happy
All I want to do is live by the sea
Little things they make me so happy
But it's good it's good it's good to be free

I can feel the warning signs running around my mind
And when I leave this island I'll book myself into a soul asylum
Cos I can feel the warning signs running around my mind

But all the things that you've seen
Will slowly fade away

Gonna write a song so she can see
Give her all the love she gives to me
Talk of better days that have yet to come
Never felt this love from anyone

Cos all of the stars are fading away
Just try not to worry you'll see them some day
Take what you need and be on your way
And stop crying your heart out

The wheels of your life
Have slowly fallen off
Little by little
And because it was the last song:
Someday you will find me
Caught beneath the landslide
In a champagne supernova in the sky...
Driveway looks great. I felt free of whatever oppression had settled on me in our blue box of a house.


RedGypsie said...

Heck woman. That is a helluva blog post! Makes me want to come up there and shovel the next batch with you, just to get the high! :-)

brian said...

I had the same problem with my stupid earbuds yesterday. Nearly ripped my right ear off when I caught the cord with one shovelful. But, I could not shovel the snow without my ELO!

LauraLiz said...

There was a season for me when pulling stubborn vines out of trees and up by the roots provided that deep sense of satisfaction. Bit by bit, I conquered. And I survived. (But I did not have an iPod.)

SUSAN said...

I sort of feel about raking leaves, the way you feel about shoveling snow. Me thinks I'll grab the rake and get into the Zen zone.

Loved this post and glad the oppression lifted!


James said...

Here you will find Billy Collins' poem "Shoveling Snow With The Buddha." Couldn't help thinking of it when I stumbled across your post.

johndiii said...

This is pretty late, but I ran across your entry searching for the Billy Collins poem "Shoveling Show with the Buddha".

Anyway, a possible solution to the ear bud problems. I had issues with them falling out myself, and I found that the little foam covers that they sell help a lot. A better friction fit, I guess. Also, I bought colored ones, and put a red cover on the right one and a black cover on the left one. Instant recognition! :-)