Snow Day

Between tending to the ill and stoking the fire I go out and shovel the driveway, conscious of the second half of the 18 inches still scheduled to fall. The sun’s gone done a couple of hours prior and the night is beginning to take shape: shadowy mounds of the white stuff on the drive between the street’s solitary light and the back porch’s meagre glow.

I shovel and think of the day. A cancelled yoga session. A friend with that flu going around, regretful to miss the evening’s library film showing.

I can get peace out here, as the wind blows so hard I reconsider my break admiring the briskly moving tree limbs and instead move around to the house where a potential snap of wood wouldn’t harm me. Of course I always do find solace in the wind.

I shovel and think of my life. I readjust my posture, and turn my lower hand palm down like that man at the fair this summer talked about. I was volunteering which, that day, amounted to “announcing” the next speaker at the tent and then ensuring they didn’t talk too long. It turned into listening to a talk and then being relieved by a confused volunteer, eager to begin her shift before it rightfully started. I happily left after speaking with the previous presenter, and marvelled at the way the right tool and posture can get a job done with such little effort.

Could I use my tendons to spring back the way he suggested? Could I simply grab the shovel differently and completely relieve my lower back from potential muscle pain?

I don’t actually think a thing like that, that suffering, is avoidable.

My mind shovels over recent news from home of a sudden death. I think how fortunate this person was to meet at least one (that I know of) grandchild and subsequently wonder how this could be of any consolation. Is there a sort of magic in generations overlapping one another? Do we see the futility of life through it all?

I think back of the most vivid memory I have of this person from the years that I would have seen her on a near-daily basis.

It was a day during that confusing time where sometimes my older brothers would be at home to play with all day and sometimes they would be away. Then, for long stretches at a time all of them would be home every day and we would spend those warm summer months making mud pies and avoiding yellow-jackets.

I was home alone with my mother and, looking out, I saw smoke strangely coming out of the house next door. Next we were outside across the street with the line of people and her crying and being held and then my friends didn’t live next door anymore.

Is tragedy the most we can know of each other?

I continue to shovel. It continues to snow. The section that I clear first gets piled again as I work on the back step of the driveway that I’m told “isn’t very long.” I decide against that judgement, since it’s all relative anyway, and count the centimetres of accumulation that wait for me when I get back to the other end. I knock them off of the end of the scoop with a quick shake and convert them back into inches thinking they must be more comfortable with that unit of measurement.

I think about how I could stay out here shovelling all night. Forgo sleep, be comforted by the howl of the wind through the leafless boughs. I rescind this thought and make an agreement with myself that this bodily work will replace my missed walk today, but that tomorrow I’ll be out enjoying the wintry scene.

I shovel, playing with the designs and negative space created by the snow I remove. I twist my mind around the most mathematically efficient way to shovel a driveway and regret that shovelful thrown right into an unfortunate gust of wind and subsequently blown right back into place. Each perfect flake whirling down and eventually resting in a new place on the drive.

I can’t stay out here forever.

I shovel the short walk that’s refilled itself again in my absence, rest the handle on the side of the house, ignore the accumulated layer on the handrail and shake excess snow off my shoulders, ready to go inside.


Morning Time

I steal out early in my stiff and bleary state, taking care to not confuse shallow shadows on the road with the patches of ice. As has been the case lately, I hear the morning song of unseen birds off in trees and witnessed the darkened wisp of seagulls in the air.

Like yesterday. Yesterday, when I sat overlooking the creek for breakfast and my eye was caught by movement. Masses of feathers followed one another to this water source. One turned, revealing a proud red breast. Twenty robins in January. Slightly further down the creek I saw what seemed to be another hoard of birds. Not as striking, they waited for the first batch to leave before hopping down to the small area free of ice. These morning doves were the second round, the grey squirrels being the third.

Today it felt warmer. Not warm enough to warrant leaving my snow-pants at home for this journey, but warmer than it’s been. The rhododendron bush fulfilled its bonus purpose of thermometre: its leaves were broad and flat, not coiled in tight like in yesterday’s cold.

Glancing up I see the clouds are moving fast and feel grateful for the wind to stay up at those higher altitudes. I don’t want to be cold. I’ve had enough of cold and winter. Yesterday’s robins offer me this teasing lure to allow my mind to think that spring could be on its way, or, at least, that the cold won’t come back. I know better than that. Though usually I don’t know enough to pack on sufficient layers to keep a thick barrier between me and it, today I’m more than prepared, and happy to only walk a little ways to the beach.

Ahead I see a car slowly approach the four-way stop. It slows to a gentle roll before accelerating, going on its merry, morning way. There’s no need to stop this early in the morning. There’s only me, meandering across the street to pick up a feather.

Later, I’ll walk along the waterfront beside the yard with a tall, flat fence separating the yard from me, on the road. The grey house number sticks prominently out as an aberration on the otherwise smooth section of fence. I’ll leave the feather as an offering on the rock in front of this “108” that always catches my eye.

Just one more bend in the road. I inwardly laugh at my impatience to get to the beach. The purpose of the walk being a sunrise viewing, does it really matter from where I view it? I know the beach will face too North, too far for January to be a time when I can see the sun crest the waves from this vantage point.

I settle. My mind and body relax; with every step I shake out the night’s sleep.

Yesterday’s birds must have brought something with them, and now I can force a smile even if I don’t feel like it, until finally I do. What has caused this heaviness?

Two days ago. Sitting in the car, parked downtown on Route One. It’s getting dark, the sun’s just finished disappearing past the edge of the horizon–the other one this time. Not close enough to the wifi source, I try clicking onto another—still not working—and finally pull out, settling the gears back into park closer to another business’ unsecured router. Feeling the pressure of time, I manage to find what I need and hit save, lifting with relief as the short grocery store trip is finished, the shopping and the shopee settling back into the car.

It was there, in the split-second moment before deciding to move the car, that I realized something needed to change. Searching downtown with my laptop for wifi is not my idea of a nourishing time. And so the birds come, and with them I look for ways to do things differently. Enough of blame and shifting responsibility—this is my life and I’m creating every second of it. It isn’t the place I live and the fact that I’m not working right now. It’s that I’m choosing to direct my energy towards things that don’t give me much return.

Short of already having a ticket out of here, I know that I’ll be transitioning soon. I count down the weeks, the yoga classes left to offer, and how many more girls’ night I’ll have with friends. Won’t be long now.

I need it. I need the change. Just like I need this walk, early in the morning, to re-set my habits, to bring me to a better place. I can’t create the life I want here, not right now, anyway.

I plan on soaking it all in for the next month. Every salty-scented inhale of breath. Every run down the hill I have a ski pass at. I plan on soaking up life because if I do it here, now, in conditions that I wish would be slightly different, then I’ll be able to do it anywhere in other conditions where I may inevitably wish they would be slightly different.

As it is the sunrise was obscured by those fast moving clouds. Content with watching the incoming tide I investigate the wide swath of beach the just-new moon has made. Shells catch my eye, conglomerated masses of calcium, and I decide to be like them this month—I can find just the mineral I’m looking for here in this vast ocean and make my home out of it.

Some shells can take years to grow. I’ll see what I get this month.