Mr. Sillypants here, sitting down to discuss one of the most intense love-hate relationships in my existence, that being, the ongoing opportunity for personal growth I know as “snowclearing.”
In Wisconsin, it is said that a man is judged by two firm and unwavering criteria: 1) how green and weed free your lawn is in Summer, and, 2) how clear your driveway is in Winter. Summer is a lost cause for me, as both Ms. Plum and I refuse to water our lawn, even in the most scorching temperatures. I *do* water our gardens, home to a particularly special redbud tree (another story for another time) and a flourishing crabapple tree, not to mention countless perennials and annuals, lovingly tended to by Ms. Plum and I when schedules allow.
To be truthful, our lawn is an eyesore for any who care about such things. Luckily, Ms. Plum and I do not care one whit about such things.
However, Winter is a time when I feel what must be some misplaced hunter-gatherer instinct calling to me, reminding me that it is critical that our pavement be fully visible within hours of snowfall, no matter what Mother Nature throws at us by way of accumulation, drifting or windchill. I must confess I actually feel guilty driving up our driveway and into the garage when there is fresh snow, thinking that doing so will only serve to create packed tire tracks which will become icy and difficult to clear before March.
To be honest, I rated Madison, Wisconsin as my top choice for residency when considering programs across the country. Part of my reasoning was due to the fact that I had spent nearly my entire life in the Pacific Northwest. While Washington and Oregon are beautiful beyond compare, I did feel the urge to live somewhere else so that I could experience a different paradigm, a different set of viewpoints, a different set of seasons.
Hello, Wisconsin. Hello, snowclearing.
Up until this year, I would faithfully take the mower deck off our trusty Sears lawn tractor and attach the snowblade before first snowfall. Our driveway is somewhat long, so clearing the snow by hand was a long and back-breaking task. Once the time was right, I would gear up and fire up the tractor, pushing snow off of our driveway and piling it up anywhere the tractor could go.
Then, two years ago, Ms. Plum gave me a rather dubious gift – – – a Snow Slider.
I call this a dubious gift, because giving a man who has mastered a snowplow a “Snow Slider” is like giving a chef a campfire to cook with. I would never think to give Ms. Plum a new vacuum cleaner for Xmas, yet, there was the Snow Slider in the garage, adorned with a single red bow.
Truthfully, it sat in the garage for most of the first Winter. When big snow came, I was quick to gas up the tractor, leave Blueberry inside with Ms. Plum so that I could show off my gear shifting, blade raising, blade lowering, push-the-snow-all-over-creation expertise.
However, admittedly, I would always hear that little whisper inside my head which reminded me that that most lawn tractors put out more greenhouse gases than cars – – – i.e., we contribute more to global warming by running our lawntractors than we do by driving our cars. Watching “An Inconvenient Truth” that Winter only served to give full voice to that whisper.
So, this year, a strange thing happened. Beloved Blueberry, who is an amazing trooper and has NEVER known a bad day outdoors, has begun to show great interest in snowclearing. Sometimes, he makes use of his own lawnmower, which he informs us “has a snowplow” and puts out bubbles rather than carbon monoxide:
Sometimes, he grabs the “big boy shovel”, working to displace the plentiful snow as I work my magic with the Snow Slider:
However it actually takes place, the snow clearing ritual has become a great joy to me. Blueberry and I talk constantly as we put on snow gear and boots and mittens and hats, then grab our respective snow clearing tools. Our driveway is devoid of engine noise, grinding gears, scraping snowblades. All that you hear is our constant interchange, laughter and discussion about the snow, about Herbie (our frenetic Goldendoodle who loves to romp around us as we work) and about how nice the clear driveway looks.
It is a time of sublime beauty for me.
No greenhouse gases, no isolation on a tractor. Instead, my life is now filled with the laughter of a 2-year-old as he delights in his job with Daddy. Suddenly, Ms. Plum’s dubious gift becomes a brilliant masterstroke.