Digging out of Nemo

I didn't hear about the storm until my neighbor mentioned it Wednesday evening, and then I heard about it everywhere. There were flashing warning signs on the side of the highway on Thursday, and my phone did a special alert bulletin (which I didn't know it was capable of), in case I had missed the memo. But even late Thursday, there was no real sign of it. The skies were blue, though a slightly brooding blue, if that's possible. And everything felt sort of calm, as the cliche goes.

We went out to get a couple of things from the store, and the shelves were nearly bare of essentials. Everyone was hunkering down. We, on the other hand, were buying items for fish tacos with mango salsa--unseasonable fare for the night before a giant blizzard, but oh they were delectable.

Friday passed, mostly in waiting. It was snowing, but not earnestly. Sam kept the fire going, and I started a quilt, and we stayed indoors, thinking this thing wasn't going to be that big of a deal.

But then it picked up, and a few friends posted about power outages (or impending power outages) and I realized, hey, wait, if they power goes out, we're in big trouble. I had meant to think about this earlier, but I hadn't done so in any detail, and Sam had scoffed at the idea of any real trouble and said he had a plan, and everything would be fine. But I realized, with the wind whipping a menacing swirl outside, that we would want blankets and candles and flashlights, and we wouldn't want to stumble around in the dark trying to find them. So after the baby went to bed, I ran around the house gathering supplies, wondering why I didn't listen to myself more, why I hadn't done all this worrying earlier.

I fell asleep, expecting to be woken up by the cold when our power went out, but I wasn't. I was only woken at regular intervals by the baby, and in the morning, good grief there was a lot of snow, and it was still coming down hard. I posted evidence on social media, so I won't repeat everything here, but here's my car, after I had spent two hours digging it out. Before I started you couldn't see much of it, and Sam's car really was completely buried.

I've heard too many stories about men having heart attacks while shoveling driveways (and Sam already has heart problems), so I decided to go out and try it myself.

When I was dressed to go out, I asked Sam, "Do I look like a magical elf?"

"You look like a Russian mail-order bride," he said.

You can see I didn't get very far. I spent two hours, and then looked up and thought, there is just no way. I am just a girl with a shovel, and this is totally beyond me. At which point we called the neighbors, who sent over their boys, who made quick work of it.

But before that, it was just me, out in that snow, developing a shoveling rhythm, listening to RadioLab on my iPhone, and completely in love with the day. The snow was up to my thighs and sparkling, just glittering away. It had been a long time since I had moved my body that vigorously. I was on bed rest for four months, followed by a c-section, so it's been a long time since I could feel that my body might someday be strong again. I've been taking little walks almost daily, amping up my distance very slowly, trying to be gentle with myself. And it felt good to forget about the slow amp, and just use the strength I had, the strength that was buried in me, that I didn't remember I had. When I'd bend down for another shovel-full, it was like ducking my head into a snow cave, and it was so quiet, like I was in the middle of a winter forest for just an instant. There were men in all of their driveways, using their snowblowers, and shouting to one another, and I was just making steady (very slow) progress, one shovel at the time. I thought of this poem, by Billy Collins, called "Shoveling Snow with Buddha." (Read it. It's lovely.)

I kept seeing little flecks of red in the snow, tiny little spots of something, and I couldn't figure out what it was. Was I accidentally scraping the paint from my red car? Was some animal bleeding in tiny drops? And then I realized it was my own red gloves, wearing off bits of lint on the shovel. I felt so good figuring that out, solving that small mystery. I took the shovel and tried to tamp down a giant mountain of snow I had been building, thinking if I did so preemptively, it wouldn't keep falling down into the part I had already shoveled, but this didn't work so well, and I ended up falling into the mountain, whitewashing myself, remembering suddenly what it felt like to go sledding when I was younger, to get very close to the snow in an out-of-control way, and breath deeply its smell. Snow has a smell! I had forgotten.

Just as I was giving up, when the struggle was losing its charm, a fire truck rolled down our street, and four firepeople (men and women) jumped off, wielding snow shovels. They were there to dig out their fire hydrant, but they looked so authoritatively useful that for a sweet moment I thought they might be there to help citizens who struggled with digging out. I stopped and stood watching them, holding my shovel, imagining them wading into the snow of my driveway and helping me get to the bottom of it. It was easy to imagine being rescued, after doing all I could to rescue myself.


belann said…
Still so grateful to the boys who finally rescued. You and the Buddha would have had a hard time doing it totally by yourselves.
Amara said…
That's what I think! I DESERVE help now! Most of the time it doesn't come. Sounds like you had a great experience anyway even if you aren't telling about the sweat, and later exhaustion. Seriously good brain chemicals get released in the brain with hard exercise. Whoa! How did I get on that soapbox again! Sorry.
Deja said…
That wasn't a soapbox. You're so right! I had crazy energy after I did it. Sam felt sluggish that day, and I just kept trying to get him out there. I knew he'd feel better.

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