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Sunday, March 09, 2008

After The Storm

Yesterday we assiduously cleared away the 18 cm of snow that had fallen the night before, knowing full well that there was little choice. Truth was, if we didn't, despite that snow kept falling, there simply would be no space in which to throw all the incoming snow. Besides which, the sheer volume of all that new snow falling on top of what we'd already received would simply be too overwhelming.

For us to shovel, for our snow throwing machine to grapple with. Since we were anticipating another 35 cm of snow, perhaps more. Which is why, throughout the day, we ventured out on a number of occasions to try to keep abreast of the growing volumes, to disperse them, as best we could, to make "room" for what kept falling. When I went out at five o'clock to clear the pathways in the back for our little dogs, it wasn't exactly unpleasant; far from it.

The cold air was bracing, the wind whipping the light new snow about was beautiful, and the transformation of what was a familiar landscape into something out of a winter's-fable was exhilarating, beautiful to behold. It felt good to hoist the wide, flat winter shovel, to push the snow off the deck, off the deck stairs, and along the pathways.

And then to grab the shovel and swoosh it high over the piles of snow on either sides of the pathways. Whose height already quite surpassed my own. Our winter garden so thickly embroidered in white has quite submerged our garden statuary, most of our bushes, and the snow has accumulated to rise halfway up our fruit trees, completely absorbing the main trunks.

Our beautiful little octagonal garden shed has a shimmering white cone on its roof that is now equal to the height of the shed itself. When I stand on one of the pathways I'm entirely enclosed on either side by six-foot high white 'fences'. When we came downstairs first thing this morning, we marvelled at the snow canyon that had absorbed the front walk up to our porch.

No one could possibly have struggled through the overnight snow-depth of the driveway, and then to turn on to our path leading to the porch and the front door. It would be like attempting to wade through oatmeal. Ergo: no Sunday morning newspaper. But then, we had anticipated that. Now, that's hard to take; no morning newspaper. It's an extraordinary situation, but then, this latest winter storm was itself extraordinary.

And this morning, after breakfast, when my husband proceeded to clear the snow out of the driveway, it was a struggle to even get beyond the lip of the garage. We'd already noted that the municipal snow plough had been through the street and deposited into the end of each driveway along its route, a formidable amount of crushed snow and ice. Guaranteed to present maximum difficulty in removing it and clearing the drive.

By the time he got out there, our neighbour, Mustapha, from across the street had already managed to clear out his drive, and he insisted on joining his larger, newer snow thrower to our golden oldie, to clear the initial plough-tossed snowbank. An hour or so later, when my husband had finally cleared the drive and the front walkways, making his way toward the back, I was confronted with a bit of a startle.

Making my way upstairs to clean the bathrooms there, I glanced out the glassed front door to see another neighbour, Dave, from down the street, shovelling the snow off our porch, which my husband hadn't yet got around to. Dave said that his neighbour, Andre, had cleared out Dave's driveway with his snow thrower, and Dave thought he'd just do little things like this, for neighbours, with his shovel.

Besides which, he wanted to tell me that his wife died a few days ago at the Kingston farmhouse. The upstairs tenants were there, with her, when she died. She'd been seriously ill for a long time, and had been an alcoholic for an even longer time. They'd been estranged for years, and he was left to raise their four children. Only the youngest is still left at home with him, the others have departed to serve their adulthood elsewhere.

It helped, he said, to keep busy. So he wouldn't have to think about it too much. No big surprise; they all knew it was coming. She died of natural causes; her body too worn, to abused, too compromised to work for her any longer. Good thing, he said, he'd taken their eldest daughter along just a week earlier to speak with her mother for the last time, and sort things out in her mind.

Later, wondering what was keeping my husband so long, I espied him at the front, end of the driveway. I'd earlier watched from our bedroom window as he attempted to push the snow thrower through the backyard, to the end of that pathway that leads to our composters. The snow piled in front of the machine, although we had cleared it time and again yesterday, was waist high, and presented as too much of an obstacle for the snow thrower.

I watched from above, as he dug the snow thrower out from the snowpack, first the sides, then the front, and finally he was able to urge the mechanical beast forward to complete its mission. Now, there he was, ostensibly cleaning the chute of the snow thrower, but in reality having a nice chat with Mohinder and Ineren, discussing the state of the street and its residents, so many of whom go out of their way to be neighbours.

We'll have a bit of a break today. The sun will break through tentatively, then the skies will cloud over again. And we'll be able to enjoy a few light snow flurries for the balance of the day.

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