, Derry, New Hampshire


March 21, 2013


It’s just another late February day in Boynton Beach, Fla. As I write these words, collapsed in a deck chair, palm trees dance in a gentle breeze, almost in perfect sync with the bobbing noodles the aerobics enthusiasts ride in a spacious, heated pool.

It’s an idyllic scene, a tonic for a teacher in the dog days of winter, almost as Zen-like as shoveling two feet of New Hampshire snow off my deck.

I know, but just stick with me here. I love my mother-in-law and my visits to the tropical paradise she calls home. I woke up recently to an additional helping of February snow, to that eerie late-winter silence punctuated by the grating racket of plow scraping pavement. You know, 82 and sunny ain’t bad, but if I need rejuvenation, give me a shovel so I can attack a snow-covered deck.

I start with the railing, where two or three inches rest like fluff on a lamb’s back. And like an experienced groomer with shears, I start at the bottom and gently scrape the white stuff to the side, leaving a smooth, icy patina that will quickly evaporate in the morning sun.

The next step differs, depending on the amount I need to shovel. A few weeks ago, the snow piled up to my waist. I almost hated to disturb the frozen formations that nature had sculpted in her studio. But I needed to discover what I was in for, the moves required to get the job done. And just as importantly, to establish the rhythm that leads to a transcendent place of peace.

It’s the light variety. My warm breath could blow a quarter of an inch off at a time. But even light snow gets heavy when mounds of it are chucked off the side of the deck. I determine that four shovels-full get me to the bottom. A lot of work, to be sure, but evenly distributed so as not to aggravate my lower back.

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