I methodically dig and scoop, dig and scoop, row after row, until half the deck’s surface is visible. How long did that take? I leave my watch inside. Time is of no consequence when my state of being enters another dimension.
Now the best part, and I don’t wait until the deck is completely shorn. I start at one end and gently push the edge of the shovel across the deck, lifting shavings as I go, then finally pushing them off at the opposite end. Up one row and down the next, like mowing the lawn, but much more satisfying—no gas fumes, no gnats flying up my nose, just one naked row after another of wet, gleaming planks, resting in stark contrast to the as yet undisturbed white fortresses nearby.
I’ve strained my back more than once digging my car out of plow-created igloos. I’d rather watch a “Gilligan’s Island” marathon than scrape an icy windshield ever again. But there’s something vaguely Tibetan about shoveling off my deck in the bowels of winter, something contented retirees in south Florida could probably never understand.
John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.