I’m supposed to be shoveling the driveway right now. Instead, I’ve spent the morning absorbed in other, more pressing tasks, such as moving all the coffee cups around in the kitchen (“Now you live on the RIGHT side of the dishwasher, buddies! See what you think!”), watching several episodes of “Community,” and napping. But I can’t really put it off any longer. It’s time to shovel the dang driveway.
I’ve lived in Colorado since 1988 and yet I can’t remember ever shoveling. Given that I grew up in a family with “farm values,” (which I always took as a fancier way of saying it’s OK to have a 7-year-old mow the lawn), my never having shoveled a driveway until now simply isn’t possible. I’ve decided shoveling must be such a horrible task. I’ve repressed any memory of it.
I suppose shoveling is one of the many things I didn’t consider when I moved from my three-story, walk-up, dollhouse-sized apartment into this tremendous house four days ago. All I saw were extra rooms, hardwood floors, and a gorgeous yard encircling the house from behind like Mother Nature’s reach-around. I did not consider the expansive driveway a shoveling problem; I considered it an excellent place to set a lawn chair and a bucket of beer.
The jacked up thing is, for the past 10 years, I’ve been living in apartments with no need to shovel, and with a hand-copied piece by one-time Poet Laureate Billy Collins taped to the fridge. It’s called, “Shoveling Snow with Buddha,” and the way in which Collins describes the task at hand, the “generous pocket of silence” the Buddha is in, the “fountain-bursts of snow” they heave from the drive … it’s all so vivid, and serene, and noble, I can practically hear the shhhk, shhhk, shhhk of their shovels as the pair get closer to a game of cards and hot cocoa. That damn poem actually made me WISH for a driveway slathered in snow, and now that I have one, and I wish I’d never heard of Billy Collins.
“You’re going about this all wrong,” my new neighbor and longtime friend explained when I launched into whining the second the snow began to fall. “The key to shoveling is a beer fridge. You put on your boots. You put on your hat. You march straight out there, open the garage door, locate the shovel and then toss that into the driveway.”
“Like a warning?” I asked. “To the snow? Or is that more like, uh, setting your intentions?”
“What are you talking about?” he said. “You toss the shovel out there and then you go crack open a beer from the beer fridge, set it on the workbench, take a huge sip, and then go shovel a little. When you’re sick of shoveling, you go have a little more beer.”
“Right. OK. I’ll do it.”
“Your new place is pretty great, you know,” he said before wandering back inside. “You’re gonna love having so much space, and think of how much fun it’ll be to have a garden in the summer! I hope you like mowing though, because that lawn out back is huge.”
“I’m Not There” appears on Mondays in the Colorado Daily.