The first snowstorm of the season has arrived, and it's one of the best because the roads and sidewalks are so warm I don't have to shovel anything. All the snow will melt if I'm just a little patient.
There is a definite pattern to my snow-shoveling attitude through the winter. The first few storms are exciting. It feels great to get out in the cold, crisp air for a bit of exercise. I glance a little smugly at my wimpy neighbors with their snow blowers as I scrape and sling the first snows of the season. Through October and November, I am at one with nature.
When I lived in Minnesota, shoveling required different techniques. You couldn't just pile up the early snow at the side of the driveway, because it wouldn't melt until April. If you started piling it up in November, by February you'd have 10-foot mountains. You had to throw the first snows far across the lawn in anticipation of the long winter.
In Utah, the winter weather usually gives us breaks of above-freezing temperatures, when snow piles can melt and make room for the next few storms. This makes the early shoveling even more of a breeze.
But by December, the snow starts to pile up and the novelty has worn off. Fortunately, it's time to shift into the Christmas season. Shoveling moves along nicely when you hum "White Christmas" and a few carols as you work.
In January, shoveling starts to get a little old, and by February I'm seriously considering a snow blower. By now my snow-blowing neighbors have the smug looks on their faces, and I have no interest in singing as I work.
Last March, however, a storm passed through that changed my snow-shoveling attitude for good.
The March storm dropped a record load the first day, then waited until we had cleared it all away before dropping a second one. It was bad enough shoveling the first installment, but by Day 2, I seriously contemplated hiding out in the house until spring.
When I finally took up the shovel, I began the work thinking of nothing but my tired arms and the enormous length of my driveway. I cleared a path from the garage to the street, then started on the sidewalk. The weather had warmed after the storm, and the melting snow was quickly filling up the gutters along the side of the road.
I stopped to watch the water running down the gutter, then noticed that it stopped and began to collect in front of the pile of snow at the end of my driveway. As I looked down the street, I realized that the stream moving down the gutter had to hit piles of snow at almost every driveway. It would collect against each pile and finally flow around it and back into the gutter.
But as I watched, a pile of snow up the road gave way and collapsed into the stream of water. Chunks of wet snow rushed toward my yard like a herd of swimming buffalo.
I quickly began shoveling a pathway through my driveway pile. When the rush arrived, it built up quickly, started flowing onto the lawn, then broke through the pile and rushed down the road. I saw my neighbor Ron two doors down, shoveling his drive, and yelled at him, "Tidal wave!"
He looked up, saw the wave approaching, and jumped to his driveway to clear a path. I hurried over to help, and we soon shoveled an opening through his pile for the water to continue. Then we noticed the water collecting behind a large pile a few houses up the road. Wouldn't that make a great wave!
We hurried up and started shoveling at the far side of the pile. When the water broke through, it took most of the snow with it, then made a monster wave as it collected more and more snow and water along its path.
We spotted another pool collecting across the street. Before we cleared it, we placed a couple of large sticks in the water to see how they rode the wave. They took their time getting through the opening, but churned rapidly down the street once they were set loose.
RON and I spent a couple of hours outside with our shovels. We would clear a little of our driveways while water built up at the gutter, then find a place along the gutter where a good pool was collecting and set it loose. When we finished our driveways, we worked on some of the neighbors'. We didn't want to quit. It had been a long time since I had played in the gutter. It was the best day of snow shoveling I can remember.
Ponce de Len had it all wrong, looking for the fountain of youth in Florida. Sometimes you gotta have snow.