Lessons in Snow


By midday on Friday, the impending blizzard had been teasing us with feather-soft snow for hours, luring us into a false but hopeful sense that this is all it had to offer. But the weather reports were grim; even the independent, non-apocalyptic forecasts were ominous.

I was as prepared as I could be: the battery operated lamp, the pile of books, the familiar assortment of provisions, the bottle of wine.

Part of the preparation was shoveling. I figured if I did a frequent pass up and down the driveway, I would be spared the monster task of digging out the next day. So out I went, at 1:00 and 3:00 and again at 6:00.

Meanwhile, emails were coming in from friends who were likewise preparing for the snow. One was planning to order pizza. Another was enjoying dinner and a movie in the comfort of pajamas.

I was shoveling.

But at some point, I found myself wondering: what if I don’t shovel?

What if I don’t shovel?

The implications of that question were more than surface deep…

“If I don’t shovel…the consequence would be? (And if I don’t hold up the world on my shoulders…the consequence would be?)” I emailed a friend at 6:15, my fingers still red from the cold, my hair matted down with snow.

My answer came easily enough, the next morning, when my thoughtfully-shoveled driveway was hidden beneath 24 more inches of snow.

Don’t push the river, it flows by itself. – Robin Caasdan

As I stood in the shadow of the 2-foot drift on top of my car with shovel in hand, I realized that I wasn’t just trying to push a river but dredge it and realign it several feet sideways—such seemed the task of moving the snow in front of me.

And that’s when the word appeared. Very clearly, as if written above me in the still-gray sky: Surrender. The thought of it washed over me and through me until I had no alternative but to put down the shovel and go inside.

Too often I push against a tide. Fight it or try to shift it. Worry about it. WORRY some more.

Shovel. SHOVEL some more.

Surrender, usually equated with white flags and giving up, was instead an opportunity for me to let go. Leave it be. Stop worrying. Drink wine.


Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like a fish in the water
Like a bird in the air

— John Denver

• • •

Words & eye-level winter photo ©2013

14 thoughts on “Lessons in Snow

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  1. Hi, Jen… Me again. This sounds like right before I go away. I, of course, am always sure that there are still a few things I must do (having presumably done all the important things, such as bill paying and filling the birdfeeders, and giving my neighbor all the possible contact information she could ever need, to deal with whatever calamity might strike around here).
    After reading your post, I began to wonder what horrible thing might happen if I DIDN’T clean out the refrigerator… Things would rot… Is that so dreadful? Could that rotting not be cleaned up later? Should I spend those few hours before departure tossing out half a cup of vegetable stock, and checking the expiration date on some sour cream, or relishing the thought that I would soon be in a beautiful and warm and lush place, Universe willing…?
    BTW, I have noted, over the past thirteen or fourteen years when I do go away, that it matters not one bit whether I plan for two weeks about what to take, or just pack at the last minute. It’s always worked out – and that’s excellent news. Wish I could remember that!


  2. Great lesson! Although I don’t shovel anymore, since I have a teenage boy and a snow blower, I used to try to do the same thing. And I have often tried to hold the world up on my shoulders. There are times when surrendering is the wisest thing to do. <3

  3. As always, another amazing post! Hits home since I live in northern Wi where snow flies constantly. The one thing that always amazes me about snowstorms is how quick people are to help out. How something as simple as a couple hours of back breaking work (or driving a shiny new tractor up and down your driveway) can make one’s life easier. And, it is such a great reminder that while it isn’t true all of the time, in many cases, if you let someone help you, they will. Thanks for this post. It really made me pause and think…

    1. I think that whenever something big comes in – a blizzard is one example – it gives us a chance to show off what we’ve got: compassion, patience, wisdom, strength, love, hope. Nice reminders of what we’re all capable of, right?

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