Snow shovelling brings back memories of childhood and community

I found myself saying something terribly unexpected today: “Snow shovelling is great.”

Granted, it is still early in the season and pushing snow is generally more fun when it is new, but none the less, I found myself enjoying the task for many reasons. Perhaps this is an elaborate self-brainwashing exercise that I will have to reread when I am quite fed up with winter, but I have chosen for now to focus on the obvious and hidden benefits in shovelling.

For the most obvious benefits, we all need more fresh air and exercise. We are stuck in front of screens too long most days and are lacking crucial vitamin D. Shovelling is one of many ways to be less sedentary and get some sun.

Dressed properly for the task, I happily blazed my first trail through the snow, commencing a simultaneous cardio and weight lifting workout. As it is exercise, I was wary of not pushing it too hard, and doing the task with proper form (hence my new ergonomic shovel and a voice reminding me to lift from the knees).

As I cut further paths artfully across my driveway, I thought about the money I was saving too (especially important at this time of year). I didn’t have to pay for a gym membership or a personal trainer. I also didn’t pay for a snow blower or for gas to fuel it, which leads to another benefit, in that it is also environmentally friendly. There are no emissions from a man-powered shoveller (unless you had chilli for lunch).

Another benefit is that shovelling can be a fun family activity, especially if you have pint size plow-ers that can sit in the large snow scoop for a winter wonderland ride.

Perhaps less obviously, snow shovelling can take us back to a simpler time. The smell of the crisp air reminded me of my woollen mitts that would clump up with snow. The quiet and peace of the moment stroked my senses as huge fluffy flakes danced around my head. It was magical, and I was lucky enough to notice it, as for once I wasn’t in a rush to get somewhere. Even though I was shovelling 20 cm of snow, I kept the smile on my face, focused on the moment. A flake hit my cheeks and I was back in a fort preparing a small arsenal of snow balls. I stopped and looked up to the sky and held my tongue out to catch flakes. I haven’t done that in over a quarter century . . . I had waited too long. The feeling of childhood innocence, pure beauty and simplicity carried me through my task of shovelling. I was joyfully frozen in my own personal snow-globe.

Once the driveway was cleared, I also welled with pride. I felt the undeniable satisfaction of a job well done.

Unfortunately, a loud snow blower and the smell of gas snapped me back to reality.

I couldn’t think of a fun side of pushing the packed plow snow from the end of the driveway (unless one is training for weightlifting at the Olympic level). Suddenly I wanted that snow blower to conquer the driveway crust.

I looked across the street and watched as two of my neighbours were snow blowing their driveways rhythmically at the same time. There was something senseless in it. I also noticed that neither offered to spend the extra couple minutes to clear the end of my drive. ‘Tis the season?

Perhaps neighbours who play well with others could purchase a snow blower to share, even rotating snow duty. We don’t all need a blower or a lawnmower for that matter. Imagine a community where a small buy-in would get you access to mowers, blowers, and any number of tools. This model has been used for car sharing, but let’s start small and aim high.

How many items are in your garage, shed, or basement that are used infrequently (hedge cutters, leaf blowers, chop saws, etc)? Let’s share to save money, build community, and lessen the burden on landfills. With less stuff, we could have smaller houses and garages; houses that are also more energy efficient.

We can’t be so lazy that we need to have those items within reach, can we? We can’t be so time sensitive that we couldn’t wait one hour for someone to finish their driveway or lawn? We can’t be so possessive that we have to own our own items and not trust our neighbours to care for them, can we?

Season’s greetings to you and your family. May you enjoy snow shovelling this season and reap the benefits. May you have neighbours that share their snow blowers for the end of your lane.

May you enjoy the present instead of just the presents this season.

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