I woke up this morning and peeked outside to see my familiar neighborhood blanketed in white, the known world reversed like an infrared image. Four to five-and-a-half inches of snow were reported throughout Southern Maryland this morning, and we’re forecasted to get at least another inch this afternoon/night.
This dusting of snow — especially this light, powdery kind — doesn’t typically cause me much distress. It’s the ice that makes me slow down, plan ahead, and lead with my shovel.
Lead with my shovel?
Yeah, I wrote that correctly. See, I learned a few years back that when you walk or drive through the pretty snow, you expose pavement or asphalt, and when the sun comes out later on, the packed-down bit of snow left in the bottom of your boot print or in your tire tracks will start to melt. But because there’s really no where for the water to go, it’ll puddle and then freeze overnight.
Nothing really much matters when you get the heavy, wet rain that Maryland normally sees — that stuff packs down and sticks to the ground until March, with a layer of ice underneath. However, when you’ve got dry, fluffy snow, you’re better off leading with your shovel. Remove the snow without packing it down, and then if you’re so inclined, you can sprinkle salt down to keep whatever snow melt remains from freezing solid.
Unless, of course, you really like to play on winter’s dangerous Slip-N-Slide. Go right on ahead. Just remember that a visit to the ER will put you right there amongst all of the cold and flu victims — GERM GREMLINS — that this season has to offer.
But I digress…
So this morning I woke up, saw the snow, and decided to wait for the sun to help me before I dug out my car. A leisurely breakfast, a book, a cup of hot tea — I could really get used to mornings like this! Around 7:30 a.m. I confirmed that at least one truck had broken free of its parking space, crunching down on the little snow bump that the plow leaves behind. The light was still weak, and it had started snowing again. I washed dishes and started a load of laundry.
By 8:30 a.m. I was bundled up — snowpants, down coat, wool hat and thick winter gloves. I cleared my sidewalk and then began to circumnavigate my vehicle. A soft broom helped me clear the windshield, hood and windows. Guaranteed avalanche-free, I started the car to warm up the engine and continued. I was an explorer, breaking ground on my way through the frozen polar tundra. I was a moose, knocking the snow and ice off of my antlers. Then I returned to myself and became a good neighbor.
I like my neighbor, Joe. He’s a good guy, retired, quiet. Last year he had heart surgery, but before that we would trade off helping each other out with the mowing in the summers. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to come home from a crappy day at work, knowing that the grass couldn’t be put off for another day, only to park and see that it was already taken care of. Although he likes to do it, strenuous outdoor work is still a little bit too much for Joe. And I couldn’t bear the thought of him being trapped inside of his house, or slipping and falling on some ice because the tree in my front yard casts his sidewalk in shadow for most of the day.
Remembering my mantra to lead with my shovel, I created a cleared-asphalt bridge between my car and Joe’s car. Then I cleared his car off using the same pattern I worked around mine: I circled the vehicle once first, then used the broom to gently sweep the accumulation off of it. Then I re-circled the car to clear the path again, and went to work dismantling the snow plow’s wintry gate to the main drive.
It took a bit of shovel-thrusting, but eventually I found the curb in front of Joe’s unit. A few additional stabs, and I found the end of his sidewalk and cleared to his front door, making sure that the curb and the step down from the curb to the street were clear as well. A liberal sprinkling of snow melt (salt) later, and I was finished!
All in all, it took me less than two hours to clear two sidewalks and two cars. Joe and I each have two parking spaces, but only one car. I didn’t clear our extra spaces — the sun is going to have to help me out there! Still, this random act of kindness made me feel good (and kept me outside and moving for a little while longer, which felt good). I know that Joe will appreciate my effort, and it will make his day *that* much easier when he needs to get going somewhere.
Have you ever provided a random act of neighboring within your community?