Tag Archives: snow day

Let it Slow, Let it Slow, Let it Slow!



We are running out of places to put the snow.

I love snow.  Truly.  But the berms on the sides of our driveway have grown so high that I had to plant warning flags on the crests to keep them from being hit by passing helicopters.  I chased a couple of mountaineers off of one yesterday.  Fortunately, one of them dropped his copy of Into Thin Air as he scrambled away over the lunar-looking landscape, so now I’ll have something to read today as we enjoy our fourth snow day of the year.  Yes, fourth.  The two days before our two-week Christmas vacation were wiped away by a record-breaking snowfall and subzero temperatures, and yesterday and today have been likewise canceled in the interests of keeping staff and students safely off of the widening ice skating rinks that nature has constructed all over town where there used to be roads.

Not that I’m complaining.  I need the snow days for, well, shoveling snow.

In the past three weeks, we’ve gotten over sixty inches of snow, breaking our town’s previous 24-hour snowfall record (16 inches) by a good 9 inches along the way.  We’ve shoveled the driveway nearly a dozen times, and at one point Paul borrowed his dad’s roof rake to pull some of the heavily caked snow off of the roof.  While Paul has done the lion’s share of the work, I’m proud to say I’ve taken a fair turn at the shovel, fighting to keep our precious forty feet of driveway clear of piled up precipitation so that our coming and going could continue unabated.

In the seven years we’ve lived in Idaho, I’ve learned a few things from winter.  I’ve learned to drive on snow and ice: go slow, pump the brakes, turn into the slide, don’t panic.  I’ve learned to traverse the slick expanse of a frozen parking lot with the graceful, floating movements of an ice skater, carefully maintaining my center of gravity over steady feet, knowing that any sudden motions could land me flat on my back in a most painful and unladylike position.  I’ve learned which kind of gloves are good for playing in the snow and which kind are merely ornamental, useless after the chilly fall days have given way to more arctic climes.

But until this year, I was still a snow shoveling novice.

I thought I knew about shoveling.  In our apartment, the landlord plowed the parking lot, and we tenants took it in turns (when we felt like it and had the spare time) to shovel the thin ribbon of sidewalk that wound from our doors to the parking area.  Only now do I realize: in the world of snow shoveling, that didn’t count.

Now that we have a driveway to shovel, I’m a little better acquainted with this Northwest rite of passage that makes grown men cry and compels otherwise sane people to level firearms and hatchets at innocent snow plow drivers.

I learned that the different types of snow make a huge difference to the snow shoveler.  Our first couple of feet were light and powdery snow, easy to lift, despite it’s irritating habit of leaping onto the wind and blowing back in your face instead of settling sedately down on the ground.  When the weather warmed up, the snow grew heavier, more substantial, making a nice, satisfying “whump” noise as it landed and raising the shoveler’s heart rate a bit.  The worse snow to shovel is the pile at the end of the driveway that the snowplow leaves in its wake.  Having been partially melted and mixed up with road dirt and ice chunks from the encroaching berms, it quickly refreezes and takes on the consistency and weight of concrete, and digging it out requires a well-muscled back, a tough shovel, and a sense of humor.  There is some sort of natural law at work that causes the snowplow driver to arrive at the very moment that you’ve finally finished clearing your driveway.  If you know that and expect it, perhaps you won’t be the one picking up the hatchet.

I met a lot of our neighbors while out shoveling snow, because they were out doing the same.  We even had one neighbor come over with his snowblower and finish up for us on a day when the load was especially heavy.  Several people with four wheelers attached small plow blades to the front of them and made an attempt at clearing the street, knowing that the city plows wouldn’t come through for hours.  There’s a sweet sense of camaraderie in working side by side to beat back the elements for survival (or at least for the ability to get out and go to the McDonald’s drive-thru.)

Make no mistake about it.  Shoveling snow is hard work.  Sweaty, difficult, back-breaking labor that is guaranteed to help you burn off the extra helpings of pumpkin pie you ate at Christmas dinner.  It is one series of motions–scoop, lift, turn, throw–repeated over and over, like the programming of some factory machine.  Except this machine is breathing harder than Paul Revere’s horse and soaking wet from mingled sweat and melting snow.  It’s an odd sensation to be simultaneously so hot that you long to throw your scarf and parka off in a handy snowbank and so cold that you can’t even feel your fingers or the dripping end of your nose.

Yes, it’s a good workout, and probably the one thing that saved my muscles from complete atrophy over the gloriously slothful two weeks of holiday vacation.  With the local authorities urging everyone who didn’t need to travel to keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles and snowplows, it was no trouble at all to devote ourselves to lazy indoor pursuits, like watching movies, playing games, and reading books.  Still, thanks to the ever piling and drifting snow, I went to bed every night with a new ache in a muscle I hadn’t realized existed until the moment I used it to toss a shovel load of ice up to the top of the steadily growing white mounds flanking our drive.

Nice neighbors, beautiful snow-covered vistas, a healthy workout–it wasn’t so bad.  I feel like shoveling snow was the last step of the makeover transforming this Georgia girl into a true daughter of Idaho.

But at this moment, I’d trade our car for a working snowblower.


The Northwest equivalent of prairie dogs...

The Northwest equivalent of prairie dogs...

Spelunking, Idaho style

Spelunking, Idaho style

Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful…


…but I rather like it.

There’s nothing quite like sitting inside your warm, comfortable home watching the swirling white dance of snowflakes outside your window.

It’s been snowing all day, making it difficult for the kids and I to concentrate on sight words and counting by tens instead of daydreams of snowball fights and sled runs.  I watched it piling up outside the window, an inch at a time, wondering about the road conditions and praying for safe journeys for me and my students.  The six mile trip to pick up Paul and return to the house took twice as long as normal with everyone inching along, testing the traction on their tires.

And still, it snows.  I’m as bad as the kids, hoping for a snow day, checking and rechecking the local news websites for information about school closures.  So far, no word, which means that I should be in bed right now.  Especially considering what happened this morning, when we woke up to the sound of a phone call, only to find that we had overslept our alarm.  We usually leave the house at 7:10, and it was 7:15 when we awoke and catapulted out of bed to a maelstrom of rushing and shrieking and throwing around clothes and breakfast.  It wasn’t a great way to start the day, and I wouldn’t like to repeat it.

Factor in the driveway shoveling we’ll have to do tomorrow morning to make it out of the garage, and I really should be snoring instead of typing right now.  But I’m not ready yet.

Just a few more minutes of watching the snow fall.  That’s all I ask.

And you, stay warm.


Update:  I got my snow day.  It takes a lot of snow to keep you home in North Idaho, but eighteen inches in a 12 hour period will do it rather efficiently, especially if you drive a Ford Escort and the county snowplows haven’t gotten around to you yet.  Even better, Paul is off, too.  He didn’t get the text message until he was late for work and three quarters of the way through digging out the driveway; he had a few choice words for the powers-that-be about waiting till the last minute, but now he’s warmly esconced on the couch with a root beer and his laptop, happy with the world.

It feels like a good day for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, for baking with the kids, for playing games and drinking hot drinks.

And for finally catching up on the three weeks of laundry hulking in my laundry basket, looking ever more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The White Stuff


Snow Day 1

“SNOWWWWW DAYYYYYYY!” squealed Katie as soon as she heard the news of today’s school closings. Paul very nearly squealed, too, upon finding out that his office also closed down for the day. A snow day for the whole family. That’s like being handed an extra Saturday out of the blue!

Twenty-six straight hours of snowfall dumped over a foot of snow on our little town and much of the rest of the Northwest yesterday. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem for Idaho, but it was the worst kind of snow: big, wet, heavy flakes, piled up in mountains of glutinous slush all along the roads and rooftops. Power lines are collapsing under its weight, and roofs are caving in from the strain. And if you have the bad fortune to have to drive in the muck, it alternately sucks at your tires like a bog monster or catapults you across lanes of traffic without your say so, causing numerous accidents and jackknifed tractor trailers. Overnight, the temperature dropped, and all that lovely slush froze into a treacherous lunar landscape of bumps and swirls and sheets of ice topped by crusty snow. Most school closures were announced last night in anticipation of today’s mess.

How nice it is to sit here now, cozy inside our apartment with no where to go, typing this while I look out the window over a dazzling world of white. I went out earlier, intending to shovel the walk. I got a couple of feet through the packed ice and heavy, sticky snow before I gave it up as a lost cause. We have good boots, I figure. I took out the trash, I checked the mail, and by the time I made my way back inside, my ears were aching with the cold. A quick check of weather.com revealed the temperature: 18 degrees. And sunny. Stinging ears or not, I had to stand outside for a few minutes just looking over the snow caked mountains and the bejeweled trees and the cerulean sky, praising God for setting me down in northern Idaho.

Snow Day 2