No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why I Love Small Towns, Or, How to Survive Too Big a Snow Storm

Our House in the Midst of the Storms this Week

As some of you by now are well aware, we had record snowfall here this last week. In fact, the last week gave us 50 inches of snow, the second deepest snowfall in any week on record in Flagstaff history. The winning week occurred in 1967, a year that anyone who lived here apparently can still recall with ease like a flashbulb memory, the snow was so unbelievable.

The snow this week was so heavy, and came so fast, we all had a hard time keeping up. Half a dozen buildings had roofs cave in, another couple dozen have suffered structural damage and leaks. The entire town except for two grocery stores, and every bar were closed, and all highways both in and out of town were also closed. In other words, there was no way out of town, and in town there was no where to go. Because of the snow, the U.S. postal service was unable to deliver packages or letters. It's impossible for them to fulfill the famous saying when mail can't even get into town.

I'd kept up with shoveling during the first 2/3 of the storms. But the last two days of snow was so deep I fell behind. The snow finally stopped falling last night, and today the sun came out.

Venturing Out of the House. The Mound in the Back Ground is the Car.

Earlier this morning when we were walking to town to check to see if any mail had arrived in our post office box, we came upon a woman whose car had stopped in the middle of the road. I handed the camera to the ten-year old and pushed the car while the woman steered inside. The woman was super relieved, since she wouldn't have been able to move the car on her own. Afterward the little one wouldn't stop talking about how awesome her mom (me) was, which was sweet. But I told her all I wished for was that someone would return the favor later by helping us with the shoveling.

The Snow Berm Blocking the Garbage & Recycling Cans (on the left) and the Car from the Road.

After chatting online with Kate, who is in Switzerland this winter, for a while, her encouraging words finally spurred my gumption to go attack the berm. When I got outside the berm turned out to be around 4 ft deep, and 5 ft wide, with the outer ft being mostly ice chunks.

Garbage collection stopped entirely throughout town during the storms, which meant two weeks worth of trash and recycling had filled our bins. Surveying the berm between the cans, and our car, and the road, I decided the thing I actually cared about was making sure the garbage could be emptied tomorrow. So I went to work hacking into the ice pile between the garbage bin and the street. It was honestly so bad I was giving up on the idea of driving anywhere. When we moved to the Southwest a year and a half ago I'd intentionally chosen a house that was situated where we could walk anywhere we needed. Tomorrow we'd walk the 10-year old to school, I figured.

Then out of no where an 11-year old boy appeared behind me. He was carrying a metal shovel. "Could I help you?" he said.

It was so nice to see him there offering, I immediately accepted, and then said, "I have $10, could I give you that in exchange for however much work you think is worth that much?"

He answered me. "Oh! You could just give me $5 and I'll help till you're done." Then he looked at the berm and realizing it was all ice he said he'd be right back with ice hacking tools. I kept working on the berm behind the garbage bin.

Lest you begin to believe there are angels everywhere, across the street a man also appeared. He stood across the street for half an hour while the boy and I worked on the ice berm, and spent the entire time just standing there watching my behind. I complained to myself that it was as if not even wolves had raised him. Wolves, after all, are community-based pack animals.

The boy's mom appeared soon after too. She said they had seen me out the window and felt bad. When we got through the ice berm she helped me move both the garbage and recycling bins out of the way. Then, as if out of no where a man driving a small plow tractor appeared. He stopped and said he could clear the berm behind my car. In only a matter of minutes the ice pile was gone.

After Jarred's (the 11-year old), and Nate's (the tractor driver) help

I still had a lot of work to do to get the car out, but the worst of it was gone.

The Car Still Buried In Snow, After the Berm Had Been Cleared Behind It

Nate, with the tractor, disappeared again. I worked on shoveling around the sides of the car, still thinking enough was left I might not make it before school tomorrow. Jarred, the 11-year old, and his mother went back to their house. My 10-year old played around walking in the snowy yard with her bear feet snow shoes. Then, again, as if out of no where, Nate reappeared. He inspected the bottom of my car to see if there was a place to attach a strap. He asked if it was okay if he pulled my car out, warning that it could scratch the paint. My car has over 90,000 miles on it from driving it up literal mountains, across the North American continent multiple times, and everywhere between Alaska, Montreal, the Southwest, the Northeast, the full length of the West coast, into the South, etc. I told him I don't give a damn about the paint, and he pulled my car right out of the 3.5 ft deep snow it was encased within. Then he went to work on the driveway and completely cleared it, perfect for parking, with his little snowplow tractor.

The driveway now after Jarred, and Nate's help

Earlier today the 10-year old and I had had a conversation about how sometimes things that are awesome for all kinds of reasons (like how gorgeous the snow is here in town) are at the very same time really hard on me, because they put demands on our little family that I'm entirely responsible for figuring out. So, the thing about the snow is that I had a task too big for me to do on my own with clearing the driveway, making sure the sidewalk that borders the property we rent is clear, checking the roofs, and getting the garbage out. Usually these are all reasonable tasks for me to manage, but this morning I was feeling tired and pressured to figure it all out but in ways that it seemed like I wouldn't be able to. I needed help, and I was having a hard time finding it. I made a point of emphasizing to the little one that it was appropriate that I was the one responsible for figuring this stuff out. That she is 10, and that means it isn't for her to figure out, and I want to make sure she knows it's her job to enjoy the snow, not to worry about it. I just wanted her to understand why I might seem mercurial this morning. She said she understood that there wasn't much she could do to help, that she was sorry I felt stressed out, and then reminded me the thing she could do was offer hugs, and did I want one. So we focused on hugs for a bit.

The thing about this crazy life we all live, is that it can often seem like we have tasks to do that are too much for us to manage. The best I figure any of us can do is figure out how to face our tasks in the sizeable chunks we can manage, facing the situation honestly in that way, while also helping others when we see that we can, and being open to the possibility that wonderful people really well show up and make it all easier just when you need them to, even while understanding sometimes you also get people that are just gonna stand there and stare at your ass.

Thanks so much to Kate for her encouragement, and to Jarred, his mom, and to Nate for their help. You all just made some huge chunk of my life. Clearly saying "you made my day" is not enough. Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. the photographs are great, and i especially like the first one on this post.