Let me confess from the very beginning that I can get a little obsessive about shoveling snow. I like to keep the driveway clear, is the thing. It has nothing to do with getting the cars in and out. I just don’t like having old snow sitting in the driveway. It seems like a kind of moral failure. Also, we’ve got a couple basketball hoops set up out there and I like to keep the court clear, just in case the 1985 Loyola University Sweet Sixteen team comes by for a pickup game.
So this morning I got the shovel out and went to work on the season’s first snow, which dropped overnight. It was a light snow, the kind of snow that most normal people would leave alone, knowing that in a day or two, with some sun and rising temps, it would be gone. But I shoveled. It was easy shoveling, and as I walked back and forth, pushing the snow around, I started thinking about the walking meditation techniques my wife has been trying to teach me. I’ve read about and seen gardens and labyrinths designed for this kind of meditation, but it seemed to me that there was something about the pace and rhythm of shoveling my driveway that would also encourage something like a meditative state. I thought I might try it. Except that when I tried to do a little meditating as I shoveled, I found myself instead thinking back to the pretending that I used to do when I was a kid and it was my job to shovel the sidewalk in front of my parents’ house. Like I’d pretend that it’s December 1944 and I’m the renegade captain of a special Army unit of expert shovelers whose mission it is to keep the roads of Belgium clear for the advancing Allied infantry. When you’re ten, you need some kind of fantasy life to get you through your chores. I suppose it helps for a long time after that, too.
The point is, I never did really get around to any actual meditation during my shoveling. But the driveway is clear now and the basketball can begin. And any Allied units that happen to come through this area will find easy marching in front of our house.