I follow the path that my shovel pushes to the street. Five times today, with every two inches of snowfall because three inches of snow can be so heavy and it is best to stay on top of it. Two inches, five times, is faster than ten inches heaved one shovelful after one shovelful after another shovelful. My back is fifty years older than the time my brother and I trudged the neighborhood knocking on doors, asking for five dollars to clear a driveway. I remember our hushed talk blown away from our mouths by the wind and snow as soon as we tried to say, “I’ll do this side.” “You do the sidewalks.” Sharing five dollars! And frozen fingers and frozen feet. Today, I don’t pay myself to clear my drive. The rewards are plenty: the scrape of steel on concrete and a way made from home to the road, seeing the twigs and sticks from the river birch brought down by moans from the wind poking up out of the snow waiting to become arms for tomorrow’s snowman, and the smell of Tuscan chicken cooking in the crockpot each time I come in from the garage. After dinner, one more time layering and bending over to tie my boots for the last two inches of this day. Then, done, I go stand in the center of the street turning one way and then the other way. Neighbors with snowblowers rattle and attack the entire snowfall at once. Their ease creates a racket and yet there are snow fountains all around me from these strange metal beasts, so unlike stone dolphins spouting water or fat cherubs pouring streams from vases. Before going to bed when I hear quiet in the neighborhood, I go out one last time not to shovel but to stand on the front porch frozen, as if I had been standing in that cold for hours, and listen to the sound of hushed nothing moving with the snow in the wind, making tiny drifts over my slippered feet.
Who is it that sits in the clouds planning the shape of a snowflake before it falls? Why is peppermint ice cream only sold during the cold and winter holidays? Who paints each blade of grass at night with white, glazes each branch and limb with icy frost? Where is lukewarm between hot chocolate and melting, pink peppermint ice cream? What makes the cardinal's red stand sharply out against the bare, brown winter branch?