The Archaeology of Snow

That photo over there is a photo of the steps that lead up to her house. There are six steps, wide and shallow, covering a vertical distance of approximately four feet from bottom to top.

That’s what she remembers, anyway. There might be five steps, or seven. Who can tell, under all that snow?

She did a little experiment earlier. She stood at the top of where she thought the top step might be, and then she leaped. She landed, she thinks, on the sidewalk. But who’s to know, under all that snow?

Earlier in the day she put on her boots and hauled her yellow steel-spring snow shovel upstairs to her bedroom. Outside the large bedroom window is a small slanted roof (one of several, because it’s a house with several peaks and slants), a roof piled so high with snow that half the window was obscured.

Which would have been fine, because what’s a little more whiteness on top of whiteness, except that she noticed a crack in the wall, right through the plaster and paint, directly underneath the window and running its entire width.

No! This could mean only one thing: The Ice Dam Cometh.

Up to the bedroom she went, lugging the shovel. She pushed open the large window, which is on hinges, and hauled herself and the shovel onto the roof. Then she commenced shoveling.

The top foot or so was easy. Feathery light sparkling snow, the kind that whisks off the shovel and flies up in your face with the slightest breeze. Somewhat out of control, but weightless, so that it’s not really a bother.

Fling, fling, fling, gone. She considers this top layer Ectomorphic Snow. Given her body type, if she were snow, this is the kind of snow she would be.

The second foot or so was what she thinks of as ordinary, run of the mill winter snow. Solid, well-packed, not a lot of air. Difficult to shovel but certainly not impossible. She thinks of this kind of snow as exercise snow. Spend an hour shoveling this snow –she will call it Mesomorphic Snow– and there is no need to go lift weights at the Y. Mesomorphic snow is rewarding.

Her youngest child, if she were to turn into snow, would be this kind of snow.

The last foot and a half proved very grim. At first glance, this bottom layer looked manageable –granular, crusty, “corn” snow, as they say on the slopes. She attacked it with vigor, believing herself to be nearly finished, and a job well done at that. But the corn snow had been waiting, and it was going to take its time.

You think you are nearly done, O Woman With the Sock Monkey Snow Hat, but how wrong you are.

The corn snow –perhaps better termed the Borderline Personality Disorder Snow– was like a blind date gone horribly wrong. An unassuming, even pleasant appearance, a sociable hello, and then all hell breaks loose.

How long had the BPD snow been lying in wait? A long time, she realized. Months, perhaps, as far back as November. It would go to its death, yes, but it would not gently into that good night.

At this point, halfway through the dour BPD snow struggle, her neighbor emerged from her house to call up to her that she needed to get off the roof immediately because “You will die!”

She would not die, but the BPD snow would. She waved and smiled and carried on. Her neighbor, having done her duty, retreated into the safety of her own home.

And that is how it came to pass that her backyard clothesline, normally a comfortable few inches above her head, now hangs mere inches above the backyard snowdrift composed of Ectomorphic, Mesomorphic, and Death by Being Methodically Chopped Into Small Pieces and Flung Overboard snow.


  1. Gabrielle McGhee · February 5, 2011

    So you actually won the battle? I thought you couldn’t get out on the roof. Or was that another roof?


  2. alison · February 5, 2011

    The shoveled roof was the reachable roof. The other, unreachable roof shall henceforth be known as The Roof of Satan.


  3. alicia · February 5, 2011

    haha, borderline personality snow. i love it.


  4. Lucy · February 13, 2011

    I am in awe of your fortitude, both in enduring such endless snow and in actually going out to do battle with it! But please be careful!


  5. Maree · February 15, 2011

    Heave ho you blasted snow! You are so wonderfully able to describe frustration.


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