feb 23/SHOVEL

shovel: 111 minutes
18 degrees

Before I get into a description of my adventures in shoveling, I want to mention the delight I saw last night. Scott and I were sitting in the front room, listening to music, and looking out at the snow, when suddenly Scott cried out, A skier! Someone is cross-country skiing in the street! Yes! It’s not a real snowstorm until someone is skiing down the middle of your street in the middle of Minneapolis in the early evening while the snow is falling. Oh, to be that skier! A life goal, I think. Also: it’s pretty cool that Scott was the one who pointed it out to me, and with enthusiasm. My delight habits are spreading!

The epic storm wasn’t quite as epic as they’d imagined, but it was still a lot of snow, especially to shovel. It took me a little less than 2 hours to do it all. 46 minutes before lunch, 65 after. Ugh! No snow blower, all shitty plastic shovel from Target — lime green — and back, arm, and leg muscles made stronger from swimming and running.

Mostly I didn’t mind it, and I was happy to be outside, but my back is sore now, and so are my right fingers. Arthritis, I think. I listened to a good chunk of my audiobook, Moonflower Murders. That helped. It was satisfying to see my small driveway pad and the tall wall of snow at the end (thanks to the plow) gradually become clear. No — not become clear, but be cleared by me and my shovel. So much snow! Thank goodness it was powdery. I don’t think I could have shoveled all that if it had been heavy and wet.

At the start, it seemed overwhelming. Too much snow and nowhere to put it. But I just started and kept going, and slowly it felt less overwhelming to imagine clearing it. Then, possible. Then, inevitable. Then, cleared. The runner Des Linden always talks about showing up and simply putting one foot in front of the other when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a big task, like a long run. Sometimes this idea seems too simple and impossible at the same time, but it usually works. It worked today. I didn’t believe I could clear it, but I started anyway. And then I did it.

Yesterday I finished up my (almost) month with Linda Pastan. Next up: windows and/or Emily Dickinson. But, before that, a quick break with Jack Gilbert. A few days ago, I encountered a beautiful poem of his on twitter. The poetry person sharing it introduced the poem by tweeting: “I love poems because they can do this.” Yes, I agree. I’ll write how I understand the “this” after the poem.

Alone/ Jack Gilbert

I never thought Michiko would come back
after she died. But if she did, I knew
it would be as a lady in a long white dress.
It is strange that she has returned
as somebody’s dalmatian. I meet
the man walking her on a leash
almost every week. He says good morning
and I stoop down to calm her. He said
once that she was never like that with
other people. Sometimes she is tethered
on their lawn when I go by. If nobody
is around, I sit on the grass. When she
finally quiets, she puts her head in my lap
and we watch each other’s eyes as I whisper
in her soft ears. She cares nothing about
the mystery. She likes it best when
I touch her head and tell her small
things about my days and our friends.
That makes her happy the way it always did.

Okay, I said I’d explain what I mean by the “this” in I love poems because they can do this, and I’ll try. I’ll start here: Last night I was telling Scott about this poem and the tweet. I didn’t have the poem in front of me, or any of its lines memorized, so I explained it as best I could, which was not very well. I think I didn’t succeed with my summary because the meaning and magic of this poem doesn’t come in a summarized telling of it, but in the specific words used, the line breaks, the order of the words, their rhythms. This poem isn’t so much telling the story of a man and his dead beloved who has come back as a dog, but inviting you into the story to witness it, to behold his grief and tenderness. And, it’s inviting you to believe in other worlds where such gentle, tender moments are possible. Or, even if you don’t/can’t believe in them as true/real/ scientifically possible, you can give room for them to live or to breathe or to be possible for someone. Also, it’s strange. I love strange!