March 2008

Mine’s longer than yours

By David Feela

This year, Montezuma County could become the site for our next Winter Olympics; that is, if the world sporting community considers adding a new event called “Getting out of the driveway.”

I have always admired a house set back a great distance from the road, but I’m not so sure anymore. I’ve had to chuckle this winter while my neighbors furiously clear paths to the county road, slipping and sliding behind their rusty SMDs (known privately as Snow-Moving Devices). Then I mop my brow and heave another shovelful over my aching shoulder.

I haven’t owned or operated a snow shovel since I moved here from Minnesota 26 years ago. I also don’t own a tractor, a plow, a snow-blower, a 4- wheel-drive vehicle, snowmobile, or a wheelbarrow. Believe me, I was certain when I made the move from the north country of my birth that I’d experienced all a winter could throw at a fellow. I thought I’d left behind me the frozen tundra and the mathematics of wind-chill factors. I found a house south of Cortez, in the tropical landfill belt, and I was oblivious to the power a serious snowfall can pack. For 26 years the only whiteout I’ve dealt with is in a bottle.

But wouldn’t you know it, right before the weather turned cold, Pam and I moved to a house in Arriola, 8 miles north of Cortez. You’d think I’d relocated to the North Pole. Or maybe, based on the statistical accumulations from previous winters over the last two decades, the North Pole has moved to Cortez. What I’m trying to say is that the choice was clear: Either buy a snow shovel or a dogsled.

Our new driveway requires a bit more gasoline to maneuver back and forth to the barn, because this year there’s so little traction. I’m beginning to remember the years I spent in Minnesota more vividly, realizing, of course, that handling a snow shovel at this time in my life might require a drug like Viagra. Before I go out I tell Pam that if I’m not back to the house in 4 hours, call a doctor. She’ll probably find me frozen stiff under a mound of snow, the county plow lights twinkling like stars in the distance.

After all these years of drought and dehydration, you’d think people who dared to utter the words, “I’m so sick of the snow” would be banned from Montezuma County. Exiled. Sent to live out their lives at the top of a sand dune. And if I were to venture a guess at what kind of people would curse the Southwest with such invectives, I’d say their driveway must be inversely proportional to their foresight.

So, for those poor souls who have lost focus on the snow pack and the big picture, I would like to leave them with this meditation to be uttered like a chant very rapidly each time they flush the toilet.

Whether the weather be fine
or whether the weather be not,
whether the weather be cold
or whether the weather be hot,

we’ll whether the weather

whatever the weather

whether we like it or not.

May all our days be calm, quiet, and soft as a fresh-fallen foot of snow.

David Feela is a teacher at Montezuma-Cortez High School.