It’s been snowing on and off for days here. It’s sneaky, silent snow.

I’ve been grading papers, projects and exams. I have a view out two windows and still sometimes I’m surprised when I look up and see four to six inches has fallen.

Most folks in my neighborhood have snowblowers, so when I hear that lawnmower engine whir, I look outside. Sure enough, time to shovel.

I’m not sure which is heavier lifting: grading or shoveling. Each day, I walk downtown–to take a break from grading and to enjoy the snow. When in Pennsylvania…

Today I passed a boy shoveling snow in the driveway of a two-story, weathered Victorian house. I waved.

“That’s hard work,” I said.

He turned, put his hands on the handle of the shovel and paused. His cheeks were red and his fringe on the hood of his jacket hung over his eyes.

He leaned on the shovel–the handle was just under his chin–and looked up.

“Can you help me?” he said.

The driveway was at least 30-feet long and six-feet wide. The snow was at least eight inches deep and still falling.

I stopped.

“The snow is light when it falls but it gets heavy when it piles up,” I said. I suggested he shovel the top layer of snow and then shovel the bottom half. It would be more effective.

He said it was so hard because the shovel kept getting stuck in the gravel.

As we talked and he shoveled, I watched an adult leave the house and a teenager with earbuds in place and smirk on his face walk into the house. And here was this boy, nine-years-old I’d guess, and no one was lending a hand.

I had somewhere I wanted to be so I turned and walked down the sidewalk. I got about a block when I thought ‘do I really have anywhere to be?”

I turned around and walked back up the hill.

“Hey, how bout if I shovel and you take a break?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

As I shoveled, he talked. And talked and talked. He pointed to his bedroom window. He told me there was a snowblower in the garage but his brother’s friend had broken it. $700, he said. And when he was done shoveling the driveway, he was going to make a snowman.

I returned the shovel and he returned to shoveling.

Later, walking home, uphill, I passed a small girl and her mother. The girl was running ahead and leaping into snow banks. Her mom yelled after her to stop, that she was getting her pants wet.

She dropped on her back into a snow-covered yard and moved her arms and legs in a horizontal jumping-jack, creating a snow angel.

The girl looked up at me, big smile, rosy cheeks. Then she blew past me and crashed on her back into another snow drift.

“That looks like fun. What’s your name?”


When I got back to my house, I broke out the shovel and started clearing a path from my doorstep to the garage.

When I finished, I put the shovel down and jumped into a snow bank.

Then I dropped on my back in the fresh snow in the driveway and waved my arms and legs.

I stood up, admired my snow angel then dropped in the snow to make another.

A snow angel fun fact: In 2002, 1,791 people made snow angels on the capitol grounds in Bismarck, N.D.

And if you’ve forgotten the joy–or technique–of making a snow angel, here’s a link to a nifty short instructional video.