Friday, February 8, 2013
The first big snowstorm of winter, and here we are. My friendly, hunky, very straight neighbour greets me as he plows down the narrow passage between our houses. For the six months since he and his wife moved in, I've been meaning to ask them over for drinks, but life has just kept filling up. We meet this morning in a vortex of swirling diamonds where I'm shovelling our shared walkway.
From two doors down, the woman I've known since she and her husband arrived twelve years ago calls out a good morning and offers to look after my sidewalk as well as her own. It occurs to me that she thinks of me as slightly disabled since I had my hip replaced, and that rankles a bit, getting in the way of my accepting her kindness more graciously. I've watched her daughter, once a shy, perhaps even slightly fragile child, turn into a self-assured young woman I barely recognized after a year away when she said hello last fall.
I introduce them, one of my last legacies to the microculture of this stretch of Yarmouth Road, before my partner and I move on Tuesday.
I clear a single shovel's width in front of the house beyond Ted's, feeling an odd low-level welter of benevolence and resentment. I've never met the people here, don't even know if either of the two units is occupied by the newish owner. I just know that they never clear their snow, and that if I don't do this, I'm sure they won't. The first time I chipped through their icy snowpack, after three days of struggling over and around it, I dumped what I removed onto the walkway leading to their front door in a fit of passive-aggressive pique, then regretted passing on the bad karma. Now, I do it mostly not for them, but for the rest of us, hoping that eventually, they'll notice that someone's looking after it, and they'll be inspired to do something community-minded themselves. Maybe they'll even come out of their house to say hello, if not to me, then to someone.
When the snow started yesterday afternoon, it was the usual nuisance. Now it's an extrarodinary event. Strangers on the street smile at each other in mutual recognition that a five-minute walk has become a fifteen-minute adventure that we share. In a low-level and homely way, we acknowledge together our powerlessness to resist a force of nature. Together, for a few minutes, we're smiling and mortal.