Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Snowing ~ to beat the band, like they used to like to say.

A back-to-back snowfall, maybe even a third coming on the back of the second, if the weather map proves right. From Texas to Maine. Nothing like something uniting a nation.

Already yesterday we spent all day in hand shoveling bouts. I read one new Merrill Gilfillan book of poems in between drying off by the woodstove and heading out for a second and third swipe at all the snow. All the long drive, all the pathways connecting doorways. Then the roofs. The big apron back roof will have to wait until later in the week, when all is calmed down. It will calm down, I believe.

Wednesday morning dawns with another half-foot, and mounting. This is starting to look more & more like the snowfalls of the 60s &70s. We were always shoveling then. With daytime temperatures barely above 9 degrees, like yesterday. In the 60s I was a boy in a school in New Hampshire watching the barrel-sized janitors shoveling pathways all day, tunnels! for the students to get to & fro. After classes I went and helped these guys, raw New Hampshire conservatives. If they saw you pitch in they didn't care what you looked like or thought like (high antiwar time). When I took the American flag down one morning from the flagpole in protest at the school against the war and ran up a white flag of truce, the rawboned janitor pal chuckled and looked the other way since he had just put the US flag up. For all I knew he had once fought for that flag. I was too. We had worked together and talked together so he waited until he was told what to do by the school.

Don't forget how beautiful it all looks. If you're in the trees it does. Whistle while you work, in other words. Bitching and fussing is so much of nothing.

By last night, still drying off after darkness shoveling, I started into a second Merrill Gilfillan book. His eyes to warblers. Merrill doesn't just write with his eyes and mind matched ~ there comes his body, fingertips. Many many of his poems are fingertip delicate and strong. You can't but feel the shoulders shifting in his clothing as you move through and with his lines of thought. He likes to get out there into the geography. Plans trips, packs simple gear, goes, but takes us with him. That's very good reading, poetry & prose.

I part the curtains, look out, there's Sweetheart's red jacket working a shovel under the large twin oaks. Oaks catching snow like sombreros.

Sweetheart works a snow-boat like I work a stone-boat. This snow-boat is a plastic sled that has pulled our groceries in over deep snow. Now Sweetheart is loading up the snow in her boat to get it out of here, across the road, over the river bank.

A. stops to talk with his big plow on the road crew schedule. He says there's no place to put the snow. Tell me about it! In a few days, when all is calm, the town will bring down the grader and make some room. After I get all the roofs clear with the roof rake, I'll rake down the tops of the snow banks here so we have room for more shoveling.

After twenty years being a cheapskate I bought a new pair of winter boots. Of course I won't wear them until next winter. Sweetheart rolls her eyes and says she would have worn them home if the boots were hers. We tried to find a pair for her. All sold out. We were even in town the day this store had all boots 20% off and I didn't even think to buy anything so expensive and new. I'm wearing boots from LL Beans fifteen years old, same liners too if you can believe that. Double socks. Repair glue all over the old boots. I buy mine to last as long as a hammer. On the day of the sale I picked up new liners because they normally cost $35 and here they were in a big package for 99 cents. Yes, I even did a double take. The young clerk upstairs manning the cash register thought we must be real grifters when he did a double-then-triple-take on the price. I loved the expression on his face. After looking at the 99 cent price twice, he then troubled himself to look us over. Priceless. I smiled and told him that he should get himself downstairs and buy a pair for himself. I also shared how if the liners didn't fit my winter boots I'd wear them as perfect warm boots for indoors. He wasn't listening much, he was still trying to unpuzzle this deal of the day in the big busy store.

Then he chuckled to himself and said to us, "And with the 20% sale you're getting them for 77 cents!" Like that was too much to believe. Now he was in the world with us of the incredulous. It was a together in a life raft moment.

Two days later we happened to be back in the store and it was then Dummy woke up to buy new boots. Now $10 off. I'm trying to get across how difficult it is to spend money you don't have. It's epidemic now all through this country. We're being taken to the cleaners by the powers-that-be.

Egypt erupts, meaning the people, take note.

America used to take to the streets in droves ~ the workers, the feminists, civil rights, antiwar the most exhilarating. That has been quieted down in Twitter Nation. The powers that-be-have made expensive toys to pay&play with, then they creamed us.

Unlike the day of the sale when the shoe department in this store was swarming; the day after was dead as doornails. Three workers on shift. Two are seasoned vets and don't want to do much. The youngest is all black curls and a smile to believe in. After I quickly burn through the two vets ~ forever disappearing on little breaks, bored out of their minds and they weren't even on duty during the frantic sale, and I have to believe the young woman was, after two hours of pestering and talking and trying three different pairs of boots on (being away from new boots for two decades takes catching up!), the young woman clerk, and I with Sweetheart, settle in for the kill on just which boot to invest in. She told us a woman came in recently and spent two hours just whittling down what hiking boot to buy. Sadly I had her beat. Four of five customers came and went with new boots while I was still mid-galaxy.

I'll spend a lifetime in my boots talking to them ~ as I do my axe, snow shovels, truck back bed, every tool, stones I lay down, even all the snow falling. Pieces of firewood, all shapes and sizes, plus remembering which trees they came from, when and where and what season cut. Lots of talk to just wood. Talk is cheap.

In Egypt they took to the streets with talk. Face to face, and Facebook. They meant it. They won.

Snow is now up past the bottom half of the downstairs windows. Keep talking.


The Bark of the Dog

The Warbler Road




Plow Monday: second-best beast

high in the sweetsop tree.

Sweet rocket, sweet amber,

sweet gale. Sweet sultan, sweet Wilson

of saxifrage. Sweet tangle,

sloshing in the bays.

Sweet-talkers with horns

show up in the yard.

What would you like them to play?


drawing © bob arnold