As a rolling stone gathers no moss, I quickly donned my parka, my bomber’s cap with fake rabbit fur, and my Gore-Tex boots that take two men and a crowbar to lace up, and filled up the mower with gasoline. In high school chemistry we learned that gasoline’s freezing point is far below that of water and fingertips, and so I was not surprised when the gasoline gushed out all over the lawnmower engine and onto my boots and the garage floor just as it always did, while the layer of snow on our garbage bins remained as pristine as it was when I brought them in from the curb three days ago.
I had often wondered if a lawnmower could blow snow off the lawn as snow blower blows snow off a driveway. Well let me tell you: it doesn’t. I had to shut off my poor confused mower while I shoveled the lawn for an hour, revealing the grayish-green grass that resembled the frozen spinach I pick up from the store when it’s my turn to cook dinner. I don’t think the mower blade could reach the mashed-down grass but the tracks of the mower wheels were just as satisfying to me as on a Sunday afternoon in July.
July…the very word is like a bell. I go into the backyard, shovel in hand, to hunt for the buried sprinkler that I forgot to recoil somewhere around Labor Day. After another hour of shoveling I’ve found the sprinkler along with a few mammoth bones and the cork to a champagne bottle that I popped when McDonald’s announced that the McRib was back.
The sprinkler head was fine but I had to take an electric blanket to the hose to unfreeze the water that clogged its passageway. The hose was fifty feet long but the electric blanket only a foot and half, so I could only do a small section at a time, moving on down the length of the hose, ignoring the strange looks of my neighbors’ kids whose school had evidently remained closed for the day. But when they saw me turn on the sprinkler they smiled, and went and got their ice skates.
I grabbed a trowel from the garage and began digging in the flower beds. I’d lent my ice pick out to someone for a Halloween party last year, so I had to hammer the butt of the trowel to drive the metal point into the flower beds so that I could expose enough frozen earth to dig. After an hour I had two holes dug out, but my hands were so cold and numb that when I tried to open the little paper bag of seeds I jerked it and sent the seeds flying in a cloud of hope over my newly cut frozen spinach lawn.
My work done for the day, I looked up and down my street, at the pockets of snow on the tree branches, and the dirty ice and slush shoved up against the curb, and tendrils of smoke from the chimneys, and the icicles hanging from the gutters. And somewhere, in the frozen stillness of March, as the snowflakes began to fall again, I heard a little bird begin to sing.