Looking Colder Than It Feels

St. Mary Catholic Church in German Village installed a new “Peace Garden” area along Third Street when it underwent renovation work recently.  Among the items in the Peace Garden is a statue of a seated lady waiting patiently on a bench.  According to the plaque at her feet, it’s a representation of Mrs. Plank, who I suspect was a faithful member of the congregation.

I pass St. Mary every morning on my walk, and I really like the Peace Garden and the statue — except on winter days when it snows.  Because when it snows, as it has for the past few days, the placid Mrs. Plank becomes utterly snow-covered, and seeing her in that condition always makes the snowy day feel a few degrees colder.  Brrrr!  I want to help Mrs. Plank up so she could shed that blanket of snow, brush off her snowbound pillbox hat, and go someplace warm.  Heck, I’d even spring for a cup of coffee at the Starbuck’s next door.

Snow, No!

Well, the dreaded cold front has hit Columbus, dumping snow and knocking temperatures down to the low 20s. The snow left a weird pattern on our back patio, like it was trying to inscribe satanic symbols or ancient runes on the flagstone.

I’m not ready for this. November 12 is just way too early for snow-covered ground and the mercury hovering around 20. A few drifting snowflakes to remind us that winter is on its way would have been okay — but not a hard freeze, enough accumulation to wreak havoc with the morning rush hour, and the need to haul out the winter overcoat already.

Exercise Is Where You Find It

The snow fell on Saturday, and when it looked like the snowfall had ended, I went out and shoveled the snow off our front steps, our brick entrance way, the walkway to the back yard, and the sidewalk in front of our house.

Alas!  The storm was only taking a breather and toying with me, and another four or five inches of snow fell later on Saturday and Sunday morning.  So yesterday I grabbed the back saver shovel and did it all over again.

Shoveling snow is pretty good exercise.  You do a lot of bending, lifting, and twisting, as well as some precision work in scraping off the packed down areas that somebody has walked on.  If the snow is moist, good packing snow, as this snowfall was, you end up with a decent amount of weight on the end of your shovel, ready to be hefted and hurled onto the snowbank you create. It doesn’t take much shoveling to get the heartbeat up and the sweat glands flowing, even though the weather is cold.  Combine that with being outside, taking gulps of crisp fresh air, and you’ve got a nice little workout going.

In my case, I’d say the whole process took between a half hour and 45 minutes.  When I was done I had clean steps, a clean sidewalk, and a feeling of accomplishment.  If I’d been in a gym, it would be akin to one of those exercise routines where you pick up a heavy ball, twist to one side and then another, and then throw it to the side and do the whole process again.

Studies consistently show that most Americans don’t get as much exercise as they should.  One response might be to move to the Midwest and buy a snow shovel.

 

Wrath Of The Weather Gods

We put out our patio furniture cushions and umbrella in hopes that it would encourage the temperamental weather gods to finally send us some true, warm, spring-like weather, so we can actually enjoy the patio again after months of wintry inactivity.

Instead, the weather gods wrathfully decided to punish our hopeful gesture. Last night we got a snow storm, and right now it’s 28 degrees out.

One of these days we’ll learn not to mess with the weather gods.

In Today’s Nor’easter

I was in Pittsburgh for meetings today, and the grim, icy grip old Old Man Winter was everywhere in evidence. Pittsburgh was one of the cities in the path of the last (we hope) nor’easter in this endless winter, and it was getting pounded with blizzard-like conditions and what appeared to be about a foot of snow.

I set off to drive home with some trepidation, hoping I wouldn’t get stranded on the road back to Columbus. Fortunately, by the time I hit I-70 the snow really wasn’t bad, and when I crossed the Ohio state line there was no snow at all.

Pittsburgh, however, was another matter.

Dreaming Of A White . . . Spring?

It’s very Christmas-like in Pittsburgh this morning, with snow-covered treetops and landscape, and still more snow falling. Too bad it’s March 21, and officially the start of spring, rather than December 25!

Every time we think we’ve finally turned the corner on this crummy winter, another storm and cold snap gives us a wallop. The Stark Clan with their annoying “Winter Is Coming” saying would love the American Midwest this year. Of course, if they showed up here in their fancy fur-trimmed duds and used that phrase, they’d probably get slugged in the jaw.

Enough, already! It’s time for Mother Earth to start tilting on her axis in earnest and give us some relief from this Winter That Just Won’t End.

Bigfoot In Winter

Yesterday I took a bit of a tumble on my way to work.  We had gotten about four inches of snow right at rush hour, the Columbus snow plow crews hadn’t gotten the streets cleared, and as I was crossing an unplowed side street my foot skidded.  Fortunately, I caught myself on one hand and one knee, so I didn’t go completely horizontal.  It’s the first slip and fall I’ve experienced in years of walking to work during the winter.

122613122I flatter myself that this good fortune is attributed to careful walking techniques, like using the small-step penguin mode on especially icy days and looking ahead for the best place to plant your foot as you stride, and having finely honed, catlike reflexes that react immediately to any sign of a skid.  But in reality, it’s probably because I’m gifted with unusually large, almost perfectly flat feet.  Shoe size typically correlates with height, and the average shoe size for a six-foot male in America is reported to be 10.5.  I typically have to buy size 12 or 12.5, depending on the make of the shoe, and my feet have no discernible arch.

Being at the upper range of shoe sizes can make finding shoes difficult — at a recent visit to one of those huge shoe emporiums, I had a tough time finding footwear my size and saw lots of 8s, 9s, and 10s, and not many 12s — but it’s useful during the winter months.  The larger feet have a lot more surface contact with the snowy ground than the average foot and act like quasi-snowshoes, so I might experience a small skid but can catch myself before it turns into a full-blown slip and fall.

When you think about it, the advantages of large foot size in snowy conditions should be obvious.  There’s a reason the elusive Yeti has evolved to haunt snow-covered climes and is reportedly seen from time in time in the Himalaya or the mountains of the American West.  It’s why, in America, we call him Bigfoot.

That Good Samaritan Feeling

It snowed quite a bit Monday, going well into the night.  Tuesday morning I got up and instead of taking my early morning walk, I went out to shovel my front steps and sidewalk.

I was out shoveling at about 6 a.m., in the quiet darkness, when a young woman approached.  It probably took some nerve on her part to approach a total stranger on a dark, bitterly cold morning, but she obviously was desperate.  “Excuse me, sir!” she said.  “My car is stuck.  Would you mind coming down and shoveling me out?”

good-samaritanI looked down the street and saw that her car, which was one of those ultra-light compact cars that are about the worst snow vehicles in the world, was turned sideways and was well and truly stuck in the snow piles.  “No problem,” I said.  “When the weather is like this, we’ve all got to stick together.”  So I went down with my shovel, let loose my inner Dad, put her behind the wheel, and shoveled and pushed and rocked the car back and forth and instructed her on cutting the wheels this way and that — not too sharp! — until we finally got her too-light car out of the snow banks and onto the ruts of the street so she could head on her way.

“Thank you soooo much!” she said several times before she puttered away in her little car, and I think she really meant it.  I then went back to my shoveling.

Growing up in Akron, Ohio, I learned that you help people out when they get stuck in the snow.  One time when UJ and I were little kids we went to an Akron Zips basketball game with Grandma and Grandpa Neal, a blizzard hit during the game, and we came out to an Oldsmobile that was covered in snow and buried in a drift.  A bunch of men who also had come to the game came over to help us, and eventually they pushed and pulled and rocked us out to the point where we could get to the street.  Their selfless act of kindness and decency made a big impression on a little kid.

Ever since that happened, I’ll gladly lend a hand to help anybody trapped by the snow.  I know that the Good Samaritan acted for wholly altruistic reasons, and when it comes to the winter weather I do too — but I always like the “Good Samaritan” feeling I get when I do it, too.  That young woman’s heartfelt thanks made my Tuesday a little bit better.

Saturday Shovel

Yesterday the temperature plunged about 40 degrees over a few hours, then a winter storm slammed us with snow. So this morning I hauled out the back-saver snow shovel and cleared off our sidewalk and front steps.

Every Midwesterner knows you need to shovel as soon as the snow fall stops, before people start walking on the snow and compressing it to the point that it needs to be chipped away — which is a much bigger pain. Now that the snow is cleared I can feel a sense of keen accomplishment, and if the sun comes out Mother Nature will do the rest of the work.

Unplowed Ground

We got several inches of snow last night. That means we’ll be living with a snow-covered street for the next few weeks, because forecasts are for temperatures with highs in the 20s, or below, for the foreseeable future.

It’s not that Columbus has inadequate plowing resources; in fact, the city’s road crews are pretty good. No, it’s because our street, like most of the streets in German Village, is paved with brick. Brick streets and snow plows don’t mix — unless you like plows hurling bricks from the road bed into parked cars, passing traffic, and pedestrians.

So we’ll have to wait to dispose of the snow the old-fashioned way . . . by melting.

First Snow Of The Season

We got our first snowfall last night.  Its appearance moved me to compose this bit of doggerel about snow, and its impact on some of my fellow Ohioans:

The First Snow Of The Season

It’s bright outside and what’s the reason?

We’ve had our first snow of the season

We’ve seen a flake or two before

But today we got a whole lot more

So now the ground is oh so white

And the gelid air has a special bite

The cold and snow make a special code

Telling snowbirds they should hit the road

Farewell for now, my thin-blooded friends

We’ll meet again when winter ends!

Snowy April

IMG_0787We awoke this April 9 to a fresh dusting of snow on the ground, and of course temperatures in the 20s.  Sure!  Why not?  There’s not quite enough bad news in the world, so let’s add some really crappy spring weather to have a depression multiplication effect!  Thanks, Mother Nature!

OK, we probably shouldn’t be whiners.  After all, it’s not even an inch of accumulation, which is less than those poor schmoes have been getting in the Northeast.  Still . . . it’s the principle of the thing.

Sometimes Ohio weather blows.

Obtuse Opening Day Optimism

This time of year you’ll hear a lot of people talk about how wonderful baseball in the spring is.  Every team is still in it.  Hope springs eternal!  And everybody can still cling to their most optimistic tendencies.

3You want optimism?  Here’s optimism for you — the baseball powers that be scheduled the Cleveland Indians to play their Opening Day game today, in Cleveland.  Scheduling baseball games in Cleveland in early April:  now that’s optimism!

Of course, the game was postponed because the weather sucked.  My friends in Cleveland reported temperatures in the 30s and a likelihood for snow flurries.  That’s not baseball weather, not by any stretch of the imagination, and it’s unfair to the Big Leaguers to even suggest that they should consider playing under such conditions.

I know Clevelanders like the idea of starting the season there, but it’s lunacy.  Give everyone a break and play the first few weeks of the season in southern cities and cities with domed stadiums, then let the rotation work its way to the Clevelands and Detroits and Bostons.

There’s optimism, and then there’s insanity.  Scheduling baseball in Cleveland in early April falls into the latter category.