Despite what some people say, even our mild winters are depressing. And the depression overwhelms you completely when you clear a pathway out to the paved road only to find a ridge of snow. Sadly, it was pushed there by the snow removal truck as it flashed by gaining momentum to clear the bus route all the way to the top of 24th.
This January’s snowfall left soft snow, and though it was deep, it was easy to remove from the driveway. That is, all except the end of the driveway where it was packed and heavy. In the past, that ridge of snow has been as solid as a cement barrier — almost impossible to remove.
I’ve been thinking about the snow at the end of my driveway as a metaphor for other situations in life. I reflected back on my days as a College instructor and how I enjoyed preparing activities for class and then the fun of teaching. That part was like snow-blowing soft snow. The tough part, of course, or the barrier at the end of all the teaching was the marking.
I managed to keep up with my marking, but how I hated the drudgery of this often left-brain activity. I would mark the papers and exams from the good students first and later wade through the work of weaker students. I likened this to my penchant for snow-blowing the easiest parts of the end of the driveway first before I tackled the tough packed sections.
Because I’ve also spent a lot of time writing creatively, I recognize how the end of the driveway can appear daunting for the writer. It’s called writer’s block. When inspiration hits you and the words flow onto the computer screen almost magically, then it’s glory days for the writer. An all-day task of completing a column, for example, can sometimes be done in less than an hour.
But get stuck or lose focus or begin to lack inspiration, and then the writing is difficult to do. In the days of writing by pen, writers would often sit for hours with a blank page of paper in front of them. Now writers stare at a blank screen. How to start?
Can I take these crappy thoughts and somehow turn them into vivid prose? Can I actually get the words from my mind onto the page?
Strange, but the mind gravitates to easier tasks. Much daydreaming occurs, and if a writer has strict deadlines, many nightmares invade. However, once a new piece of decent writing is finished, it’s similar to having shoveled that last pile of snow and opened up the end of the driveway.
Our everyday lives are filled with incidents analogous to the packed snow at the end of the driveway. Before the holidays, university students flew home for Christmas and New Year holidays with family and friends. Magnificent parties happened, acquaintances were renewed, splendid dinners were consumed, and the outdoor lights were never better.
All of a sudden, a huge snow storm hit, dumping 34 centimeters of snow on the Columbia Valley, and the clouds remained shroud-like for days. Then the fog took over the valley like bad morning breath and shut down everything. Where all had been pleasant and glorious, now those hoping for flights to Vancouver and elsewhere could go nowhere. It was similar to not being able to drive your car until the end of the driveway was cleared.