Snow Forts

My wife contends that it is better to shovel a little, a lot, than to shovel a lot, a little. My dad tells me that his neighbor who never shovels his walk says "What God giveth, God will eventually taketh away." Around our house we ascribe to the first philosophy and try to keep ahead of the snow by going out and clearing the decks several times during the course of a storm.

Shortly after having children of my own, it became a renewed rite of passage to create a huge pile of snow in the front yard on Demers Drive -- the snow fort. This tradition began with my father, who would pile snow from our long sidewalk up against the "climbing tree" in the front of our house on second street in Kamsack, Saskatchewan. As the winter grew deeper, the pile grew taller, eventually reaching that point in the tree where the trunk diverged into two branches that reached up into the crystal blue prairie sky.

My brother Keith picked up my dad's shoveling prowess and became the primary architect, labourer, and general contractor of our locally famous winter palaces. Kids came from all over town to play on the twisting ice slides and to explore the unpredictable caverns carved out of the packed snow.

With the accumulation of the white stuff over the past 48 hours the 2010 snow pile has reached a height of almost six feet and was finally ready to be sculpted with a slide and steps and to be pierced with a long tunnel running from north to south. I probably looked like a little boy sprawled out on my belly lunging with the small shovel to shave off the hard-packed snow on the ceiling, big boots propelling me further and further into the abyss.

I was doing something similar about 30 years ago when the entire snow cavity came crashing down on me, inexorably pinning me down in its icy grip. Thankfully, my brother was nearby and quickly dug me out. That memory of being almost buried alive came sweeping over me this week for obvious reasons as the world watched the Haitian earthquake cataclysm, which has completely dominated our thoughts since Tuesday.

And while moments of complete despair are many, so too are moments of miracles, people being pulled out of the rubble unscathed after 72 hours, families and friends reunited when all hope had been lost, and people rallying around the globe to raise funds to rebuild a nation and a people after unparalleled destruction.

As my arm pushed up out of the snow my brother grabbed me and pulled me into the light. All of us have a role to play to do the same for the people of Haiti, all of us.

January 16, 2010 - 202.2 pounds, 30% body fat


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