After a week of driving around the city in the most terrifyingly icy conditions, I was quite committed to staying home today. Nevertheless, the need to get the rapidly drying Christmas tree out of the living room and off to the tree recycling depot
forced inspired me to venture out in the -44° C wind chill. (For those of you operating in Fahrenheit, that translates into approximately -44° F. Cold is cold is cold.)
We dropped off the tree at a nearby park where it will wait for spring when city workers will feed it though a wood-chipper to prepare it for its next life as mulch and path covering. Then we dropped in briefly on my sister. On the way home, we were rewarded for venturing out in the cold with an opportunity to watch the snowplows at work.
I suspect that most of the drivers with whom I was sharing the road did not perceive this as an “opportunity.” It would be easy to see it just as an inconvenience, because the presence of the plows meant it took us 15 minutes to travel down a stretch of road that would normally take about 2 minutes. Maybe I would have considered it an inconvenience myself had I been in a hurry to get somewhere. But because I wasn’t in a hurry I was free to enjoy the dance.
I wonder sometimes if I am the only one who sees it. To me, the fleet of plows working its way down the road in tandem really does look like a dance. The grader leads, its powerful blade scraping the ice and snow off the road and leaving it to one side in long, lumpy windrows. Behind the grader, several front end loaders, weave back and forth, lifting the mounds of snow up off the roadways and onto the already mountainous snow banks.
I am in awe of their gracefulness, these huge beasts that seem to manoeuvre effortlessly in spaces cramped by traffic and other obstacles. The loaders in particular move with such elegance and precision they seem almost alive to me– like a massive animal, dancing in the snow. It is easy to forget that I am seeing a huge metal machine with a human driver, tucked up in his perch in the heated cab, animating the dance.
They are out working now because the traffic is less of an obstacle at night. When the rest of us are curled up in front of our TVs on a cold January night, these unsung heroes of the winter city are out sculpting the roadways. Do they ever perceive it as a dance? I often wonder.
And I often wonder what other dances I miss when I am hurrying about my life. How many times I fail to see the graceful and poetic because my haste only allows me to see the mechanical and utilitarian.
I’ve been suffering from a bit of cabin fever lately– feeling sorry for myself because the bitter cold is preventing me from going walking. Feeling like if only I could get out and go for a walk I could think more clearly, be more creative, think of more things to write. Forgetting that there are dances going on around me all the time in places I least expect them, if only I slow down long enough to watch.