The Art of Shoveling

That's a Buffalo snow belt snow, the famous November, 2014 storm that dumped seven feet in the Southtowns. That's my cousin Elizabeth Bystrak's shovel, and she took the photo.

This November, 2014 storm dumped seven feet of snow in Buffalo’s Southtowns. That’s my cousin Elizabeth Bystrak’s shovel, and she took the photo.

There’s very little Maine can teach a Buffalo gal about snow. After a lifetime in America’s snowbelt, I’ve seen it in every form. Until I mailed a check on Monday, I’d never had a plow service in my life, and the one I just signed up for is for the house in Rochester. As for me, I’ll just keep shoveling.

I think of snow-shoveling as a minor art form. It must be done in a logical pattern. Snow must not be built up along the foundation of the house, it should not leave streaks, and above all, nobody should drive on it because that leaves ice build-up.

I demonstrate proper shoveling technique: start with the perimeter so you have room to turn around without scrunching the snow.

I demonstrate proper shoveling technique: start with the perimeter so you have room to turn around without scrunching the snow.

I was downright gleeful when I woke up to my first storm in the new house. Donning layers, boots, mittens and my wool beret, I went out and fetched my favorite shovel, a True Temper with an ergonomic handle. (Tools are everything.)  Happily, I set up my perimeter lines. And then a child came to the door and asked, “Can I help?”

I handed her my shovel and set off to get a second-string shovel. Last month—when there was no snow—I had four shovels. A grey one, also with an ergonomic handle. A cheap green one suitable for inexperienced shovelers with no form. A heavy steel plow-style shovel for pushing snow like a plow.

I know what happened to the steel one: I gave it away, because it was too heavy and cumbersome. Several minutes of reflection made me think that I’d probably left the green one in the other house for the Realtor. But that left one shovel and rather than stand there watching someone else work, I determined to find it.

Our garage is jammed with unpacked boxes, but I searched it assiduously. Ditto for the shed. Meanwhile, the kid was using my shovel to do the most demanding—hence, fun—parts of the driveway.

Finally, I reclaimed my shovel and sent the kid back into the house. More helpers came streaming out. Now we had four adults and one shovel. We ended up clearing the driveway with a push broom, a coal shovel, a broken emergency scoop, and a real shovel. But since we were all born in Buffalo, we did it, and we had fun.

My trusty Prius, stranded in Waldoboro.

My trusty Prius, stranded in Waldoboro last winter.

I’ve shoveled snow in Maine before, most memorably last winter, when I was staying off the grid in Waldoboro. Even by Buffalo standards, it was a blizzard; I was working through waist-deep drifts to reach my car. “They’re not going to plow this road,” my friends told me. “It’s the last one they do.”

“I can smell that plow a-coming,” I responded. And sure enough, I’d just reached the bumper of my trusty Prius when the plow gunned its way up the last hill.

“I didn’t think I’d make it,” the plow driver said. My friends, being very nice people, brought him a cup of coffee. I’ve always appreciated our plow drivers, but they whiz by so fast in New York I’ve never exchanged a word with them, let alone had time to offer them coffee. Such is life in Maine. I’m so happy to be here.

Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit for more information.