Every Friday I share a photo and a story. A lighter touch. An easier read for the end of the week. Friday Photo + Words is my best way to end the work week.
This week’s Friday Photo & Words is coming to you on a Saturday. It’s partially a test on optimizing blog traffic and partially because my wrists were sore from all of the work that went into the production of this story.
Snow. It’s beautiful. It’s sparkly. It makes a beautiful backdrop for photography. It’s a natural part of life in New England. And, after it falls, we shovel it and snowblow it and move it out of our driveways, roadways, and sidewalks as best we can. And, where we live, it’s usually a manageable task to keep our driveways clear of ice and snow – even in the heart of winter.
Just not this year.
So when the sun gets stronger, and the ice and snow soften, we have an opportunity to clear it out.
Now I would never describe myself as someone who is committed to keeping an orderly house. Everything is always clean and in reasonable order (or as best it can be with two dogs and a toddler), but it will never be up to my mom’s – or mother-in-law’s – standards. And that is globally true, with a few exceptions.
And snow and ice clearing is one of those exceptions.
In one intense month of high snowfall and bitterly cold temperatures, our southern New England town was transformed into the kind of small, secluded place you would find in the northern mountains of Maine. And it’s been a real challenge to get anywhere or do anything outside of the house. The snowbanks are so tall that you can’t see other cars. The roads are icy and slippery. The sidewalks are mostly uncleared. There is nowhere to park. And the only way to navigate the world is to very slowly, very cautiously, use every bit of your attention to move.
One great example of this is the state of our driveway – which was covered in 2 – 4 inches of thick, slippery, ankle-breaker ice and snow. And with all of our bundled mittens, hats, thick jackets, and boots, it’s a trick to move just on steady ground. So every single time we left the house – for weeks – I had to hold Max’s hand and steady myself as we slowly navigated our steps and the driveway to get to our car. And when I would start to imagine the work that goes into just walking out the door, I would psych myself out. And we would stay home. And I had just had ENOUGH ALREADY.
So I took it down.
In Tuesday morning, Max and I went to the library for open play time. And almost as soon as we stepped out the door I could feel it – warm. Well, warm for a winter day (30° F). And I saw it – for the first time in weeks: MELTING. In an opportunistic burst of excitement, I smacked my foot on a section of the ice that looked particularly melty.
And it was SLUSH.
So I scraped a little more. And it moved. So I scraped another section. And that moved. So I grabbed the shovel and pushed it around. And after several minutes of excited jumping and scraping, Max was like MOMMY TOY TIME NOW. So we left.
And when we came home, the edges of the sections I had scraped earlier were melting. So I handed Max his shovel, grabbed mine, and we had an ice scraping party. We scraped back sections of slush and I started to notice a pattern.
But first, a visual. Imagine our driveway as a long, slightly sloped beach at low tide. And imagine you’re building a sand castle slightly downhill from a tidal pool. That sand castle would look great with a moat (river) around it, but you don’t have a bucket. What do you do? Well, if you draw a line in the sand from the tidal pool to the sandcastle, the water – as long as you’re downhill – will travel down that line, to the sand castle and away from the tidal pool.
That’s the concept I applied to my driveway.
I had several small pockets of icy water in my driveway, with nowhere for the water to go. And those pools would soften with warm weather on a sunny day, but they were insulated by the ice around them. With nowhere for the water to go, that water would turn back to ice every night – and it would take WEEKS for it to thaw.
So I gave the water somewhere to go.
At first, the ice was too thick to chip away to make small streams, so instead I made my line in the snow and scraped a little off the surface. After an hour, that layer of ice was softer, so I scraped some more. Until, eventually, I had reached the driveway.
That’s when the melting really started.
Every half hour for the next two hours, I went out there and scraped and chipped away at the edges of the ice. And every two hours, that ice sheet got softer. Holes started opening up, and that made it easier for the ice water to move away from the ice sheet, accelerating the entire process.
It was amazing to watch. And I was really, really surprised at how fast it happened. I honestly never would have guessed that I could melt an entire driveway of 2 – 4 inch thick ice in one 30° afternoon.
Using the same process, I continued this afternoon (Saturday) and finished the few spots that were lingering. As my brother-in-law Paul said today “work smarter, not harder.” This project was truly one example of how patience, and some observation, can truly make hard work a whole lot easier.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s story. Check back next Friday for another edition of Photos & Words.