Monday, February 10, 2014

Knapsack 2-13-14

Notes from my Knapsack 2-13-14

Jeff Gill


Where to put it all



One thing you have to deal with in a winter such as this one: where to put it all.


The snow not only falls, but does not melt. This is what's been so different for me about Ohio winters, or at least Licking County winters, growing up just off the tip of Lake Michigan in a snow belt. For years (and years) the snow would fall, even some substantial snows, and it would almost always melt entirely before the next one.


I've not checked out the figures, but it seemed not that there were fewer snow events (although each is less in total than you see off the Great Lakes onto your driveway, up north), but that the snow never piled up. In my northwest Indiana childhood, snow covered the ground by Christmas, and the mounds on either side of the driveway apron mounted higher and higher, until the mailbox nearly vanished.


We also had a driveway that, when my dad built an addition onto the house after two more kids, ran directly into the garage leaving most of the part to be shoveled cut into the earth. From the street to the house the snow had to be shoveled ever farther up, some three feet or more at the garage door: and with each new snowfall, that throw got higher.


So you got strategic about when to pitch your shovel load, where to throw it, and when you were actually better off to walk each carefully balanced pile a few steps back to a lower part of the drive. Wind came into this equation, and also the knowledge that it was one kind of weary to walk back and forth in each poke at the piles, and another sort of tired you felt when a flung load tumbled right back down onto the newly shoveled pavement.


That all comes back this winter, and aching back aside, it's kind of a fun memory now, and practical experience to deploy.


You also realize that you grew up from your learner's permit getting taught by parents and experience how to drive on ice and slick ridged side streets with intersections polished by start-up futility . . . and that many of your fellow local drivers today do not have that benefit. Nor do they know in their bones the many uses of kitty litter in the trunk or a few decent hunks of corrugated cardboard. And an old sleeping bag with a flashlight and backup gloves.


We're all learning or relearning these realities. Snow comes, and we deal. There's how the larger institutions deal, school systems and grocery stores and churches and sporting events. Frankly, I'm pretty impressed with how everyone has dealt with the circumstances of this winter. For Granville Schools, they've tried to protect our far flung student body (Cambria Mill, Deeds Rd., Park Trails: it's not just about the village, campers), with young drivers at GHS and parents commuting 30-45 minutes away all factors in the equation, using what I would call the right closings & two-hour delays applied in a timely (if tediously frequent!) manner.


And just as I was going to hit send on this column, the word came out about a missing Denison student, and then the search (God bless everyone who tried, especially those who found his body), and the tragic aftermath.


Winter is serious business, and we are reminded that the only way, really, to deal with it is to deal with it together.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him your winter tales at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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