08 February 2010

Iridescent Inefficiency

It is around 9:15 in the evening. I am perched on a bar seat, nursing an aching back and neck as I set out to put these thoughts down on electrons. In the quiet of my apartment, the refrigerator hums softly, quiescently freezing the ice cubes and keeping my food supply safe. I am grateful for that refrigerator, it makes many things less difficult and more convenient.

One thing it does not do, is shovel snow. I hold no grudge on that account; the fridge is only fulfilling that which it was made to do. It embodies its "fridge-ness", which is all I can expect or demand from this non-ambulatory artifact of a technologically advanced civilization.

The computer sits on the kitchen counter, another quiet artifact at my beck and call. Well, sort of. I know it is not sentient, even if sometimes it acts as if it is operating under the inscrutable exhortations of its silicon chip soul. I type, the words appear, and things are well enough.

In the second bedroom of my humble apartment, a cherub lies sleeping. The whispers of her angel breathing do not reach my ears, the computer and refrigerator conspire to drown out that lovely, soothing sound. It pleases me to know that the cherub is my daughter, safe and cavorting in the playground of dreams. Earlier today she and I were outside in the snow, with two very different agendas.

Hers: to play and laugh as much as possible, and maybe move some clods of snow from one place to another under the guise of "helping" Daddy.

Mine: to move as much snow as possible as efficiently as possible while trying not to destroy an ailing back and using as little profanity as possible (and out of earshot of the Wee Lass), and maybe have a little fun with a snowball or three.

These agendas, while not mutually exclusive, certainly do not lend themselves to an easy integration. I am concentrating on conservation of effort, maximum dispersal with minimum effort, grim as Death while I bend, hoist and sling the bastard snow. She is running back and forth, alternating between carrying snow (and spilling it right back where I just removed it) proclaiming "I'm a good helper!", and climbing the preposterously high hillocks of snow and ice like a mountain goat. She slides, she dives, she tumbles to land at my feet giggling like a daft elf with rosy cheeks and impossibly blue eyes. Every so often, our arcs of intent intersect  with me flinging a shovel full of white stuff that lands on her head as she is scampering across the pile.

She laughs, that silver bell that makes my heart leap, and I shed my mask of somberness, if only for an instant. I use the opportunity to pause in my Herculean labors, thankful (slightly) that I am shoveling frozen water and not horse manure. Leaning on my shovel, sucking wind and cursing the spirits of the air, the truth of this blossoms inside my skull.

Her innocent mind knows nothing of the strictures of adulthood, that quiet desperation that comes from entanglement in responsibility, efficiency and time management. She cares nothing for a disruption in the work schedule. She does not concern herself with the soul-sucking knowledge that lost time must be made up, because contracts and clients don't care that the snow fell and you had to miss work.

I watch her gambol about, and know that I am jealous. Long ago, under the guise of adulthood, I largely gave up on play for the sake of it; I renounced the gift of living in the moment. The knowledge makes me sad, but I am thankful to have been granted a chance to revisit that iridescent inefficiency of youth.


  1. What a brilliantly written vignette. Oh don't you remember those free wheeling days of snow angels and forts? Snowmen and snowball fights? They still sound fun ... but I'm too old and cranky to partake. *sigh*


  2. I feel like I've missed out on playing in the snow. My kid's too old now. Enjoy it while you can. :-)

  3. "that silver bell that makes my heart leap" That warmed my little soul, which is not, for the record, made of silicon.

  4. I hope you share thia with your daughter someday. It will warm her heart every day of her life to know how precious she is to you.

  5. Yes, my back appreciates not living where there is snow, because it got tired of the shoveling when it realized the fun and beauty of snow angels.

  6. One of the most rewarding things about parenthood is the opportunity to revisit childhood with our children.

  7. Playing in the snow was something that I enjoyed as a kid. And to tell the truth, I still enjoy being in it. Something about the gray sky and the soft flakes coming down. Peaceful. Silent.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...