Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shoveling Snow . . . and Waiting for Spring

What we do in Chicago, in the dark bottom of winter when the snow has been coming for two months solid and the temperature barely nudges 20 degrees, what we do is tell ourselves that the long cold season just makes spring, when it finally comes, all the more glorious.

So when I woke this morning and found three inches of fresh white powder on the ground, making everything clean again, I only grumbled a little before grabbing the shovel and heading out for the ritual of clearing the sidewalk, edge to edge, as is the custom on the block where I've lived almost all my life in Rogers Park.

And I enjoyed it even more this time because one of my neighbors was down the block behind a snowblower, moving fast, back and forth, clearing not one or two lots for easy passage by the pedestrians, but six houses worth, and then moving to the other side of the street. He is just one of the good samaritans who go well beyond the minimum, whether it's clearing snow, picking up garbage, planting flowers or keeping an eye on things that don't look right. It's a good community of neighbors, and thus a good street to live on.

Now about that glorious spring. While we're getting impatient, the urban farmers at Growing Home have already ordered their seeds for spring and are expanding their Wood Street Farm in Englewood. If you want to pitch in, you can contribute to the $1,315 tab for their vegetable seeds. Of if you just want to learn more about how the nonprofit combines ecology and community development, check out this video. Spring will come. It always does.


Gordon Walek said...

Agree that snow removal can lead to heightened community awareness. Until recently, my Northwest Side neighborhood association provided sidewalk snow removal service. Volunteers gamely operated an industrial-sized snowblower that broke down more often than it worked, leaving sidewalks icy and treacherous. The service, though well-meaning, was a disincentive for anyone to shovel because they assumed it was an association responsibility. And whenever good Samaritans cleared the sidewalks, they received neither thanks nor acknowledgement. People figured they were part of the association crew.

But this winter, after the association snow removal program was officially scuttled, residents armed with personal snowblowers and shovels responded, keeping the sidewalks clearer than ever while earning the appreciation and respect of their neighbors. Disbanding the association program allowed those who were capable and interested in shoveling or snowblowing to be generous. And it allowed the beneficiaries of that generosity to be appreciative. A small matter, to be sure, but Mother Nature provided an opportunity for acts of kindness and the appropriate responses that make people on the street more than strangers.

Janet said...

Great picture, Dad. And a beautiful description of winter in Chicago. I've been enjoying this blog lately and I have to say that I am quite impressed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post. It will be shared with my neighbors here in Plainfield, NJ.

Making a neighborhood really takes so little and your post is a great example of how sometimes little things that you think no one notices, do get noticed.

I also loved the video clip about the urban farm. We have been trying to get one running up here, and hopefully we will sooner than later.

Thanks so much for the constant inspiration. And you guys in Chicago, you are lucky to have the people power that I often see in this blog.

Maria Pellum
Plainfield, NJ