Kitamaat Village is where I live, it’s a First Nations reserve on the northwest coast of BC. The funny thing about the name “Kitamaat” is that it’s not a word that exists in our language, which is Haisla. The name is actually from the Tsimshian language, which is spoken by our neighbors to the north. It translates to “People of the Snow” or “Valley of the Snow.”
We didn’t get that name for no reason. It’s quite dead-on, actually. It’s been snowing all weekend and I’ve been putting off shoveling that entire time. Partly because, as the title of this post very subtly suggests, I’ve absolutely had it with shoveling what Charles Barkley would call that “flaky white stuff.”
Just how much do I hate shoveling? Let me count the ways.
One of the biggest reasons for my hatred is that I own a vehicle and in order to go anywhere I need to first dig my car out from under a mountain of snow. Another factor is that it takes a ridiculously long time to shovel my driveway, even though I park my car close to the street so I don’t need to shovel so much behind my car. Whenever I shovel I first need to first clear a path to my car, then I can proceed to dig my garbage cans and my vehicle out from under the snow. It usually takes me about two hours to do all that. Two hours just so I can leave my house. Two hours of my life that I could’ve spent working or doing something I enjoy. And more importantly, two hours that I’ll never get back.
Another thing is that when it’s snowing day after day like it’s been doing lately and doesn’t look like it’s going to stop at all, why go out there and shovel when all your work is going to filled back up within a day and you’ll just have to go out and do it all over again the next day? Additionally, it bothers me that we have no choice in the matter, we’re being forced to do it. It’s like we’re being held hostage by Mother Nature and we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If I indignantly refuse to shovel, I can’t leave my house but I save time and energy. If I do decide to go out there and do it, I pay the price physically and time-wise, but at least I’ll have the freedom to actually go somewhere if I need to. Either way it’s a lose-lose situation. It’s like facing execution and being asked if you want to be drowned or burned alive, neither is exactly desirable.
And the final reason is that it’s physically demanding and my body simply cannot take it. My back pays the biggest price of all, it can’t stand up to the constant bending down to get a shovel full and the heaving it up into the air. The deeper the snow is, the higher I need to throw the snow, the more it hurts my back.
This afternoon, I’d finally decided to go out and face the music. I’d been looking out the window from upstairs all weekend to get an idea of how much snow was out there and get an idea of what I’m going to be forced to deal with. I opened my front door, started cutting a path to my vehicle, which I can only partly see. I got about halfway there and realized the snow is way deeper than I originally anticipated. I thought there’d be about a foot, it turned out to be double that. So I’m trying to make my way towards my car, I’m only clearing a path that’s one shovel wide as it takes less time and less work, but when the snow is this deep it’s not leaving me any room to move around. My legs keep brushing against the walls of the trench that I’m digging, I finally get close to my car and realize the path that I’ve cut is so close to it that I have no room to shovel around it so I need to move the path a couple of feet over. The snow is dry meaning that every time I heave a shovel full off to the side, it gets caught by the wind and blown into my face. Added to that, the wind keeps changing direction so that no matter which way I turn it still blows towards me. It’s like Mother Nature is constantly slapping me in the face, adding further insult to injury.
At this point I start thinking about trying to dig my car out but decide to uncover the garbage cans first. They’re barely visible and I manage to cut a booth out of the snow so that the garbage cans can finally be accessed and then I start considering whether I should move onto the car. By this time I’ve been shoveling for 20 minutes, I’m tired, my back is already sore, I’m in a bad mood, and I’m shaking. In a huff, I decide to just give up and go back inside.
As I’m going back into my house I’m thinking, “can we sue the people responsible for giving us this name? Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, you gave our town a bad name. Why couldn’t we be the People of the Tropical Paradise With Endless Sandy Beaches and Palm Trees Where Nary a Flake of Snow Has Ever Been Seen?”
Okay, so that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and I actually hate it when it’s hot too, but it’s better to be too hot than it is to be buried under snow. Anything’s better than that and maybe having a more favorable name would boost morale for people who hate snow as much as I do if nothing else. It would be the most inaccurate place name in history but at least we could imagine it were true.
Now that I’ve calmed down and eaten (which was partly responsible for the shaking as I realized I was also hungry) I think I might go back out there and see if I can finish what I tried to start. Though I’ll probably just have to do it all over again later but at least I’ll have a little less to do next time. I now also realize that tomorrow is garbage day, I have garbage that needs to go out and I haven’t yet cleared a path from the street to my garbage cans so it won’t get picked up if I don’t at least finish that part. I think I’d rather do that now than have to do more of it tomorrow morning.
So if I decide to finish shoveling completely, I’ll see you in a couple of hours. If this snow fall continues and I don’t make it back, I’ll send up a flare so someone can find me. You can send the rescue team to the Valley of the Snow, they’ll know where to find me.