No Heart For Snow

Azalea In Snow.

Azalea in snow.

The snow is a show;

The drifts are aglow.  

You just don’t know

How I want it to go.

That’s where my playing in the snow begins and ends these days — because I would much rather view snow from inside the house or, better yet, on the television while lounging under a sun-soaked palm tree.

But that is not to be, now that the first snowstorm of 2014 has blown through and the news is filled with images of kids sledding and playing in the white stuff.  One local reporter even fell backwards into a field of untouched snow to make a snow angel.

I wish I could muster up that much excitement for the flakes — the snow, that is, not the reporters.

This weather is one of the main reasons I created my version of a knot garden.

This weather is one of the main reasons I created my implied knot garden.

There was a time when a prediction of snow ignited dreams of a snow day from school.  As a school employee, I still experience that rush — but it’s tempered by the frustration that now comes with snow.

Yes, it makes the world fresh and white — at least for a few hours — and it provides a chilled respite for perennials and bulbs, as well as a steady watering as it melts.  Snow is a necessary evil for those of us living in northern climates.  The older I get, however, snow has become less of a novelty and more of a headache — or, more accurately, a heartache.

Snow is a reminder of what I can’t do.


Snow waves, courtesy of the chaise lounge.

Eight years ago, winter cold made me acutely aware of an ache down my left arm.  Once I warmed up to room temperature, the ache disappeared.  It was a pinched nerve, I rationalized, that was aggravated by cold.

Spring arrived that year, and the ache remained — only now it was accompanied by shortness of breath and could occur with any physical exertion.  At the end of the school year, I scheduled a doctor appointment, where my EKG was normal.  Fortunately, my primary phoned a cardiologist, and made a next-day appointment for me.

At that appointment, my EKG and blood pressure were again normal, but the cardiologist asked if I would like to take a nuclear stress test.  He described it as a walk on a treadmill to elevate my heart rate.  How hard could a walk be?

Snowy table for two.

Snowy table for two.

I failed that test, and from his office, I was sent to a nearby hospital.  Blood tests indicated that at some point I had suffered a very mild heart attack.  In a matter of days, I was diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and had eight stents placed in my coronary arteries.

One of the medical personnel who stopped in to check on me insisted that I had a love for the other kind of white powder, if you get my drift, because I didn’t fit into any of his preconceived notions of a heart patient.  I wasn’t overweight, had a relatively healthy diet, and didn’t smoke, drink, or use drugs.

He failed to consider genetics.

Hydrangea or cotton?

Hydrangea or cotton?

Regardless, though, my cardiologist laid down the law: “No snow shoveling for you!”


I’ve always shoveled snow — from childhood, when shoveling snow with my father was like a military operation, to adulthood, when it was a winter chore that Joe and I shouldered together.

Today, though, I have 13 stents, a series of medications (which, by the way, seem to make me more cold sensitive), and Joe — who now does all of the shoveling.  That’s where the frustration lies.

I watch him through the windows as he shovels and lifts and tosses, shovels and lifts and tosses — and I’m sad because I’m unable to help him.  To do so would tax my heart.  Each snowy forecast is a nagging reminder that I’m a bit broken and slightly used — and with that comes the worry — the unfairness — that the snow removal responsibility falls solely on Joe.

Snow shadows.

Snow shadows.

Yes, I can help him dust off cars and I can make hot tea or hot chocolate for him when he comes in from the cold — but it’s not the same as sharing the task, especially for those storms that are especially deep.

Complicating this year’s first snowfall is the result of my most recent stress test.  I have a 40 percent blockage in another one of my arteries, which my doctor says can act up because of cold and/or stress.

Clearly, I no longer have a heart for snow — but, thanks to the parade of seed catalogs that arrive by mail, I have dreams of warmer, more color-filled days ahead.

And that’s the kind of medicine a gardener’s heart can love.

Warmer days . . .

Warmer days . . .

57 thoughts on “No Heart For Snow

  1. This really made me think about what I would do if I could not shovel snow. Yikes, I’d either have to hire someone to do it or move. I can see how this would take the joy out of snow. The unusual combination of extreme cold and snow brought us amazingly light powder. It would be perfect for cross-country skiing — except that it’s too cold out to do that safely. Sigh.

    • Hi Jean. We also had a powdery snow. If it was a dusting, it could have been swept away. Regardless, I’ll take my snow from inside. I’m safer that way. Stay warm!

  2. I love your snowy photos…but, the absence of snow is a big reason I love living in FL now!!! I gotta say, though, I lived most of my life in NJ, and I’ve never heard anyone I know, say they loved shoveling snow…it’s hard work, not only on the heart, but on the back, too!!

    We moved my son here when he was in the 7th grade…he misses snow, but of course…he never had to drive in it, or shovel it (we lived on a big hill in Sussex County, and my husband had a snow plow). All my son misses, is just playing in it! Ha!

    Praying your heart loves taking photos and writing about the snow from inside the warm house!

  3. Beautiful pictures but I know what you mean about snow. And you guys get way more than we do. When it snows in Arkansas, all we do is sit around and eat bread and drink milk! So glad you have seed catalogs to remind you that spring will be here soon. That is one of my favorite things to do in the winter. I’m glad you have someone to shovel snow for you, too. Take care this winter.

  4. It’s funny how when we were kids all we wanted was a snow day to have the day off fro school and play in the snow. Then as we got older it was pretty but a nuisance to drive in. Now years later it is beautiful covering the landscape but better seen from indoors and way too cold to be in. It’s a way if coping with the cold to say it’s beautiful. I understand your feelings and also await spring. Stay warm.

    • Hi Lee. The snow is beautiful for about ten minutes — then it gets plowed and dirty and overstays its welcome. Yes, I’m ready for spring and green. Be well and be warm!

  5. I’m sorry the snow is making you sad. Your photos lift the snow to a higher level of beauty that belie the trouble it is causing. I really like the snow wave image. Best thoughts. Susie

  6. Hi, Kevin – Don’t be sad! I bet Joe doesn’t mind shoveling! Those genetics just aren’t fair, sometimes, but what are you gonna do? A lot of us can’t do things like we used to, but we can concentrate on the things we can do, like making hot chocolate, looking at seed catalogs and planning for spring. And blogging! :O)

    • Hi Kathy. Thanks for the pep talk. You’re right, of course. Joe doesn’t mind the shoveling and would much rather that I stay safe (and alive) inside. 🙂 Be well and be warm.

  7. I think the medicinal benefits of a seed catalogue needs bigger exposure. It’s long been known to restore me and my senses. I realise your heart conditions stops you playing in the snow but your photographs – especially Snow waves, courtesy of the chaise lounge are a treat for this rain soaked Briit!

    • Hi Claire. I agree with the medicinal benefits of seed catalogs. My mood improves drastically when one arrives in the mail. Color and promise in the middle of winter. Be well, be warm, and stay dry. 🙂

  8. So sorry to hear about your heart, Kevin. I’m sure you make a mean cup of hot cocoa for Joe though, and you plant and grow the most beautiful of garden in the spring and summer. I hope you’re both doing well. Wishing you warm, sunny weather soon!

    • Hi Beth. When this whole thing started 8 years ago, it became a lifestyle change and a kind of overlay on all aspects of life. We all go through things, but we continue to plant and grow. Thanks for the warm thoughts. 🙂

  9. I’m sorry to hear your body has created new limits for you. I don’t have any magic words to make it easier, but having my own frustrating limits created by my biology, I can say that perhaps Joe is grateful to be able to shovel snow for the both of you. It has taken me many years to catch glimpses of this perspective from time to time, but sometimes I can see the sunshine through the clouds and see that my DH is truly happy to help, too balance all of the ways I help him that I may not even realize. Best wishes to you both as you await another snow melt and walk another leg in your body’s journey.

  10. Nice snow pictures! and glad to hear you’re keeping on top of the medical issues. Best of luck and feel better in the fact there are thousands of people who would gladly trade their shoveling duties for hot chocolate barista.

  11. Thanks for sharing. It’s hard to watch our bodies change and break down when our minds seem to be growing and blossoming. How does that work? Beautiful snowy picture and best wishes for the new year, especially good health and happiness!

    • Hi Elaine. That body changing thing is a cruel joke — the fun’s only beginning and now parts of the body don’t want to play? 🙂 May the New Year be full of blossoms!

  12. We gave up the shovel for the snow blower years ago as my back injuries preventing my helping my husband shovel. But I always wonder what we would do if our health prevented us from living here…right now I hate the hour drive one way to work in the frequent snow storms….but for now I have no choice….so I wish you a Happy New Year with less snow.

  13. Dear Kevin – Beautiful post and even more beautiful photos. Living in VA, we rarely get to see the lovely white stuff. However, it stays pristine a little longer than it does in your neck of the woods. And, it is usually gone by the next day! Sorry to hear of your latest blockage. Please keep me posted.. Love to you and Joe! Aunt Pat

      • Wait, which photo? I did like the photos but what I meant was that I really enjoyed the way you expressed yourself in the post. I liked reading it and was moved by learning about how things changed for you. Your words made me empathize with your feelings and well, kind of care for you- which I think is pretty special given that this post was all I knew about you when I read it. The pics are a really nice touch but you really got me with the writing. (:

      • Sorry about the confusion — but I’m glad that you enjoyed the snow post and found something special in my writing. I hope my senior moment doesn’t keep you away. 🙂

  14. Pingback: When The Fog Rolls In — And Out | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

  15. I feel the very same way when my husband is out clearing the snow here at The Portable Homestead, an apartment complex we live in that he manages. Thankfully he has 2 different snow blowers (depending on the amount of snow that falls), but I still feel awful as he clears away 6 side walks, 2 sets of stairs and 13 porches! Most of which can be done with the snowblowers, but there’s a fair amount of shoveling and chipping away at ice involved, then he has to put down ice melt anywhere he’s removed snow! He has blood pressure issues and despite being in good health and under a doctor’s regular care, I worry so much about him. I’m too short to clear his pickup truck and my mother is very particular about clearing her car off (she lives here at The Portable Homestead too), so I watch from the windows. I thought it would get easier as I get older, living with limitations that continue to grow, but I’ve found in recent years, it’s not so much. And then when it dawns on you that a lifetime dream may not come true because of said limitations, well… I digress 🙂

    • Hi Jo. What I find so inspirational about your writing/blog/tweets is that despite what you face, you are still able to find joy in everything, and to share so much of you. It’s not easy when health issues throw you a curve — fortunately, we can find ways to adapt. Thank you for your words and may you and your family stay warm and healthy. 🙂

  16. How is it I liked this post and didn’t comment on it??? I must have been outside my head.

    Anyway, it always seemed unfair to me (not that life is ever fair) when we follow the rules and shit happens to us anyway. I mean, there was no explanation for my 3 bouts of cancer. Everyone jokes that I am the healthiest person they know and yet I have had the worst luck health-wise. Go figure.

    That doc was a real d*ck for assuming you liked “the other kind of snow”. I lost my faith in doctors in 2010 when I had my 3rd and hopefully last bout with cancer. Long story, not worth getting into here.

    Since 2010 my motto has been: No one knows your body better than you!


  17. My husband has a congenital heart condition. A couple years ago his doctor told him he should not do anything that stresses his heart, including lifting anything over 20 pounds, in the continuing effort to prolong the life of his heart. So I do the shoveling (though my husband does use the snowblower), as well as taking out the trash, carrying suitcases, etc. I know my husband sometimes feels frustrated with his limitations, even though I don’t ever mind doing these things, just as I know Joe doesn’t mind doing the shoveling! I value my husband and all he does for me so much, and I am glad to be able to do something that can actually make a difference and help. I am sure Joe feels the same. I hope you find healing for your heart, as well as some better medical personnel (why are there always a few truly terrible ones along the way?!)!

    • Thank you for sharing your story. It’s so true that when an individual faces a medical issue, the whole family must adapt and adjust to the changes. It’s clear that you and your husband have big hearts. 🙂

  18. Hi Kevin:

    Clinically, I get what the doctors are saying. But, what I KNOW is that you have a beautiful, loving heart that has made room for SO many people. You ARE the kindest person I know. I’m glad to see that you’re doing what’s right for KEVIN! I have watched you care about/for countless teenagers over the years (and that’s NOT easy, folks!). You have, a will continue to make a real difference in their lives. Not to mention the adults! Take good care, Kevin…and take LOTS of wonderful pictures. They bring such warmth to everyone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s