On a cold and rainy Sunday morning, and feeling restless, I drive to the park to shoot some photographs. Most times, I try to capture certain images, but usually find that nature has other plans. She can’t be controlled or predicted, but she’s always generous.

Today I hope to photograph the birds, and although they are teasing me with their joyful songs, they are shy and hiding.

But I am gifted other images in their stead:

“View through the Railing of a Bridge”.



“Fragile Life”. So precious, tentative, and beautifully vulnerable.



“Tender Heart”.  The grey is pretty, but also serves to amplify the brightness and warmth of the sun.



As I’m leaving, something washes over me, overtaking me like a craving or a hunger pain, or nausea, or vertigo. It is Sadness. Acute. Profound. Demanding. It consumes me, pulsates through me, leaves me breathless, and finally rests on my chest.

I drive home, crying.

Christmas week comes and I am quiet. I will not be that person who schedules her grieving for the holidays. I will not be that person who is determined to dwell on everyone who isn’t here. I will not fault those who are blessed with family and festivities. I will stay home and be still. And I will give my grief the space that it needs for just this time. And not one inch more.

The day after Christmas, I awake restless and lonely. And although it’s unpopular to admit such frailty, today it’s filling more of me. I feel the largeness of my emptiness. Who would think that absence could take up so much room?

I cannot sit on the sofa and suffer. I must do something, so I drive to my parent’s house for snow shoveling therapy.

I shovel my parent’s corner lot.

And their Police Officer-next-door-neighbor’s lot.

And the house next to his.

And the one after that.

And the one after that.

I am proof that a cranky, grieving, obsessive, manically driven 54 year old woman can shovel an entire city block of snow by taking it one cement-sidewalk-square at a time.

As I smoothly push forward, I keep catching on the uneven parts of the cement. I am finding those spots where the sidewalk is cracked and lifted and I have jammed my shovel into them, jarring my momentum and hurting myself, as all of my force is unexpectedly and abruptly halted.

It gets me thinking about how we all expect life to be easier.

And how we are surprised when bad things happen. We feel betrayed when our bodies fail us or become diseased; we are dismayed when economies crash, unemployment flourishes, and daily life is a struggle; and we are overwhelmed and grief stricken when someone dies.

I think that life is like this stubborn, long-ass city sidewalk that I’m shoveling. Every couple of squares, some cement will rise up and stop us right in our tracks. We trip over it, we jam our shovels into it, and we cuss at it, wanting it to be smooth.

But we should expect things to be difficult, and inconsistent, and even tragic, and anything else . . . everything joyous, beautiful, or easy . . .  is a gift.

Once we accept that our journey will never be an easy one, it’s just a matter of learning to adjust and maneuver.

I am not performing good deeds today. I am thinking firstly of myself and working off this twisted emptiness. And although I enjoy knowing that someone will be surprised, it is a secondary, happy consequence.  Later though, I will remember and wonder if anyone is curious about who has favored them with this act. Or maybe they will mistakenly think better of their other neighbors for gifting them this labor of love? I hope so.

The best deeds are the ones you can’t be thanked for.

I complete my task, feeling calmer, and go home and put on my sweats and my grungy old greyish-white CVS bathrobe, and pour a cup of coffee.

Now, as I sit here writing, the muscles in my back begin to tighten . . . really, like . . . A LOT. I half-chuckle and open the blinds to let the light in.

It has begun to snow.


“The Woman, The Warrior.”


Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Grief/Healing, Holidays/Birthdays, Photography | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “SHOVELING SNOW

  1. Lynn Gardner

    You wrote that so well my back hurts 🙂 I wish you the happiest of new years, friend.

  2. Betsy

    Julia–this post takes MY breath away—-exquisite, I often wonder in a world so large with so many other humans, how can I, one person, feel so alone?????? And life goes on. Hugs.

    • Betsy, thank you. I was so insecure about posting this. You are not alone……I’m standing right next to you. ((hugs)). xoxoJulia

  3. gwpj

    Very nice Julia. I like the feeling of these words and how you put them together. I’m reminded of the day when I shovelled snow in front of our home in Seattle. These days in Sapporo winters, our building manager shovels the front walk. (The rest of the way is touch and go.)

  4. I have begun to look at the year ahead..through the eyes of my inner child. She is so very alive and well. This dark eyed child tells me to live WITHIN he year, season by season, smile to smile, kindness to kindness, wonder to wonder, thrill to thrill, untill the next year arrives. Year to year….and fill them with more exclamation marks than usual and question marks…so that life remains an equisite mystery… replete with beautiful possibility .Then start all over again.! Loved your article and photographs..truly inspired.
    Happy New Year Julia!

    • Thank you, Patty. I love your thoughts and ideas on living life and embracing your inner child. You have been such an inspiration. Thank you. xoJulia

  5. jeff heck


  6. joanie

    So wonderfully and truly written, thank you, Jules. LuvU

  7. Kim

    This is simply perfect. Marvelous. Jen and I have often lamented about why our lives always have to be so hard. We watch so many people have things just fall into their lap while we struggle and bust our butts just to survive. And the funny thing is, we are good people! We strive to put forth good things in this world. But you are right. Life is supposed to be hard and the blessings are gifts. I am grateful for each one that comes my way. By the way, thanks for also explaining about the shoveling. My neighbor across the street is always either raking my lawn, or shoveling my snow. I was worried that she thought I was being lazy for not getting out there the minute the snow or leaves fall. Now I know it is her way of blowing off steam. I appreciate benefiting from it.

    • Or maybe she’s just kind, Kim, and wants to do you a favor! Maybe she knows how hard you work and she sees you laboring to care for things. You never know…….! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts and your support. xoJulia

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