A Meditation on Snowplows

by Melannie Svoboda SND on January 27, 2014

I have this thing about snowplows. I like them. I especially like them when I’m in my cozy little house and I hear one rumbling down the street. Sometimes I even go to the window just to watch it go by.

snowplow road

The kind of snowplow that rumbles down our roads.

As most of you know, I live in Chardon, Ohio, in the snowbelt of northeast Ohio. Some say Chardon is the buckle of the snowbelt. Our heavy snows are due to two factors: our altitude and Lake Erie. Chardon, at an altitude of 1,299 feet, is at the extreme western edge of the Appalacian plateau. Go just 30 miles east to Cleveland and the altitude drops to 791 feet. That 500 feet can make a difference in snow levels. But Chardon’s proximity and angle to Lake Erie is the chief culprit for our heavy snowfalls. We get the so-called “lake effect” snow. When the winds blow from the west and north, they pick up the moisture from Lake Erie (if it’s not frozen yet) and dump heavy snows upon us. If Cleveland gets 5 inches, Chardon gets 12 inches. If Cleveland gets 12 inches, Chardon gets 22. You get the idea.

We Chardonites take pride in our heavy snow. I guess we think it builds character. It certainly gives us bragging rights. I still tell people about the time I was living in Detroit in the mid-90’s and my little town of Chardon was featured on the national news. The national news. It seems Chardon had gotten 67 inches of snow in three days. They showed clips of a man walking on the flat roof of a building using his snow blower. The sight made me homesick.

But back to snowplows. Why do I like them so much? First of all, they clear the roads making it possible for us to travel with greater ease and greater safety. The big trucks plow any time of day or night—whether I’m awake or sleeping. I like being in bed at night or in the early morning and hearing a snowplow rumbling down the street. They do rumble. Sometimes they even shake the house a little. What power! The very sound of them and their yellow flashing lights make me feel safe, tended to, cared for. Aren’t those some of the same words I use when I think of God’s love for me? Maybe snowplows tap into that deep primordial longing of my soul to be watched over. Who knows?

Is there anything more exciting than snowplows plowing in tandem?

Is there anything more impressive than snowplows plowing in tandem?

Maybe I also like snowplows because my nephew John Svoboda sells and services them at his welding and fabricating shop in downtown Chardon. Needless to say, he’s happy when it snows, for it often means more business for him. So maybe this snowplow thing has a familial/genetic component. Again, who knows?

When I taught high school religion, I sometimes had students rewrite Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd”) using a different image. For example, the Lord is my coach, my best friend, my doctor, my dog. It may sound silly at first, but I think it was effective. So here’s a psalm I’ve written called “The Lord is My Snowplow Driver.”

The Lord is my Snowplow Driver, nothing shall I fear.

Though a foot of snow covers the road,

my Snowplow Driver will clear a path for me.

A Western snowplow, the kind my nephew sells.

A Western snowplow, the kind my nephew sells.

Even though ice makes my road seem impassible,

My Snowplow Driver will spread an ice-melter,

turning the treacherous ice into harmless water.

At night I rest securely

knowing my Snowplow Driver is on guard, on duty,

watching over the road I will take.

Even though in life I must travel through deep snows

or on slick ice, I fear no harm,

for You, my Snowplow Driver, go before me clearing my way. Amen.

 

NOTE: I have written the Catholic Update for Lent this year for Franciscan Media. The 8  1/2 in. by 11 in. 4-page booklet, entitled Catholic Update“Finding Our Way Again,” contains a brief reflection for every day of Lent based on the Mass readings of the day. It costs 75 cents each, but discounts are given on larger orders. For example, 10-99 copies are 49 cents each, 100-199 copies are 39 cents each, etc. You can order it at FranciscanMedia.org or by calling 800-488-0488. Thank you for considering this for your Lenten prayer.

NOTE #2: Next week I will share the results of the survey I gave on this blog.

 

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Magiera January 27, 2014 at 5:05 am

Sr. Melannie,

I live in snowy western New York State where we get lake effect snow from Lake Erie. It is a blizzard outside right now.

I like to hear the plows too (either for the streets or the guy who does our driveway). The snow plows help us get back on the street and salt they spread keeps us from slipping.

What a great psalm-prayer!

Kathleen

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Dear Kathleen, So good to hear from someone else who knows first hand the effect of “lake effect” snow. We are kindred spirits! Thanks for writing! Sr. Melannie

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Debra Doig January 27, 2014 at 9:01 am

Melannie,

Thank you so much for all your blogs. Thoroughly enjoy them. Today is particularly good and most fitting. I made a copy for each of the Grounds staff on your Snowplow meditation. What may be perceived as the ordinary, everyday winter activity, you’ve creatively turned into an extraordinary reflection by using our senses to make me (and us) think about the snowplows clearing paths for safety, security, well being and providing the way to get us where we need to be! What an awesome reflection. Thanks Melannie. Keep warm!

Debbie

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Dear Deb, What a creative idea–to give a copy of my snowplow meditation to the men who plow our driveways at the provincial center. I hope they liked it and know how much we appreciate their work! It was great hearing from you, Deb! Melannie

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Nancy Frederico January 27, 2014 at 9:21 am

Hi Sr. Melanie

Again, what a great post; especially the surprise ending! It seems we can always see God in the ordinary every day happenings. The rumblings do shake my house; windows anyway but what a comfort knowing I’ll soon be on my way!! I liken the truck caravan to circus Elephants marching through our streets and clearing the way! Haha!

Have a great day!

Nancy

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm

A nice comparison–of the snowplows to circus elephants! That put a smile on my face. Thank you, Nancy! Sr. Melannie

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Suzanne Sayer January 27, 2014 at 9:21 am

Love your snowplow driver psalm-prayer. Stay warm!

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Thanks, Suzanne! And you stay warm too! Melannie

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i chrusciel January 27, 2014 at 9:41 am

I would love to hear a snow plow. We haven’t been plowed for 3 days and the snow has drifted to 3 or 4 feet. Only main streets have been plowed. No school in most of southwest Michigan.

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I’m sure you must get lake effect snow too–only from Lake Michigan. I hope your roads get cleared soon! Thanks for writing! Sr. Melannie

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Jean Shott January 27, 2014 at 10:21 am

We got 8 inches of snow here Saturday. After slipping and sliding to work Saturday and Church Sunday, I wondered why the roads aren’t cleared as well on weekends as they are during the week. It makes me realize how much I take for granted the snow plow drivers who usually keep the roads clear and passable!

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Yes, Jeannie, we don’t always appreciate all it takes to keep those roads passable! Even though I live on the Church property, I still had to drive to Mass Saturday afternoon. The drifts were just too high on the sidewalks for me to navigate safely. The snow was coming down so heavily, the plows couldn’t keep up with the roads–let alone the sidewalks! Cousin, Dolly

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Kathy OFS January 27, 2014 at 10:58 am

This was interesting. I sure do miss the N.J. snow days. Waiting to hear on the radio if our school was closed and if it was we hung out with friends in the snow. We made forts snowmen and sleigh riding. Ice skating too but I could not master that. And yes the plows did come down our street which made it easy to build our forts as they made a big pile of snow. Such fun. Blessings Siochan Agus Maitheas Kathy OFS

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Dear Kathy,
You reminded me of when I was little and we had to listen to the radio to see if we had a snow day. We cheered when they called out, “St. Felicitas”–only they almost always pronounced it wrong: St. Feli-CI-tas, they’d say. And we’d cheer! And, like you, we built forts too. As Bob Hope would say, Thanks for the memories! Melannie

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Mary Schneider January 27, 2014 at 11:14 am

One snowy December I was trying to get to my Nevada mountain home from Reno to my hometown (elevation 6500 feet), when one of the seven (yes 7) mountain passes was officially closed. I needed to get home to see my youngest child (only daughter) in a Christmas parade. As I prayed about how I could accomplish this, a snowplow moved the barrier so it could begin the assault on the snow. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I snuck in behind the plow and was able to follow it safely and get over the pass (about 8300 feet elevation). I made it home just in time to see the float my little angel was on. To this day I think of that harrowing yet rewarding occasion, and thank God for watching over all travelers on snowy roads.

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Dear Mary, I loved your story. Following a snowplow can be a “spiritual” experience. I’m so glad you got to see your little girl in the Christmas parade! Melannie

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maggie moore ssj January 27, 2014 at 12:11 pm

THANKS MELANNIE! I LOVE YOUR BLOGS. YOU CAN TAKE ANY
“WORD” AND GIVE IT A WHOLE NEW MEANING.
WHO ELSE COULD EVER DREAM UP WRITING ABOUT A SNOWPLOW??? GOD BLESS YOU .YOU ARE AMAZING.
KEEP WARM DEAR FRIEND..LOVE MAGGIE

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm

DEAR MAGGIE, THANKS FOR YOUR ENTHUSIASM! Melannie

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Sister Lalemant Pelikan, RSM January 27, 2014 at 12:30 pm

We don’t get that much snow here in Lubbock, Texas (southern end of the “Top of Texas” Panhandle), but I grew up in St. Louis, Mo. where the snow was always cause for rejoicing if it got deep enough to cancel school! My sister tells me I was born on a snow-day that she remembers very well… so maybe there’s the connection to why I always enjoy snow, even when it changes my travel plans. Other, interesting & exciting things usually develop instead of what I’d planned! Don’t have the affinity for snow plows, though, since it was mostly salt trucks that I remember.
Thanks so much for that wonderful “God is my Snowplow Driver” Psalm!

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Dear Sister, How wonderful: to have been born on a snow day! I’m sure that contributed to your positive attitude toward snow. Thanks so much for writing! And stay warm in Texas! Sr. Melannie

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Sr. Janet Deaett, SNDdeN January 27, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Hi Sr. Melannie,
I love your Psalm of the Snowplow Driver. As a teacher I love hearing the sound of the snowplow in the early morning hours. It often means a snow day and I can settle back for a few extra winks. Janet

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 27, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Dear Janet, Thank you for giving us a view from the perspective of a teacher! Kids aren’t the only ones who appreciate a snow day every now and then. Thank you for your response! Melannie

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Tom January 28, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Melannie,

You made the memories of winters in Chardon come flooding back. My preference was snowblowers, seeing the snow folding into the auger like dough into a mixer and then being propelled several feet by the prop.

As for a sound that could wake me from a deep sleep, propel me out of bed and get me to the window in a flash, it was the sound of a firetruck coming down North St. from the Square. I have my dad to thank for this, who never outgrew his days as a volunteer fireman, keeping one ear open to respond to the fire siren 24/7.

Thanks for seeing God in unexpected sights and sounds.

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 29, 2014 at 6:57 am

Dear Tom, Thank you for reminding us of the beauty of snow blowers too! And the sound of those fire trucks. I wrote about fire trucks (“Fire Engines: Symbols of Unselfish Love”) on May 20, 2013. Living on North Street, we hear and see those trucks often. Thank you for writing, Tom! Melannie (Readers: Tom was pastor here at St. Mary Church for many years.)

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Maryann February 12, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Hi Sr. Melannie, I’ve been thinking about this column today. Here in Charlotte, NC we are in the midst of a major “winter event” with few snowplows in the city and none to be seen off the interstates. (We simply don’t have enough of these “events” to warrant heavy duty equipment.) Your column does give me a renewed admiration for the amazing work of the snowplows, and snowplowers, I remember from NEOhio. They would have cleared this out in no time at all. Here, Mother Nature will be our snowplow, and that will work too. 🙂
All the best,
Maryann

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