I was musing this morning, whilst shoveling my driveway, if the memory of snow is like the memory of pain.
For some reason, over breakfast with my kids, we were talking about the fact that as humans we have a short memory for pain. We may remember, “Oh, that hurt,” but we don’t really remember the intensity, the constancy, of pain itself. Not the specifics of pain. (Just like once we are well, we forget how truly awful it was to be sick–until we get sick again.) I think it’s an evolutionary advantage for the species. I mean, who would ever have more than one child if the memory of pain was persistent?
We concluded that our brains are actually wired to forget the bad stuff in order to keep the organism alive, functioning, and reproducing (without eating the young). This is another reason I believe that people who suffer from certain types of depression really do have a chemical imbalance in the brain–they can’t forget the shit–no matter what Tom Cruise thinks it is.
But, anyway, to cycle back to snow…How is it that every year I look forward to it? I live near Buffalo, NY. I see a heck of a lot of snow in an average year. It’s not a scarce commodity. In fact, by April, it’s the bane of my existence. So why have I been so looking forward to a snowfall (not counting that awful, destructive surprise thing we got in October–on Friday the 13th, no less)?
Is it that I have a short memory for snow? And another thing! By the end of each snow season, I am an expert at shoveling. I know just how to do it in the most efficient, neat, productive way that takes into account such variables as the type and quantity of snow, the surrounding temperature, the extended forecast, the amount already at the edges of the driveway…I am one efficient snow-shoveling machine, come April. And yet, at the start of each season, I am clumsy and awkward, relearning it all. Is there no physical memory stored in the muscles of my body–like riding a bike or roller skating–that I can access on demand?
If it’s in there, it doesn’t kick in. It’s like I have to relearn snow removal each year as the temperature drops and the white stuff falls.
But, I shoveled this morning, enjoying every bit of my clumsy which-shovel-to-use-for-what attempts. I was even happy to see the pile covering the end of my driveway, where the plow passed and dumped a street’s worth of salted, chunky stuff.
I know this happiness–this I’m-a-snow-shoveling-beast elation–won’t last. But I intend to enjoy every minute of it for as long as it does.