This morning my wife and I woke up to a winter wonderland.
Our ten acres in rural south Salem looked beautiful, as did most of the rest of western Oregon after arctic air flowing southward collided with a low pressure disturbance rolling into the northwest from the Gulf of Alaska.
But with that beauty came a lot of problems. Many accidents on roads and freeways. Clogged traffic as people traveled the day after Christmas. And for us, five and a half inches of snow on our steep, long driveway.
After lunch I got out our ergonomic snow shovel (with a curved handle). It took me a bit more than two hours to clear our driveway, aided some by my wife. It's simple labor, pushing the snow from the middle of our driveway off to one side, then pushing more snow from the middle to the other side.
I've done this quite a few times during the 31 years we've lived at our house. Shoveling snow is good exercise. It relieves my snowstorm anxiety -- will the power go out? can our cars get up the driveway? -- when I stop worrying and start shoveling.
This time, though, my thoughts weren't as relaxed as they usually are. As I wrote about yesterday on my churchless blog, one reason was a form of PTSD following a nasty ice storm last February that left us without power for twelve days and lots of tree damage.
Sure, snow is different from ice. I knew that this storm would be much less serious than the one earlier in the year. Still...
As I cleared the snow from our driveway I found myself thinking about global warming, which really should be called global climate change, because the effects of rising greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere can include much more than warming.
Like, unusual cold spells. And unusual snow amounts.
It's rare for us to get over five inches of snow in a single day, with several inches more falling after sunset, and the snow is still coming down.
While I was shoveling away this afternoon, occasionally the sun would come out and I'd feel better. But then the snow would return. I'd think, "What if it ever snows heavily for an entire week, or even longer, with bitter cold preventing it from melting?"
This isn't an idle worry.
It's the sort of thing that will become more common as global climate change is increasingly serious. Drought. Flooding. Tornadoes. Blizzards. Hurricanes. Extreme weather already is becoming commonplace, and it will increase in frequency as greenhouse gas emissions continue to mount up.
I'm not saying that Oregon's current cold and snow was caused by climate change.
It's difficult to attribute most individual weather events to global climate change. However, it's well known that polar vortexes, where the jet stream bends markedly southward, allowing arctic air to flow into the United States, will be more common with climate change/global warming.
After I finished shoveling the snow off our driveway, I took our dog for her usual late afternoon walk. As we got to the end of a trail and reached the street that leads back to our house, I was thankful that I didn't have my iPhone with me.
Because if I did, I would have been tempted to get it out and take a photo of the buck with an impressive set of antlers standing in the snow on the other side of the road, nestled between two oak trees. Instead, I was able to savor the moment without technology intruding.
He was looking right at us. That moment was like a painting brought to life. "Buck standing in snow." As the dog and I walked onto the road, the buck ran off, with a doe following him. It was a special moment. I was grateful to see this gorgeous creature.
Who was a part of nature, not of our human world. Moments like this remind me that we humans are unique among all other animal species in our capacity to massively screw up the natural environment that we, like the deer, depend on to sustain our life.
The buck is fortunate not to have his mind filled with thoughts of catastrophe caused by reckless disregard of our place in nature. My mind is different. I just hope enough other human minds wake up to the need to deal with global climate change before it is too late to make a difference.