I had just come in from a satisfying round of roof-raking when Phyllis made her request. I had pulled a lot of snow off the kitchen roof, and now it was heaped below, reaching nearly to the level of the eaves.
"Do you think," Phyllis asked politely, "you could shovel the snow away from the kitchen window so I could see out?"
The last thing I wanted to do was move more snow, but I had to admit it seemed like a reasonable request. Is it so wrong for a woman to want to see out of her windows? Later, I trudged out with my shovel, crawled like a reptile up onto my head-high snowbank and shoveled down, down, down until the window was clear. A couple of days later, after blowing more snow from the drive against another kitchen window, Phyllis made a similar request. I shoveled that window out, too.
The windows aren't windows so much anymore. They're more like portholes on some ship frozen in the Northwest Passage.
I'm sure folks in Florida have their problems - palm fronds falling into the pool, scalding sand under bare feet, those pesky hurricanes. No geography is immune from the vagaries of Ma Nature.
Still, I had to wonder about this winter of our malcontent when I crawled through a second-floor bedroom window this week onto a 20-degree roof incline. I was armed with shovel and roof rake. The forecast had come down, and it included the chance of significant rain. The guys at the barber shop were talking about it that morning, about the possibility of roofs collapsing under the weight of all that wet snow.
The words of a physician I'd run across a few days earlier were replaying in my brain as I gingerly placed my first foot on the roof.
"Don't get up on your roof," he had said. "We're seeing people every day who have fallen off their roofs."
Was I different than those unfortunate roof-shovelers? Technically, no. Although before venturing onto the roof, I had slipped a pair of cleats over my boots. Damn the shingles, baby. I needed traction.
Anyone dumb enough to climb onto a snowy roof has performed the hypothetical gymnastics: How much of a drop would it be? Is there enough snow below to cushion my fall? Could I somehow miss the cleared sidewalk and actually land in the snow? Would it be best to land feet-first, risking a plunge, or try to spread-eagle on the way down to minimize the plunge factor? Would it be a shattered femur, a crushed ankle or a compressed spinal column?
And, of course, Phyllis was stationed just inside the window through which I had crawled out. The plan was that I would yell on my way down, and she would call 911. We didn't explicitly discuss that. If you've been married 48 years, some things are just understood.
I did not fall. I removed a lot of snow and got my rear end back inside as soon as possible.
Then I took a shovel and one of those big scoops up on the garage roof and spent another hour trying to stay right-side up. Mission accomplished.
I have a friend in Arizona. Phyllis and I went to see him a couple weeks ago. He has his problems, too. Had to lower the water level in his pool, take a pumice stone and scrape off the chalky residue that had accumulated at normal water line. Had to stand waist-deep in the pool to do it, probably in the hot sun.
But I noticed he could easily see out the windows of his house.
Sam Cook is a freelance columnist for the Duluth News Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find his Facebook page at facebook.com/SamCook.