Lessons From a Five-Foot Snowman

I spent most of last week in Squaw Valley with my extended family, enjoying a much-needed vacation and holiday.  Wednesday morning, my son and I decided to snowshoe out into the new-fallen snow (read: three feet of base and another three feet of fresh powder dumped by Tuesday’s blizzard) and make a snowman.

As we headed into the meadow we passed the resort’s cross-country trail groomer, who was just heading in for a break.  When we mentioned our plans he said, “Great idea! But you’ve got your work cut out for you in this dry snow.”  (For the uninitiated: “wet” snow clumps together easily, making snowballs, snow forts and snowmen.  “Dry” powder does not stick, and tends to collapse on itself, much like a handful of flour.)

I’d had the same thought myself, but Tesla had never made a snowman – and wanted to – and I was determined to make it happen.

We hoofed it into the meadow, looking for the perfect spot.  Three cross-country trails converged about halfway across the valley floor, and we decided to place our snowman in the unmarred powder near the crossroads.  After stomping out a circle in the snow, we set to work – but as I feared, the snow would not clump or stick.  We couldn’t make a single snowball, let alone a whole snow man.

Time to activate Plan B.

Three hours later we had created a five-foot mound of snow.  After that, it took only minutes to carve out the snowman’s head, torso and lower body, and a pair of broken branches became arms and a Sno-hawk’s worth of hair.

From snow that would not make snowballs, a whole snowman was born.  It wasn’t easy, but it was possible – though not the traditional way.

When we left for home on Friday, the snowman still stood, greeting every cross-country skier on the trails.  Given the weather and time of year, it’s likely he’ll stand there until Christmas, alone in the meadow with the rabbits and the jays.  Needless to say, Tesla was more than pleased.  As was I, though perhaps for a different reason.

Life sent us a blizzard.  We skied anyway.  Life sent us dry powder, but we made a snowman.

Everyone knew that snow would not stick.  Only a fool would try.  But sometimes the fool succeeds where the wise man fails, simply because he’s determined enough to find another way.  If the snow won’t roll, you pack it.  If the snow won’t stack, you pile it up and pat it down one arm-full at a time.  Eventually, if you keep at it, you’ll build yourself a snowman after all.  And trust me – the look on the snow groomer’s face made the victory even more sweet.

I’m not foolish enough to think I could build a snowman without snow, no matter how long I stood in an empty field.  But when the raw materials come together, determination and fortitude go a long way toward turning failure into success.

Life is a series of impossibles, punctuated by snowmen.  The question is, will you be the one who builds them or the one who stares in wonder, wishing he’d stuck it out?

Find your purpose, set your goal, and build your snowman.  If it won’t hold together at first, find another way to make it stick.  If it takes a little longer…stay the course.  In the end, I think you’ll find it was worth it.

I know it was to me.

One thought on “Lessons From a Five-Foot Snowman

  • November 30, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Great analogy. My daughter has taken to making macabre snowmen. We had so much snow for so long last year that in April she made a snowman committing suicide on our lawn with a sign that said, “Good-bye cruel winter!” Fortunately, even our stodgiest neighbors were sick enough of snow to appreciate it. Thanks for your post.

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