PAT NEAL: Looking on the bright side of snow

MAYBE THE BIRDS know something we don’t: that spring is just around the corner.

The unseasonably cold weather has not stopped them from enjoying their seasonal pursuits of migration, mating and feeding.

Their behavior somehow suggests the vagaries of weather have less to do with the mystery of migration than the increasing number of daylight hours.

Despite the cold weather, flocks of fish-eating mergansers are streaming upriver to their mating grounds right on schedule with their seasonal clocks.

Ruffed grouse are drumming in the woods and the rumored sighting of the first buzzard of the year has thrilled the hearts of bird watchers all across the Olympic Peninsula.

Life goes on.

The wild creatures adapt to the cold in a variety of ways.

They fluff up their feathers, grow an extra layer of fur or put on an extra layer of blubber.

It worked for me.

Meanwhile civilized man with his big brain, fat wallet and all his technological advances spends his time complaining about the weather.

The locals used to say, “If you don’t like the weather, go back to where you came from.”

Except in this case it’s mostly the locals doing the complaining.

This too shall pass.

And when spring finally does arrive, we will be confronted with a whole new set of problems that will almost make all of this winter’s accursed snow shoveling seem like fun.

Say what you want about the snowy, cold and windy weather, but it retards the growth of that other seasonal curse, the lawn.

Also known as America’s largest crop, the lawn is a textbook example of what could be the most useless invention in human history.

The lawn bloats our carbon footprint by burning fossil fuels to cut, vacuum and aerate it.

The lawn pollutes our precious clean-water resources with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, and robs us of our creative potential through the engagement of the rigorous mowing regime that we must repeat week after week until the lawn shrivels up in the summer heat and dies of its own accord.

Sometimes I think of all of the really wonderful wilderness gossip columns I could write if I didn’t have to mow the lawn.

I’m talking about uplifting stories of the victory of the human spirit in the face of adversity that could improve our lives with the certain knowledge that things are getting better, but no, I have to mow the lawn.

And you are stuck reading this stuff.

Unless the weather stays cold.

Incredibly, people who live here complain about the snow because, “You can’t do nothing.”

Not true.

Snow storms, blizzards and white-outs represent the perfect time to do nothing.

The fact is that in our modern society of labor-saving this and time-saving that, we often don’t have time to do nothing.

This is unfortunate.

Scientists are only now discovering the health benefits of doing nothing.

Studies have shown you can do nothing to lower your heart rate, respiration and blood pressure.

Doing nothing is a good way to avoid exposure to the sun’s harmful rays.

The snow tends to keep people safely indoors doing nothing.

Doing nothin does not require energy from fossil fuels, which makes doing nothing an affordable, sustainable, environmentally responsible activity the whole family can enjoy.

Even better, our politicians haven’t dreamed up a permit for doing nothing … yet.

Every cloud has a silver lining and the snow gives us all a chance to do nothing.

If you do nothing else this winter join the millions of others who are already doing nothing.

There’s nothing like it.

And besides, doing nothing beats mowing the lawn.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal

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