Ten days, a couple of them unseasonably mild and rainy, and the 25 to 32 inches (depending where in town you dropped your yardstick) of snow that buried Winchendon and made us briefly famous was all but gone. It was an extraordinary weather event, the kind we can reasonably expect not to see every winter, or not to see more than once. It's had lasting effects; some of my muscles still hurt. The snow usually starts more slowly and gives us a chance to toughen up gradually with easier shoveling jobs. But stings to self-esteem and feelings aren't as easily smoothed with ibuprofen and a hot shower.

At this week's Board of Selectman meeting, Town Manager Keith Hickey described the challenges the DPW faced with some equipment. The equipment malfunctions weren't predictable and they were no one's fault--at least, they certainly were not the fault of the DPW. The sidewalk plow which lost a drive chain twice because town residents left trash like mattresses on the sidewalks for the plow to run into--that was definitely not the DPW's fault.

But Mr. Hickey also talked about nasty and abusive phone calls and Facebook comments left for the DPW. He stated that the DPW crews, who were working around 16 hours at a stretch, didn't deserve that kind of treatment. And he's absolutely right.

When a storm is dropping that much snow, at a rate of four inches an hour, it's unreasonable to expect road crews to "keep up with it." That's simply not possible. Perhaps the Governor should have called a state of emergency, as Selectman Barbara Anderson argued on Facebook. But unlike, say, the Blizzard of '78, this storm was localized. Most of the state didn't get nearly as much snow as we did.

Under those circumstances, if we're getting angry at other people for not fixing the unfixable, it shows a sense of entitlement. We get angry because of our expectations. We don't expect that much snow three weeks before winter is supposed to start. We don't expect to shovel for hours one day and get up the next morning and have to shovel even more fresh snow than we just cleared. But it's one thing to grumble (or yell) at Mother Nature or God or the fickle finger of fate. It's another to pick up the phone and rage at a total stranger who has been driving a plow for two days.

If there's one thing powerful weather events should teach us, it's humility. Before the forces that freeze the world, flatten buildings and sculpt mountains, we can do nothing but get out of the way. There is no plan or preparation that can protect us from all inconvenience in every contingency. We can outfit our homes with generators, stock up on emergency supplies, fill water jugs and the wood boxes and top off our cars' gas tanks. But there will be times when life's normal routines are going to be disrupted for a longer period of time than is convenient. When that happens, we can take it as a lesson. It's not all about us. If we get angry, we can stop to ask ourselves just what we're angry about, and why we feel a sense of being wronged.

There will be more snow; there may be more monster storms. We'll plow, we'll shovel, and we'll go on with life. Before we know it, spring will be here. Three months is not a very long time.

I thought the DPW did a great job, considering what they were faced with. And I'd just like to thank the nice person who plowed the plow berm at the end of my driveway while I was shoveling the rest and went on their way--twice, on Monday and Tuesday! Wow, that was so nice of you! You showed how events like this can bring out the best in people. That's what makes us a community.

Inanna Arthen