There’s a poem I like by Billy Collins called “Shoveling Snow with Buddha.”

In it, the poet imagines just that. 

He’s shoveling snow with Buddha. They work quietly, enjoying the labor, enjoying the snow, enjoying one another’s company without speaking then go inside for hot cocoa.

I think of it every winter when the first big snowfall hits and I’m out there with the snow shovel myself.

The solitude, the sweat, the cold, the connection with the natural world all conspire to make me forget that my back will be hurting later and that by the time February rolls around I will hate shoveling snow.

That first time is special.

But this winter something different happened.

Buddha — or a suitable facsimile — showed up.

It was a few weeks back when that first 6 inches or so was dumped on the area. Connie had gone down to Bloomington to spend some grandparent time with the newest granddaughter, so the snow shovel beckoned and could not be ignored.

I started at the back door, clearing the step, then clearing a path to the garage. (There was football on TV that afternoon, and I needed to make sure there was a path to the old refrigerator where the beer supply was stored.)

Then I made my way around the house, clearing a seldom used walk then cleaning off the front stoop. (It doesn’t really qualify as a porch.)

I was about halfway down the front walk, heading toward the street when I heard it: A snowblower.

Someone, a guy I didn’t know, dressed in heavy duty Carhartts was working his way down a sidewalk across the street. A little girl — a grandchild as it turned out — was following along, trying to stay out of the way but getting in the way just the same.

I kept shoveling, trying to remember the words of the Billy Collins poem in my head as I worked, and the snowblower kept chugging along.

That particular snowfall was wet and heavy, and my progress was slower than I would have liked.

Just about the time I reached the sidewalk that passes in front of our house, the guy with the snowblower showed up. With a couple of quick passes, he’d reduced my labor by about half an hour.

He looked a little bit more like Genghis Khan than the Buddha. He could have passed for a biker or a ZZ Top wannabe. But he had a huge grin on his face and was clearly enjoying himself.

He offered to help with the driveway, but we both agreed that Pat Gibson’s place next door was a higher priority.

So he moved on, a clearing not only Pat’s sidewalks but her driveway. Then he crossed the street to provide similar help to another widow.

By then, I was finishing up shoveling our own driveway and was beginning to wonder what Billy Collins found so enchanting about digging out.

The guy with the snowblower — I was already thinking of him as Buddha — showed up just as I was finishing and dispatched the last of the white stuff in a matter of seconds.

“Are you done, Grandpa?” asked the little girl.

He nodded and gave another smile.

“Not bad for a couple of grandpas,” I said as we looked around the neighborhood.

We didn’t go inside for hot cocoa, but Connie’s baked some cookies for Buddha that we’ll be delivering soon.

And Buddha’s name in this incarnation?

Bob Guntle.

Who knew?