I still cling to the ideal of the winter wonderland, but you tend to forget certain inconvenient facts.

Several inches of pure white snow under a blue sky is spectacular, but the cold gets old in less than a dozen scoops in the driveway.

I used to love this stuff Ė six winters in northern Minnesota, by choice, a couple of decades ago when I was younger and certainly more foolish Ė but one forgets a central, hard-won lesson.

An honest-to-goodness winter is giant time tax.

Sure, life is full of time taxes: standing in line at the grocery store, the meeting that starts late, the friend with the pictures from Cancun.

Winter beats them all. Itís not just the added work but the brain space required to think it all through in advance: Dress. Add layers. Find boots. Shovel walk and driveway. Brush and scrape car. Go to destination. Remove layers. Thaw body parts.

Now itís lunch time. Repeat.

Winter also imposes a certain immediacy. You can blow off mowing the lawn for a couple of days, but the snowy driveway needs attention right now.

Still, you can only go so fast. Donít buy the he-man shovel. It will shorten your life. Grab the right one and plug away. Stop for coffee now and then.

Our lives are rush-rush-rush, at least most of the time, overcommitted and underenjoyed. But in winter, itís as if the message is, Earth to Earthlings: Slow down.

So itís scoop snow, step, step, toss. Scoop, step Ė easy on the back, now Ė toss. Again, and again, and again. Donít count the scoops, and donít look at your watch too often. Itís not worth it. Nature is teaching you some mysterious lesson, one scoop at a time.

I think the lesson might be this. The seasons Ė a time to sow, a time to reap, a time to rest Ė endure, but we imagine ourselves as having evolved past that. We have built a world out of sync with natureís rhythms. The farm is all but forgotten, and fewer of us garden. The office, the mall and Facebook are 24/7/365.

Maybe whether one views a 9-inch snowstorm as a thing of beauty or one more damn hassle is a measure Ė a warning Ė of how far we have come.

So nature says, I matter. I will bring the 100-plus in the summer. I will give you gentle days in spring and subtle, spectacular beauty in fall. And some days I will dump half a foot of snow, and you, my friend, will yield to my whims. You will pay my time tax. Deal with it.

Iíd better get outside. The driveway isnít done yet.

Jeff Fox is The Examinerí s business reporter and editor. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net or 816-350-6313. Follow him on Twitter @FoxEJC or @Jeff_Fox.