Farmer’s Calendar for January 2019

February 7, 2019

The cottages around the lake are locked, their pipes drained, shades pulled. Where just months ago kayakers floated on silky waters, now a pickup truck zooms onto the frozen lake, towing something that looks like a deluxe privy. A handful of shanties are sprinkled across the ice—a spontaneous colony of mostly quiet anglers. I find one of them crouched over his fishing hole, withdrawing his line. The monofilament is so slender, it’s hard to see; it’s as if he’s pantomiming the act with his hands. Finally, he crooks a finger in the emerging fish’s gill as he pulls out a lake trout. Its scales are emerald, mottled with iridescent, leopard-like spots. The man has just executed a magic trick, pulling this shimmering creature from the lake’s bottom—a gambler’s payoff in the coldest, least hospitable casino. He measures the fish against his tackle box ruler: just barely legal. He studies his treasure once more, then lets it slip back through the hole. In a swish, it is gone. The only sounds are the shushing wind, the buzzing of a gas-powered auger, and then, in odd moments, the booming ice. It’s a low bass sound, lubb-dub—the beat of a lake-size heart.

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