The Days Are Just Packed…

An incessant beeping. I become aware of a pillow, and the sound becomes my alarm clock. I silence the offending device with more luck than aim.

I feel out of sorts, extracted so roughly from my dreams. I am certain that the makers of alarm clocks engineer them with minute precision to attain the exact pitch to provoke annoyance.

It is mid-April, and that dawn has not yet fully broken tells me it is early indeed. I stretch and give my head a shake, and swing down the hole in the loft to land on a chilly floor.

I light a fire, though I’ll be gone before it heats up the cabin, and the sun will take over before I’m home; it’s hard to change early morning habits.

Kettle on, I gather up lunch and snacks for the day: kale chips, sprouted buckwheat porridge with miso and lambsquarters from the freezer, salmon jerky from last year’s Pink run, rhubarb-raspberry fruit leather, and some walnuts my mother sent up from her tree in B.C.

Crunchy carrots and a flask of yarrow-fireweed-mint tea round off the lunch bag, packed in with filet knife, fish bonker (patent-pending I’m sure), licence and tackle. I whip up a smoothie for the road: wild blueberries and cranberries with yoghurt made from frozen goat milk. Ready.

At 6:50 I head out to feed my dog, and at 7:00 on the dot a tiny blue Toyota trundles down the drive. My pack and boots find their way in amongst a sled, auger, rods and a rather hyper young lab.

As we drive, I wake up slowly to stories of past ice-fishing adventures, some new, others familiar. When we reach our destination, the sun is just clearing the mountains to the east of the lake.

Under a blue sky and a light breeze we pack the sled and I step into harness. Sun and wind have cleared the lake to a slick surface that limits us to a slow shuffle.

The dog yips and runs in circles as we drill the first hole. Within 10 minutes I land a small trout bearing healed scars on her sides, perhaps from the net set at the other end of the bay.

Later on when I’m cleaning her I will find parasites throughout her GI tract and liver – it ain’t easy being a fish. I thank her for it.

Four hours and three holes later, I catch the second and last fish of the day, another trout, this one larger and healthier. She is beautifully mottled, green and silver. Both were swimming about 50 feet down.

We’ve been jigging solid, pausing only to eat with one hand while the other holds the line, or try a new hole. The wind is picking up and clouds that have been slowly gathering all morning are becoming thick. With an eye on the sky we stretch and pack up for the slow journey back to the car.

I drive while everyone else sleeps, getting home at 3 p.m. Eight hours for eight pounds of fish – a good day but not done yet. I fillet the large one, freezing half and making gravlax with the other.

I season it with salt, birch syrup and the last of the fir tips from the previous spring; new ones will soon be ready. I remove the gills and put the head and carcass aside for stock.

The other fish I take over to my neighbours’ to share along with vegetables from our garden and homemade kimchi and pesto. Someone even brings out a bottle of rosehip soda.

I put my feet up after supper, thanking my past self for the food I ate today, in order to put some away for the future. This forager is ready for bed.

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