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Survival Guide for the Polar Vortex: Ice Fishing

I spent Valentine’s weekend on ice.

After I realized that my husband and I had not been away for a weekend together in almost a decade, I determined that I would go anywhere as long as we could have a getaway. We planned to go ice fishing in his new ice house trailer months ago. Little did we know that it would be on the coldest weekend of the year.

But, we were prepared. We brought extra blankets in case our two-person sleeping bag wasn’t as warm as advertised. My husband made sure that our portable toilet facilities were functional. I planned more food than either of us would consume in a weekend. We had two generators in case the new batteries failed. We had a portable TV satellite. I had my projects and supplies for writing, reading, knitting, and art journaling while my husband listened for the rattle reels.

To be honest, my husband shouldered more responsibility than I did. Most of the items on the checklists were beyond my limited ice fishing vocabulary. He was the one doing most of the bone-chilling dirty work. I was literally along for the ride as was our male Labrador Retriever, Shadow. He was quite convinced that his owners had lost their minds.

This going-to-the-camper was nothing like the summer camper experience he knew from puppyhood. I wonder if he thought he was going to have to be like Buck in Call of the Wild, a movie he watched with us recently. Because of his despondency in taking my proffered treat–as the snow and ice from the augered ice holes slowly melted on the faux-wood floor–I think he thought we had taken him to eternal desolation. His dog bed on the jackknife couch close to the heater was his greatest comfort. After all, his bathroom facilities were outside. He missed Chanel, our female Labrador, but I think he may have realized why we hadn’t brought her. Ice pops increase with falling temperatures, and there is a soundwave effect when trucks and plows drive over the ice. It is akin fireworks only from underneath. Chanel, otherwise unflappable, hates fireworks. He was happy for her ability to be at home, although perhaps mildly envious of her as well. He may have wished we had brought the cat if only for the possibility of a near-drowning should the cat fall into one of the ice holes. Shadow wanted nothing to do with those things that rattled when his tail wagged by, and he made no move when my husband pulled a snack-sized walleye from one of the holes on Saturday afternoon.

That was the only fish he caught.

We did have winning raffle tickets for the event supporting veterans–a gift card for a rural discount supply store and a caddy we need to go get from the event coordinator. We had a Saturday supper of pulled pork, baked beans, and fries from one of the food trucks. We posted pictures online of the windows, the black trim completely white with frost.

I spent the weekend inside on one of the table’s bench seats with my stash of supplies. Dr. Zhivago played on TCM as I pasted doodles of plants in my art journal. I marveled at the ice-encrusted, abandoned estate heated only with a small, wood-burning stove where Yuri, Lara, and Lara’s daughter hide as Yuri writes his poetry. In my own chosen situation, I felt safe, warm, and content.

After we packed up on Sunday morning and as we ate our breakfast, I assured my husband I would join him again on another ice fishing adventure. After all, if I could enjoy myself at -40, I could survive just about anything. Although I did remark at some point that if he had ever implied I would be doing something like this on Valentine’s weekend when I was sixteen and he was seventeen, I would have thought he was crazy.

Turns out, I am. And more in love with him than ever.

What more could I ask for on Valentine’s Day?

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV

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