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After months of winterbound isolation, neighbors play baseball outside with their kids, stop by to borrow a drill to fix mailboxes toppled by snowplows, talk about fishing, or garden plans over the fence. After months of ice and insulated closed windows, windows open to the smells of the Big Lake and sounds of new neighbor kids laughing.

The spring catch is coming in. Locally caught, Lake Michigan whitefish. Fresh. Smoked. Down on Sherman beyond the bowling alley, before the dunehill leading to the Big Lake, a family has been fishing the Big Lake for decades. Before the store, the whitefish was loaded onto an ice truck bound for Chicago and locals drove down a dirt road to a steel barn and a fishing boat on Muskegon Lake to buy fresh fish before it left. Only a few knew where to find it. Now there's a store selling locally caught fish.

The brown trout are running. And the smelt. The steelhead. The shanties of ice fishermen are gone. The boys and I ventured out onto the ice with hot chocolate, coffee, Cheetos, minnows, to fish the lake bottom for perch. Now we throw the ball. We clean the gutters. We gather the pine needles and leaves.

We plant the garden.

Carrots.Turnips. Radishes. Spinach. Tiny fingers poke holes in the dirt and drop starter watermelon and tomato seeds into small pots.

Tiny fingers.

We'll plant potatoes. The mailbox is upright again. Decay is under repair, and new decay is found.

After months of winterbound isolation, the reality of our domiciles is re-evaluated. Gathered. Collected. Appraised.

The work of repair begins. Of things that decayed in our icy absence.

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