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  • I raised my head a little, peering out the open front flap of the tent. I could just make out the backlit ridge across the lake. Then I let my heavy eyelids reclaim sleep. Ten minutes and half a deep dream later, my eyes flickered open to clouds, levitating above the spine of mountains, oranges and fuchsias beginning to tinge their undersides. "Honey," I said, "look outside." She opened one sleepy eye and said "oh, wow," falling instantly back into reverie.

    I climbed out of the tent, and made my way to the picnic table where I grabbed my fishing vest, pockets bulging with maracas of flies, spools of leader and various pocketknives and clippers. I climbed down off the high, pine-needle carpeted bank to the shore below where my overturned canoe lay on a rocky beach, enveloped by fog. A slight breeze made the glassy lake look like a sequin dress as I flipped the boat over and pushed off into the small cove.

    It was completely silent when I saw them, the only sound my paddle whirlpooling as I stroked my way to the center of the cove. Four in total, maybe fifteen feet away from my prow. They almost made negative sound, making me consider just how very silent the moment was by their placid presence, their jet black heads and beaks barely moving.

    I had my fly rod at the ready, thinking of how pleasant the soft whoosh would sound cutting through the fog, when they started, all at once. They shook their black heads, opened their beaks and let out ululating warning alarms, one after another, breaking the intimate peace. With each call, their black and white dotted bodies rose a little bit out of the water, and each call was returned quietly by sharply, reflected off the pines on the far side of the lake.

    As suddenly as they had begun, all four birds stopped making any sound, resuming the stillness. I looked up behind me. Most of the mist rising off the water had dissipated, and the clouds had turned umber, well on their way to the yellow of daybreak. When I turned back around, three of the birds had disappeared, and the fourth stretched and flapped its wings awkwardly and dove underwater.

    I waited a beat, then raised the rod, pulling a loop of line, cast back, and then forward, back again, then forward into the cove, rolling my line into the black morning water.
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