For Leavitt, 38, the ice has always been a place to bring her life into focus.
When her family would drive from downstate Michigan to visit her grandparents, who owned the lakeside camp at the time, Leavitt would layer on warm clothes, collect a cooler of minnows from the bait shop, and walk out onto the ice as far as she could. She'd crank her hand-powered auger, cut a channel through the thick ice, and open a portal to the quiet underwater world.
The old-timer at the bait shop had handed her a rod -- a scant three feet long, designed for ice fishing -- off the wall the first time she'd gone in there. He showed her how to tie a lure, and how to tip the rod up and down to make the lure and minnow glitter in the water's depths. That first rod hangs on the wall of her shanty to this day.
Back then, when she was just a kid, it was a simple affair. She'd bring what little equipment she had out to the ice, perch on an overturned five-gallon bucket, and sit there for hours, tipping the nose of the rod up and down like a conductor's baton, calling to the symphony of fish below. She didn't catch much. But the feel of it -- the clouds skidding overhead, the water changing colors below her feet, the wind swishing past -- got locked into her brain as the essence of winter.