As of yet, the violet morning glories still cling to the front porch lattice and to summer, although we have come officially to the end of the season.
The weather has been unseasonably warm at the summer house for late October, but we know as native New Englanders that a sudden frost and freezing temperatures are imminent.
During the past few weeks we have winterized the summer house.
First we emptied the kitchen and laundry room cabinets, filling the trunk with enough groceries to suspend trips to the supermarket for a while.
Then I vacuumed all the rooms, sucking out a pail of sand hidden within carpet fibers.
Next I lifted the window screens and dropped in all the storm windows.
Finally, we emptied the refrigerator – a freezer-full of hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, steaks, and tubs of ice cream, as well as half-filled bottles of mustard, relish, ketchup, salad dressings, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise and pickles.
Looking around, the place was clean and neat and sad.
What is a summer house without friends and family sprawled on the sofa, sleeping dogs curled at your feet, the sounds of football and baseball games blaring on the TV, the smells of clamboils bubbling on the stove and smoky barbecues wafting through the windows?
All that will remain is for my husband and his friend to drain the pipes. Unable to emit heat or light, the summer house will sit in cold and darkness, waiting in silence for our return next spring.
One of my favorite short stories is “The Country of the Pointed Firs” by Sarah Orne Jewett, who tells the tale of a lone woman visitor to a small coastal town in nineteenth-century Maine, where she bonds with the inhabitants and leaves regrettably at the end of the season.
Every year I feel her pain and sense of loss as we lock the door behind us.
“When I went in again, the little house had suddenly grown lonely, and my room looked empty as it had the day I came,” wrote Jewett. “I and all my belongings had died out of it … So we die before our own eyes; so we see some chapters of our lives come to their natural end.