It is the end of October, and my family and I are forced to face the inevitable: It is time to close up the summer house for another season.
Our sweatshirts are no longer ample protection from the cold winds, and we linger a few minutes at the beach before returning to the warmth of the house.
On Sunday afternoons we remain inside watching the Patriots play, rather than sunning ourselves in the back yard.
Then the day comes when my husband and his friend winterize the house, draining the water from the pipes to prevent freezing.
The season of sunny summer days and simple pleasures officially ends when my parents lock the door behind them.
As New Englanders, we look forward to the changing seasons in comfy woolen sweaters and welcome the beauty of the colorful fall foliage. But with each passing year, I find it more difficult to leave the summer house behind. I yearn to prolong the season because I know that things will never be the same again.
Eight months’ later when I return to the summer house, the population and landscape will be altered.
Some of our former neighbors will never return again, the for-sale signs placed prominently in the yards of empty houses. Others have already sold their homes, and real estate developers raze the old cottages and construct expensive new homes on the lots or rent the properties to a succession of weekly tenants.
I worry about my aging parents and pray that they’ll have many more years of good health and happy times at the summer house. They tire more easily these days, and the upkeep on the house proves more difficult with each passing season.
And I wonder if this will be the last season for all of us.
Sixty-seven years ago, many of the cottages on this peninsula were destroyed by hurricane winds and rising waters. Will this be the year that Mother Nature unleashes her fury again on our little stretch of coastline?
Sarah Orne Jewett best describes the feelings of separation from a seaside home as the end of the season approaches.
In “The Country of the Pointed Firs” she writes:
“At last it was the time of late summer, when the house was cool and damp in the morning … There was no autumnal mist on the coast, nor an August fog; instead of these, the sea, the sky, all the long shore line and inland hills, with every bush of bay and every fir-top, gained a deeper color and a sharper clearness. There was something shining in the air, and a kind of luster on the water. The sunshine of a northern summer was coming to its lovely end. The days were few then … and I let each of them slip away unwillingly as a miser spends his coins. At last I had to say goodbye to all my … friends, and my homelike place in the little house, and return to the world in which I feared to find myself a foreigner. There may be restrictions to such a summer’s happiness, but the ease that belongs to simplicity is charming enough to make up for whatever a simple life may lack. When I went in again, the little house had suddenly grown lonely, and my room looked empty as it had the day I came. 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.”
With gratefulness I bid farewell to another season. Every weekend throughout the long winter ahead, my husband and I will be drive-by visitors, checking on the summer house.
Then we’ll park our truck at the state beach, shut off the engine, and take in the beauty of our home’s winter face. With hot cups of coffee and tea cradled in our hands, we will plan.
Fogland is the stuff of dreams.