September 05, 2006

Summer's end

Yesterday at camp, Blonde Niece and I paddled one of the canoes across the bay and up Cattail Creek. We had to paddle against the wind to get to the mouth of the creek, so it was a relief to turn into the creek and drift quietly. The canoe swished over mats of tangled weeds and lily pads, moving through only inches of water above the layers of silky muck. The creek winds through acres and acres of cattails, a preserved wetlands, and when you are in a canoe, the cattails rise high above your heads so it's easy to feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.

Near the fork in the creek where the beaver lodge is, we saw movement in the water, so we decided to just stay still for a while to see if we could see a beaver. Sometimes you can see their fat bodies turning in the water, their tails slapping the surface. After a few moments, we saw a sleek small head duck under the lily pads. Not a beaver, but an otter. We watched quietly, the canoe drifting along, bumping up against the mats of water lily pads. The otter disappeared and we paddled lazily, talking a little about the school year that begins on Wednesday. Blonde Niece, Shaggy Hair, and Skater Boy are all in tenth grade this year.

Even the sounds of the creek are peaceful -- wind rustling the cattails, the hum of traffic on the far-off highway, birds flapping and twittering, the dip and splash of canoe paddles, the rustle of creatures coming through the reeds, the humming vibration of a big vessel going through the channel on the other side of the big island that separates this marsh from the river. In September, the lily pads crowd against each other, their edges curling and turning yellow, some of them even standing up sideways to flap in the wind. The cool air felt like fall, although when the sun came out for just a few minutes, we both removed our fleeces eagerly to feel that warmth on our bare arms.

Blonde Niece kept saying, "I wish I had a pond or something in my backyard. I'd canoe out to the middle every day after school just to be all peaceful."

When we returned to the dock, we both commented on how strange it looked to see the dock empty. On hot summer days, the dock is always crowded with family members sunning themselves, or washing their hair, or crowding into the boats to go out to an island for a swim. My father is often sitting on his sailboat, fixing something. The docks are usually piled with bright orange life jackets, and sneakers left behind by anyone climbing into a boat, and beach towels that have been used and dropped into a heap.

But in September, the dock looks bare. All the boats – my Dad's sailboat, the two small motorboats, all the canoes – have been pulled up onto the land, where they will remain for the winter. The season is over.

dock in september

16 comments:

Chip said...

sigh... only nine more months until summer. I still haven't pulled up our canoe, in the wistful hope that we'll get one more ride before it gets too cold.

Yankee, Transferred said...

I love that you have that relationship with blonde hair niece. There's nothing more fun than your siblings' kids. This is a beautiful post. It's still summer here for another 6 weeks!

listmaker said...

It's so sad to see summer go.

Beth said...

Beautiful, just beautiful. I think we're all a little sad today to see summer end. Blonde Niece has a good idea; I want a quiet pond in my backyard, too.

Linda (FM) said...

The end? Didn't it just get started?

ppolarbear said...

sigh.

zelda1 said...

While I love the fall and winter, especially the winter, I always find the end of a season sad, especially the summer. It always brings back the memories of my childhood and the knowing that those long days spent outside running and playing would be limited for the coming of the cold. Our mother was not fond of us going out during the snowing, unlike my children, who played every second in the snow, coming in only long enough for dry golves or to thaw out a body part. So, most of my snowy winter days were spent curled up in a blanket, in an extremely cold bedroom, reading. Now, that comfort of the warm blanket and being in the house during my childhood winters has carried over into my adult life and at the first hint of snow, I pick those books I want to hibernate with and then I do, hibernate.

Lauren said...

What could be lonelier than an empty dock?

Silver Creek Mom said...

But it's still beautiful and looks like it was well loved thsi past season.

Kristen said...

Since I live a suburban existence, it is fascinating to me to read about the more obvious signs of seasonal changes that you witness.

Leslee said...

Still looks beautiful!

MindSpin said...

Lovely, but were my canoe and a lake nearby, I couldn't put the boat up just yet :->.

YourFireAnt said...

How evocative! The photo and the writing. There is nothing like a place out of its season. The bleakness and uncrowdedness appeals on a certain nutty writerly level. It pulls at your alone bone, and makes you want to wrap yourself up in something, eat something, smell something brewing. Listen.

I respond to your wrapping-up details and farewell-ish slow prose. Good work, Jo(e)! You bring me in there with ya.

cloudscome said...

This post is so much like The Wind in The Willows, in the chapter where Mole and Ratty go out on the river "messing about in boats" and Otter joins them for a picnic. Do you know that story? You told your beautifully, as always. Thanks for the vision.

jo(e) said...

Cloudscome: Oh, I love that book. I know the chapter you mean. I wasn't acutally thinking of it when I was writing this post, but yeah, I was brought up with the idea that picnics on the river and just messing about in boats is a valuable way to spend an afternoon ....

Marie said...

Gorgeous writing, gorgeous photo. Bittersweet, with the end of summer, but beautiful nonetheless.