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.