It is peaceful. The summer people have gone home. Kids have started school. I miss them, even though I love the quiet. I'm not talking about kids in my family but, rather, the children of summer, who play on the beach all through July and August, whose constant calls of glee as they tease the small waves of Long Island Sound drift up the hill to find me at my desk. Now I hear waves, wind in the trees, birds singing; but i miss the joyful beach sounds.
Still, there is plenty of joy. September skies are heart-cracking blue. The windows are open. A constant sea breeze blows through. It carries the first scents of fall. The leaves on the eighty year-old oak outside my kitchen window are still green, but there are clusters of acorns, and the green is darker, more subdued than it was last week. Soon they will turn golden. But not today.
I write at this desk. My cats keep me company, sleeping in old baskets that have been here so long, their woven slats have snagged bits of fur, silver and ebony, from cats who have long since left us. The baskets themselves have carried tomatoes and mint from my mother's garden, moonstones collected on the beach at dusk, pine cones to place on the mantle at Christmas.
This week I went sailing with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece. We left Noank on a day so sunny and warm it felt like the heart of summer, not the end of it, and we wound up in East Harbor. We swam and laughed, picnicked on produce from Whittle's Farm Stand, then swam some more. The heart tugs in September, perhaps more than any other time of year. There's an awareness that time may be short--next week weather could roll in, the temperature could drop, this might be our last good sail of the summer.
But the beauty of September is that we don't know. Every day is beautiful, and change is part of that. Fall is coming, and the air is spicy. I've found a warming bed for my oldest cat, and when she circles twice and lies down, the way she does, the heat of her body will be held in the mylar lining, and she will stay toasty all night. Soon there'll be no more corn at the farm stands, no more butter-and-sugar or silver queen. The last of the tomatoes, basil, green beans are here, but we don't know quite for how long. But I'm looking forward to apples, butternut squash, cider, pumpkins, shelves and shelves of yellow and russet chrysanthemums.
My sister said, as we were salt-crystaled from our swim, drying off in the sun on deck, "This is our last sail to East Harbor this year. The weather's going to change. I will get cold." I'm an optimist, but she's right: eventually the north wind will blow, we'll have a frost, we'll be wearing fleeces instead of bathing suits. But not today. So I could put my arm around her shoulder and say we'd be back next week, and the week after.
We turned for home, had a perfect sail, only one tack back to Noank. We took the dinghy from the mooring into the dock and hugged and said talk to you tomorrow, see you soon. And we would, and we would. I drove home to Hubbard's Point, to the small beach cottage my grandparents built, where the cats were waiting to be fed.
I fed them. The sound of the waves came through the window. The sun had set, the sky through the pine trees was fiery. My skin was still salty from the sail and swim, and I didn't want to wash it off. Not yet. I wanted to hold on to everythign about the day for as long as I could. I wanted to say thank you for it, I wanted to call it out, down to the beach, across the water.
It's no coincidence the name of the boat is Merci. No, I'm sure that's no coincidence at all.