I was there this past weekend for a couple of days, heading north so not to miss my cousin Mark and his wife who were having a last northern weekend of the season. It was clear that being at the lake in mid-September and being there before Labor Day have little in common. While the trees are still mostly a bright green, there is little doubt that autumn is here.
During my summer walks, I am likely to encounter at least a dozen people, sometimes more, who are walking, jogging, biking, airing their dogs. During my two walks on this weekend, I saw only one person each day, one being walked by his two dogs, the other in full control of his canine.
I notice things that are more likely to get drowned out in the summer clutter when I walk in the fall. I can hear my footsteps on the pavement, birdsong from five or six different kinds of birds, distant highway noise, the sounds of the leaves as a gentle breeze rustles them, the faraway bark of a dog. All these sounds are muffled in the summer, eclipsed by road traffic, playing children, beach music, motor boats and jet skis. I notice the morning light on birch trees and hear the numerous acorns that drop at my feet as I walk along.
The lake is quiet. Rather than the usual parade of power boats and jet skis, I hear the gulls as they fly overhead and the ducks as they approach the shore. The odd fishing boat makes a gentle putt-putt sound and yes, I can hear the splash of the fishing lure as it hits the water.
The crowds in town are lighter. We had no need to wait in line for a breakfast table on Saturday morning at a popular restaurant. There were plenty of tables to be found. My few forays into stores found me next in line each time.
A road trip to a larger lake a bit north brought a walk on the docks of a marina.
Many boats had been pulled from the water. Others were still docked but there were few people at this usually bustling spot on a crystal clear, blue-sky day.
The only spots of autumn's reds and golds were the brightly colored skeins in the shop at the fiber mill.
And no, I couldn't resist.
A walk down the beach reveals docks and boat hoists pulled high into the sand. Cottages that only a few weeks ago were bustling with children and summer people have yard chairs stacked outside by their garages and power boats covered with tarps in their back yards. They will probably return again, as we will, to button things down for the winter.
When we aren't rushing to make the most of our summer we have time to have a leisurely conversation. My "Lady of the Lake," Fran, shared reflections on her recent 98th birthday and I chatted with my cousin's next door neighbor, Phil, as he helped me try to piece together the "Who lived here way back then" of his family.
There are no campfires now, no spots of flame on the beach after the sun has gone done. But it's clear that more than one cottage is being warmed with a fire inside. Meanwhile, the pitch black night skies with hundreds of thousands of stars sparkling above evolve into a mass of giant cotton balls against a blue velvet sky when the morning fog clears.
The light has changed, too. The sun rises later and sets earlier, the days of 10:30 p.m. dusks being a memory of July. I look out in the morning where a foggy mist rests on the lake for a few hours, then revealing a beautiful sun, a rich blue sky and hundreds of thousands of sparkles reflected on the lake.
And the sunsets are glorious.
The sun appears to be setting a bit more to the south. This weekend, as a special gift, I spotted a sun dog, it's prism reflection sparkling on the water.
A sun dog is a "false sun." They are an atmospheric phenomenon consisting of a pair of bright spots on either side on the Sun (that's Wikipedia talking and believe me, the article is fascinating.) They are extremely unusual in our parts and there was just enough cloud cover that one could nearly miss this one. Fortunately, its prism-like reflection on the water was a give-away clue.
As the sun gently slipped lower in the sky, ducking quietly behind the clouds, one couldn't help but look at the sky in awe.
How many more times will I see this magnificent sight this year? Who can say? I just know that this quiet time is a time I cherish, the sunset a gift.
The winter is only a month or two away. But this day I am warm and peaceful. And very happy.