Time moves faster in October. The abruptness of an overnight frost. The sudden thud as the sun drops behind the sentry of pine trees lining the cove. The peach-gold light seeping from the sky. You know fall is here when the mice wake you up, scampering through the walls on a cold morning like they did the first winter I lived in this house. The clank of the baseboards, crisp morning air coming through my cracked window—a half inch on early fall nights but when cool gives way to cold, it’s closed for the season.
In the harbor, sailboats and docks are hauled in for the winter; only a handful of lobster boats and dinghies remain. Window shades in the island’s seasonal cottages are drawn: the eyelids of the houses slowly closing for winter hibernation. Storm doors replace screens. Porches cleared of vibrant canvas deck chairs and umbrellas.
I, too, will depart soon for my winter home and family, trading the timeworn cedar clapboards of this childhood home for the stuccoed Scottsdale landscape.
This week–my last on the island–is heavy with the leaden air of finality. The End. Of my solitude, when days passed with only deer, seals and seagulls to converse with. Of the silent disconnection that fueled creativity and inspiration to complete a year-long writing project and embark upon another. Of my frequent dinner dates with my father and how our relationship deepened over lobster rolls and New Yorker essays.
And it is the end of weekly visits to my mother, who, like the abrupt shift from summer to fall, changes from week to week. In this endless uncertainty, I have learned to embrace her dementia even if we must be ten feet away from each other, outdoors and masked.
This summer, I stepped into my mother’s past life, assumed her role as head of the household, baked her blueberry cake and entertained neighbors with iced tea on the porch. This island, this house, this state, have been a part of my heart for nearly half a century. Here will always be home. Yet in my ever-elusive quest for more, for the quality which cannot be named. I continue to search for what home really is.