Solitude at summer's end

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My cabin, three miles into the Maine woods, snuggles comfortably under the long arms of acorn-laden trees. It is the end of summer here, and the few tiny cottages dotting my pond are deserted.

On the map, this pond is known as one of the Five Kezars and is affectionately called Back Pond by those living on it. The Five Kezars are small intimate bodies of water strung together like jewels as they flow under low, picturesque wooden bridges.

This morning as I sit at breakfast alone, across the screened porch I see the mist blow in, like a soft gray curtain muting the deep green of pine, spruce, and fir and the red and gold of oak and maple.

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Flying in from the cranberry bog where they nest, six wild black ducks have landed on the small strip of beach in front of my cabin. Some are feeding on bits of pond weed washed up on the sand; others, wading into the shallow water, stand on their heads searching the bottom of the pond for food.

The leaves stir gently.

Nothing about this cabin here in the deep woods has changed in the past 70 years. The black iron cookstove, kerosene lamps, the battered wood box, and the old pump now hold four generations of happy memories.

On the porch with my straight-backed rocker is a crudely made trestle table with an oil-cloth covering, the pink-flower design of which is now just faded outlines.

In the corner on a shelf of rough board sits a pot of red geraniums, brazenly erect, as though defying the early night frosts.

Just the other side of the screen, E.B. White's "Charlotte" is busy mending her web while her children run up and down getting into spider mischief. These large-bodied spiders, gray-and-white striped, I allow to live just outside my front-porch screen door. I tell myself that they take care of the pesky insects that want to be inside. Every year I watch them wake up, spin their webs, have their young, catch their prey, and go to sleep again.

As it is early fall, the rafts here and there around the pond have been pulled on shore, and rowboats and canoes are safely stored away.

I recall all the happy ends of summer. Hellos and goodbyes to visiting friends, the rattle of the trailer to and from the dump, chopping and sawing wood for the fireplace and stove, and the sound of feet running to and from the cool spring-fed pond.

No more screen doors slam. No more dogs bark, no children squeal. No paddles dip into the water. There's no early-morning putt-putt of a small motor as the fisherman starts his day in his favorite way.

Mark Twain had his Huckleberry Finn. I have one, too – a towheaded grandson, and I can see the raft he built this summer now abandoned at the edge of the water near the rotting tree stump.

The lily pads float lazily, and the pickerel weed has lost its purple-spiked flower. The birch trees bend low over the pond. I wonder if they can hold the weight of the coming winter's snow.

In the distance, the loon laughs; nearer, the fallen leaves rustle as chipmunks scurry about, gathering acorns for the winter.

The steady drip of the remainder of last night's rain falls from the eaves.

I am the only one who hears.

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