Time to trade a lakeside hammock for a wing chair by the fire

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We are milking the last days of fall here in Vermont. Each morning my sister wraps her woolen bathrobe tight and darts outside the 1920s-era "camp" to retrieve the morning paper. Every evening the peach sunset shimmers a minute earlier than the day before.

Today the setting sun nestles into distant evergreens; soon it will be sinking into snow. Not long thereafter, the lake will transform its slapping waves into sturdy ice. Ancient fishing shanties will dot the whiteness.

Like the foxes and deer with their lengthening coats, we feel the coming chill with its threat to uninsulated water pipes. In response, we're evacuating to winter quarters. Beds have been stripped, awnings put away, shutters hammered over windows. The dented rowboat lies high up on the lawn, its seats (and our clothes) freshly daubed with varnish.

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The annual chores we are working through are being carried out across America, wherever people fortunate enough to have a summer place are finally moving on in the last days of the post-Labor Day "shoulder" season.

Changes in seasons are like changes in the serious sides of life. The trick is to look forward to tomorrow's pleasures rather than to pine for the past.

To most summer residents, seasonal change isn't difficult. For Jack and Joy, devouring a book in a fireside wing chair replaces reading one in a lakeside hammock. Swimming at Burlington's YMCA is in; tromping twice around St. Albans' leafy square is out. Pro football burrows in, while the Boys of Summer fade out.

For me, the warmth of winter near Washington, D.C., with my wife is a worthy successor to the week-long tang of autumn in Vermont. Others move on to different pastures in nearby cities, or Florida, or even Burlington itself.

Beyond every change, in the calendar and in life, lies a new opportunity to take off the shutters and open the windows to fresh breezes. After every winter comes another spring, another summer.

For summer folk, it is the following of one pleasure after another.

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