I ride my old L.L.Bean bike down the bumpy camp road to the main highway, three times up and three times back.

It is cool these mid-September mornings, refreshing, unlike pedaling in July or August when a more preferable exercise is to jump off the dock into the lake.

But now that summer is waning and we are packing up, I tend to do all the things I don’t take the time to do in the rush of summer, like riding my bike and hanging out on the dock to watch the loons paddle by when there are no boats on the water.

In the chilly mornings, I take the old rocking chair from the garage, set it just inside the overhead door where the sun beats in but there’s no wind, and open my book. There’s no rushing and when I look up from a page, all I see are green trees and lawn.

The last two weeks at camp, we slowly pack up the things we know we won’t need — hot weather clothes, food from the fridge and cupboards, cleaning fluids we know will freeze over the winter, a radio, magazines, books, a food processor I ferry between home and camp each year.

It is a sad process, having to close up camp, but as the nights get cold, we know it is time to go. Even the cats know, instinctively. They seem restless and look us in the eye as if to ask, “When?”

This has been a cold second week of September in Maine. The thing I love most about camp is that all summer long we can leave windows open, day and night, feel the air blow through, hear the wind and rain and especially the call of the loons.

But with the windows and bedroom doors closed up tight to conserve heat, it is particularly quiet. We turn on the little electric heater with a fake flame, don flannel shirts and thick socks, and cozy up on the living room sofas.

We have already hauled the lawn furniture into the garage, ripped up cucumber and tomato plants from the garden, taken hanging flowers and potted herbs home and removed solar lights from either side of the front steps.

The guest rooms are packed up, towels and linens washed, folded and put away, and beds covered. Kitchen cupboards and fridge are nearly bare, containing only a few days’ necessities.

It is hard to go, but prolonging departure is torturous. It does not help that the weather turns cold and then hot again, first urging us to go, then coaxing us to stay.

At some point, I realize it is not just leaving that makes me sad, but having to say goodbye to summer, too, and all that it represents — warm, carefree days, visitors, forays to the coast, the occasional ice cream cone.

But once we go, I also know there will be new things to do — the house to spiff up, gardens to weed and clear out, fall plans to make.

Though I tend to forget from year to year, once we are settled in and the cats reacclimated, there always comes a day, not long after arriving, that I declare the inevitable.

“It’s good to be home.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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