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In This Place
A Cape Cod Notebook can be heard every Tuesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.It's commentary on the unique people, wildlife, and environment of our coastal region.A Cape Cod Notebook commentators include:Robert Finch, a nature writer living in Wellfleet who created, 'A Cape Cod Notebook.' It won the 2006 New England Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Radio Writing.

Last Swim

Mary Bergman

I have to accept that fall is here. The past couple of years I have tried, by sheer force of will, to extend summer to late October. Labor Day rolls around and all the shops have slashed their prices on bathing suits, towels, and flip flops. Columbus Day arrives and winter coats are in the windows of the shops in town that are still open.

There are a few milestones that come between September 21st and my eventual acceptance of fall. There’s the last night I sleep with the windows open. There’s the opening of the blanket chest to add another quilt on the bed. I tell myself it’s just for one night, and that maybe it will be warmer tomorrow. There’s the first time the wind really howls loud enough to wake me up. There are the first leaves on the ground, one at a time to begin with, then entire trees cast spooky silhouettes in the streetlights. There are the streetlights that are still on in the morning as I make my way to work.

Hardest for me to accept is that last swim of the summer. You never know for sure which swim will be your last. When the water is warmer than the air, it’s usually a good indicator that the season for swimming is nearing its natural end.

When other people walk the beach in hats and scarves and you are standing at the water’s edge, dripping wet, it’s usually a good indicator that you are pushing it. There’s a point where you stop going in because you want to, but because you want to prove to yourself that you can. A daily dip can transition to an endurance exercise without your even noticing it.

Yes, it’s sadly time to replace that emergency bathing suit in the trunk of my car with a snow brush. Thankfully, it’s also time to stop pretending to care about my lawn, and to let it die.

Another sure sign of fall is that all the big houses on Brant Point are boarded up. Their temporary seawalls have been assembled, their plywood shutters have been nailed to the windows.

Caretakers and carpenters are busy readying the low-lying neighborhood, right on the harborfront, for whatever winter storms will bring. In the summer, when the sun sets late, all these huge plate glass windows glow orange and red. They are tiny echoes of the sky. Now, with the windows covered over, these grand summer homes lie dormant for another year.

If I lived in one of these houses, I’d never leave.

One evening on Brant Point, I walk between the high and low water mark and listen to the lapping waves, interspersed with the sounds of a pressurized nail gun, boarding up one last window. It echoes across the harbor. The 5:30 ferry rounds the point and catches the long rays of sun, it’s huge hull transformed by the otherworldly white light.

It rained heavy all day, and clouds still linger low on the horizon. Now the light is going fast. Another beach day, another last swim, stolen.