The Working Waterfront

The melancholy season is different this year

A silver lining is emerging in island life in 2020

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2020-09-30
Last Modified 2020-10-04

Every year I experience a two-week stretch of melancholy that hits me in the middle of September. It doesn’t matter that it is one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Cranberry Isles. Even though it is part of the rhythm of the place in which I have chosen to live, it breaks my heart every year when the songbirds become quiet and move on. They are replaced by the sounds of crickets, telling of colder quieter days on the way.

In the weeks after Labor Day, I am usually adjusting to the sudden drop in population and the sudden shift away from a busy social season. While it feels good to get more rest, it is sad saying goodbye to friends.

As far as emotional adjustments go, I can usually count on making it through this September “odd spell” in exactly two weeks. I know that soon I will revel in the beauty of October and once again look forward to the warmth of the wood stove and the darker days that I will brighten with lighted branches inside my house.

But, here we are in 2020, where nothing has been certain for over half a year. I’m wondering what “normal” for this pandemic fall will look like? Having made it this far, I feel suddenly resilient and optimistic about getting through the rest of the year.

For the first time in years, I have no September melancholy. I hear the crickets and feel only a slight a tug toward the sadness of the season. The birds are leaving, but many seasonal residents are not. I’m glad.

It is pretty nice to still have friends who want to meet at the beach on a warm September afternoon, whether we swim of not. I like hearing their comments about the change in light and how different the island feels as summer wanes. I feel supported among the other grandparents who are wondering how daycare and in-school classes will affect their ability to safely see their grandchildren after idyllic island visits.

I can imagine a few people thinking this might the year they try spending a winter on the island. I hope some will give it a try, even as they hear us wonder how many people can safely ride inside the cabin of the mail boat when the weather turns frigid. We all wonder what comes next and how we can keep going through the anxiety of so much uncertainty.

When I think of all the silver linings to the pandemic clouds, it helps me look forward with hope. My favorite positive outcome from the summer was our weekly Bar Road Market. It brought people together in a socially safe and distant way, it provided food to buy, and shopping opportunities for cookbooks, handmade masks, hand knit baby hats, and handmade aprons and bags. It was exactly the kind of event Mary and I had envisioned way back in April. My husband, Bruce, even made and sold doughnuts three weeks in a row!

The weekly baking gave me a focus when nothing else did. When the weather shuts us down, as it inevitably will, I hope several of us will be willing to take orders to continue a supply of baked goods. Katelyn already does this with her amazing jelly doughnuts and Mary fills weekly orders for her incredible sourdough bread.

I’d be glad to start an English muffin list and will bake more bread when we finally get our new oven. Who knew COVID-related backorders in the appliance world would make us wait for six weeks?

Another silver lining: The wait for the oven hasn’t bothered me like I thought it would. I know I’m getting a new oven, eventually, and in the mean time, I’ve mastered the art of baking a pie on the gas grill, outside.

Barbara Fernald lives on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island).