Silent September

At lunchtime today, I found myself gravitating to Lily Lake at Rockwood Park. I wasn’t expecting to feel so sad. But having just come from a deserted Staples (“It’s September 1st. Do you have all your school supplies?!”), seeing the still lake and hearing the rustle of leaves in the middle of a September weekday packed a punch.

Lily Lake is a kettle lake, formed by the glaciers of the Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. As the ice sheets retreated, enormous chunks of ice fell off. The weight of these chunks caused a depression in the earth beneath them, and as the ice melted, it filled in the depression with water, creating a lake. Perhaps the most famous example of a kettle lake is Walden Pond, in Massachusetts–

Normally in September and October, I say these words five or six times a day, rumbling down the hill on my doubledecker bus — with 70 of my newest friends — holding my microphone steady, with my arm hooked around a pole.

September and October are prime cruise ship season in my little port city, and on any given day, anywhere between 2000 and 11,000 visitors spend their day with us — and I with them. They sail in early in the morning and leave just as the locals are thinking about supper.

But not this year.

A seagull lands on top of the wrought-iron garbage bin, his razor-sharp bill stabbing at a Tim Hortons cup. Slim pickings for you too, eh?

I haven’t heard a New York City accent in person in nearly a year. I haven’t convinced anyone to try our local edible seaweed, or sung to people, confessing “I can only sing in front of people I know I will likely never see again.”

Every now and again my husband will casually mention a building as we drive by — often in the most general terms — and I’m suddenly telling him the history of the house, the family who originally lived there, how it survived the Great Saint John Fire, and to take note of the details in the woodwork surrounding the door.

I can’t help it.

I miss them. I miss the ships, and the people they bring to me. I miss my beloved Routemaster buses. I miss hearing a continent’s worth of voices in 90 minutes, and answering questions I’ve answered a thousand times or never before.

It has been so long since I have had a September to myself that I’m not quite sure what to do with it.

But we’re only twelve hours in.

I’ll figure it out.

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Karen J. McLean

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  • How odd it must feel to have such silence in September. Hershey, PA, which isn’t far from our home, has been quieter too. It’s odd not to see tons of NY and NJ license plates…

    Btw: Your town sounds beautiful!

  • Karen, things certainly are different this year. I hope you’re able to find your normal again soon (honestly, though, I hope the same for everyone).

    By the way, I love your seagull paragraph!

    • It is such a strange time. I will be oddly grateful for it once it becomes hindsight, for the treasure trove of story ideas it has spawned. But right now it just makes me sad. Thank you for your enjoyment of the seagull paragraph. He and I shared a moment of perfect empathy. 🙂

  • I know exactly how you feel, Karen. I have also been missing all my newest friends as they stroll through the City Market. I miss telling them about Linda’s art & about the Market & I even miss giving them directions to the washroom. I miss chatting about their travels & apologizing for the weather & admiring their shoes. I, too, am missing the variety of accents that I get to experience all in one day.
    You know what I did this morning while I was getting dressed? I picked up my tablet & clicked on the harbour web-cam just for old times sake. I knew there would not be a ship in port, but it still made me sad.

    • I keep thinking it’s April, and I just realized it’s because I’ve been working in tourism during high season for so long. (This would have been my 30th consecutive year.) Deep down, my interior calendar isn’t updating because there are no ships, so no pre-season training, etc.

  • Twelve hours in, yep, you’ll figure it out.
    Your town sounds beautiful and lovely but I can imagine there is loneliness from the “noise.” I can connect to this feeling of missing and this idea–I keep saying, someday will return. I hope for us all. The sounds of the ships, the shuffling of feet, the bustling of busy, it will come back.

  • Missing the noise. I keep saying, someday these things will return. I hope for you the noises of rustling leaves and whistling wind can someday be replaced with the ships, and the bustle, and the hustle of noise.