When I look forward to the slowdown after August, I picture feeling peaceful, yet purposeful, during crisp autumn days. There are fewer distractions and more daily chores to help me prioritize the time I need for my own work. If I don’t have to go off the island, I try to manage an uninterrupted block of time in my jewelry studio every day, to be ready with inventory for the holiday season. I keep the wood box full and light a fire in the stove before Bruce arrives home feeling chilled from a day on the water. With fewer people around on the island, food does not go to waste, since we are no longer going to someone else’s house for dinner at fun and unexpected intervals. No more slimy lettuce or limp broccoli to toss from an oversupplied refrigerator. Fall socializing corresponds more with forecasts of wind than days of the week. The grocery list is now dictated by hard work and weather reports. With all of its glorious color and hardworking simplicity, fall is one of my favorite times of year. However, until I really enjoy it, I always experience a transition time that feels like a layer of grief fog. The sun will come out, the fog will burn off, but it is unsettling until I get through it.

Abrupt freedom takes some getting used to. There are plenty of visitors in Bar Harbor to keep the crosswalks busy through Columbus Day, but the islands suddenly have more room. The Sea Princess tour boat still makes visits with a predictable influx of walkers, but for the most part, our streets are much more quiet. On the ferries, we once again know most, or all, of the passengers by name. Our summer friends have migrated to their other homes for school or work. It is like the “empty nest,” when no more children are living at home. You don’t have to live here to know how that feels. To me, the ache of walking by recently empty houses on an island is much like the ache of walking past recently empty bedrooms. With a little time, I am used to it.

After a September lull, fishing starts to pick up as the lobsters start their annual trek into deeper water. This is the time of year when Bruce comes home with stories of the little birds he sees migrating across long stretches of water. Some are too wary to land on his boat, circling a few times and then moving along, swooping ever closer to the water in their exhaustion. They don’t always make it; becoming a snack for the ever hungry gulls when they splash into the sea. Others, however, bravely land on the boat, making their way to the protection of the cabin to perch on the wires from the boat’s electronics. Often they’ll spend the rest of the day there, leaving only when when the boat nears land.

I miss the sound of the birds now. With the breeding season over, hermit thrushes, warblers, and winter wrens are more intent on their travel than song.

Once in a while, when the wind is quiet, it’s possible to hear the singing of seals on the ledges off Gilley Beach. When I first heard the sound I thought it was someone’s dog, howling in loneliness as its master had gone off fishing for the day. The sound is plaintive yet musical, carrying well through still air. It took me a few years before I learned what it was. During a coincidental walk on the back beach, I realized that the seals were the source of the unnamable noise. They don’t seem to sing all that often. Their sound is a rare treat I associate with fall.

From the milkweed that grows along Sand Beach Road on Islesford, children and adults collect the yellow, white and black striped caterpillars that will form a chrysalis and hatch as Monarch butterflies. They give them a temporary home in large glass jars, with plenty of milkweed leaves for food. What began as an activity to lure shivering blue-lipped children out of the 57 degree water at the beach in late August becomes a lesson in life cycles and migration in September and early October.

Inside the island houses, another migration is taking place. Wool sweaters, that were put away in May, come back to drawers and closets for a three-season appearance. The search is on for gloves, hats, and warmer jackets. The 6:30 a.m. commuter boat to Northeast Harbor is more exposed than the regular mailboat. On a 40-degree morning in September it is not too soon to wear mittens. One of the most important articles of clothing to migrate back to the coat rack is one that is blaze orange in color. In the Cranberry Isles, bow hunting season for deer has already begun, and shotgun season starts at the end of October. Hunters and hikers share the woods, so extra caution should be used by all. At the Islesford School, children have migrated to the next grade up. Joe Flores and Meg Stevens are beginning their last year in the island school. Their friend and June graduate, Isaac Krasnow, has migrated to MDI High School where his sister Samantha is also starting her Junior year.

Migration is a finite process. A seasonal movement from one place to another. Once the journey is over, it’s time to get on with life in the intended destination. My own migration through the melancholy that comes between summer and fall is also finite. I know I’ll soon arrive with my feet firmly planted in the month of October; one of my favorite times of year in the Cranberry Isles.