/ Opinions / The corner turned

The corner turned

September 11, 2020 by Ted Rulseh

It was a strange holiday weekend on our lakes, or at least on Birch Lake where I live. Labor Day is usually an energetic last hurrah for the boaters. This year the lake was strangely quiet all three days, although most of the cottage owners were here.

For that the weather was responsible — windy much of the time, chilly most of the time, rainy now and then, not inviting conditions for being on the water, especially for those inclined to get wet by skiing or tubing or JetSki driving. So the weekend went by as quietly as summer holidays seldom do, with barely a sound from down on the lake.

Something else about the weekend was strange — the finality with which it put an end to summer. Of course there likely will be warm days in what’s left of September, but after a string of days with temperatures at best in the 60s, and more often in the 50s, and well down into the 40s overnight, it’s hard to delude oneself that summer is still here, even though technically it isn’t autumn until the 21st.

A bright line has been drawn between the seasons, and summer’s on the other side, no going back anymore. We’re headed straight into fall. And for many of us that’s just fine. September and October (at least the first half) are, for me, the best times to be on the lake.

It’s a time of just about all quiet hours — the boat motors I hear are mostly those of other fishermen, just going from one place to another. The fishing typically is good as the fish feed liberally to lard up for the winter. I can drop anchor or drift anywhere I wish with little worry about competition.

The loons trade in the black-and-white feathers for their migration uniforms. They don’t call out much now, and soon they’ll be on their way south. Migrating ducks of various kinds will make stopovers on the lake. They’re extremely skittish as if they know hunting season’s open; there is no chance of getting near enough to observe their plumage without binoculars.

On shore, already a few maples are turning; I can spot splashes of yellows and brilliant red here and there. I look forward to watching day by day as the colors spread and brighten, as if some invisible hand were gradually dialing up the intensity.

Those are glorious days for a pontoon boat cruise or a slow paddle in a canoe around the perimeter. By October the algae that tinted the lake green in late summer will have started to die back, and the water will clear. Maybe halfway through the month it will be clear enough so that I can spot, in about six feet of water off a weedy point, the rod and reel I donated to the lake (quite by accident) a couple of weeks ago.

Labor Day’s gone. Summer’s over. Bring on autumn. What choice is there, anyway?

Ted Rulseh resides on Birch Lake in Harshaw and is an advocate for lake protection and improvement. His Lakeland Times and Northwoods River News columns are the basis for a book, “A Lakeside Companion,” published by The University of Wisconsin Press. Ted may be reached at [email protected]

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