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End of summer

09/17/04 12:00AM By Casey Huling
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Another season of summer camping has come and gone. The residential and day camps that dot Vermont's lakeshores are closed for the year, awaiting the lonely winter. As our thoughts turn to school and work, summer's glow is quickly fading.

For the past 20 years I have spent my summers on the shores of Lake Fairlee at Camp Billings. Founded in 1907, the camp was home to 180 campers this year. Driving by on a typical summer day you could expect to see campers swimming, boating, sailing, hula dancing, finger-painting or water-skiing. When it rains there's mud soccer, arts and crafts, and chess tournaments. At night there could be a square dance under the lights on the volleyball court, a game of capture the flag or a campfire with skits and songs.

Driving by today, though, things look very different. Gone is the endless adolescent energy of the summer. The cabins, once full of wet towels and fishing poles, are boarded up. A lone sock forgotten on the clothesline waits to be claimed next year. The whole camp seems smaller without all the activity. But the grass, matted down by countless flip-flops is finally getting a chance to grow and part of my job is to cut it through the fall. With a couple of acres to maintain, I have lots of time to contemplate this yearly transition from one season to the next.

What strikes me most is the abruptness of this change. The academic calendar that drives the summer camp season creates an instant switch from summer to fall, regardless of the date or the temperature. Unlike fall's slow march toward the colder and shorter days of winter, or the gradual awakening of life in the spring, summer's end comes hard and fast to those connected to the school year.

And there is nothing like a dormant camp to remind you that summer is over. Soon the gates will be locked for good and the mower will be put away until spring, waiting for that moment when summer will be just around the corner and the grass will need mowing again.

But for now I cut the grass and kid myself that I'm holding onto just a few more moments of summer.

I'm Casey Huling.

Casey Huling is a middle-school teacher in Thetford.
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