My husband, my daughter and I recenly participated in the annual ritual known as “closing up” of our almost-hundred-year-old log cabin on a point of land on one of the islands in Casco Bay. It has been in my family for three generations.

The final act, just before shutting off the main breaker to the electricity, is putting the shutters in place and nailing them securely; the winter storms on this ocean-bound point of land can be fierce, and replacing window glass is not as easily done as on the mainland.

Closing is almost always on the Columbus Day weekend. The sun and wind have always felt like standard parts of the ritual. The leaves and acorns have started to fall and the bayberry bushes are drying and scattering their leaves around the yard.

Every year, as I look out to the ferry dock, I notice the empty moorings, the other houses that already look smaller and shuttered.

I see the trees on the other islands turning to orange, rust and yellow. Sometimes the sight of the sapphire blue sea against the autumnal islands is so beautiful it almost hurts.

I close my eyes for a second and remember sitting in this same yard and feeling the heat of the summer sun and the glare off the ocean around me. It has already become a different place in just a few short weeks.

And that, in some way, is the key to closing up: the passage of time.

Over the years, so many people have come and gone from our lives as new relationships have emerged, marriages have ended, friends have arrived anew or moved away. The gains and losses of life stand out at this time like no other.

The most profound feeling, however, comes from the thoughts of those we have lost. First it was my grandparents who had lived near to us. They each died in March, two years apart. The years I closed up after their deaths felt like a journey’s end.

In 1993, we ended our summer with a fine and fitting memorial service for my father. A single, unexplained clap of thunder as we remembered him that day has become part of our family lore. And, just a few years ago, we began the summer with a similarly warm and wonderful celebration of the life of my sister; hers was held on a balmy, breezy summer solstice in honor of her Wiccan beliefs.

Nowadays, as I stand in the eerie darkness just before leaving, I silently turn the house over to the memories and the ghosts of those who have gone before me. I swear I can almost feel them there, waiting for me to leave so they can settle into the sleepy winter months.

I hope that my grandfather, my father and my sister are present enough that they are watching over our beloved home, waiting for us all to return.

And I send up a silent plea that it will be all of us who return, that this year’s passage of time will find us all still here for that day in April when I will come back to open up.

– Special to the Telegram