Pond grasses glow a soft umber. Roadside milkweed is fat with juice. Nomadic geese have set up camp in Ocean Park. And visitors bearing packages have come a-tapping at my door.

“We’re leaving today.”

“Already? Awww.”

“I knooooww. It seems like summer just started.”

They’re my dear friends and neighbors of seasonal residency. Throughout autumn, one by one, they stop by to say, “Have a good winter” and “See you next year” and –

“By the way, we were cleaning out the pantry and the fridge, and since you’re not going anywhere, we thought maybe you could use some ____.”

Fill in the blank: ranch dressing, two-percent milk, Diet Sprite, taco shells, single sticks of butter, frozen waffles, carrots in the early stages of erectile dysfunction. Collectively, these are foods that are too fragile, meltable, wilt-able, spill-able or space-hungry to take on the road. Foods too perishable to leave in a house without refrigeration. Foods too liquid and explosively bottled to leave in a house without heat. Foods too enticing to vermin to leave in the cupboard. Even foods that are perfectly fine to travel with or leave behind. But people give them to me anyway. They give me things I don’t eat. Things I do eat. Things I eat but shouldn’t.

Surely they must know other people who eat, I suggest. People who are more worthy of their bounty than a woman who lives alone. The benefactors glance at their watches. “Gee, we’ve got to make the 10:45 ferry.” They are too hurried and harried to seek other takers.

Gifting season starts in the waning days of August, with parents of school-age children – the families who ship out to America right behind the carnival rides from the Ag Fair. They bring me pudding cups, frozen fish sticks, and multi-colored breakfast cereals. Gee, you shouldn’t have. If I had a good recipe for catsup, mustard, mayo, and barbecue-sauce soup, I could feed the masses.

My fortunes improve from Labor Day to around Halloween, as the empty nesters come by. They leave me heirloom tomatoes, ears of corn, nuggets of ginger root, Boston lettuce. They may be past their prime, but they’re good enough. The connoisseurs might leave me triple-cream Brie, dabs of cranberry chutney, or unfinished bottles of shiraz. Other donors leave me the contents of their freezers: striped bass (cleaned and filleted), Mother’s lasagna, pound cake, or ice cream – no matter the flavor, no ice cream is unwelcome.

Only my own mother, bound for New York, would dare to leave me a vat of homemade chicken broth or a coffee mug with a summer’s worth of rendered bacon fat. Bacon fat stretches the limits of my healthful sensibilities, but there’s no meal as tasty or simple as a tuna burger from The Net Result that’s been quickly seared in the stuff.

I regift unopened non-perishables to the Island Food Pantry. Please do not test my charity on a box of Snyder’s pretzels (the fat ones), but if any customer came to the Pantry last fall with a liking for pineapple-mango marinade, she was in luck.

After Thanksgiving weekend, my guests are not permitted to leave the house without leftovers. Then, with but a few weeks left before I leave the Island for Christmas, it’s my turn to get rid of food. Waste is unacceptable. I cut back on shopping and nibble down whatever I’ve got. My final dinner at home might be a fried egg, two sardines, and the dried-out heel of a loaf of bread. The following morning, I quietly slip over to my neighbor’s house and leave a small bag inside the screen door. The bag might just hold a few things most people eat: a carton of juice, some half-and-half, a fading tangerine. I jump in my getaway taxi before I’m caught in the act.