The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 8, 2001


Carlisle Comments . . . Control freak of nature

Before moving to Carlisle in September, I considered myself to be the outdoorsy type, an avowed nature lover. Now, after ten months in Carlisle, I realize that I never had the slightest clue what I was talking about. The nature I thought I knew and loved was not true, exuberant nature, but merely a suburban hybrid, sanitized and controlled by people. Especially when it came to the small, landscaped yards we enjoyed in suburbs of Boston, New York and Chicago. Weeds were routinely controlled by lawn services, trees grew according to a blueprint plan, wildlife was comprised of Disney-like squirrels and bunnies, and every year the town sprayed to decimate what I now view as a paltry annual crop of mosquitoes.

Things are different now. Instead of my requisite one-third-of-an-acre lot, I live in a house sitting on a patch of lawn amid three beautiful, lush acres of forest in Carlisle. Here, I'm getting a crash course in what nature -- real nature -- is about. And the main thing I've learned so far is that nature has absolutely no regard for my desires or wishes. Even if I'd prefer nature to keep its weeds and insects a respectful distance from my house and gardens, it is not about to acknowledge my laughable boundaries. I want a little order. Nature only wants to grow and flourish and live, as abundantly as possible.

And so it is that this nature lover and her husband have found ourselves heading out to the yard like soldiers facing battle. Our foe is formidable. A tangle of briars (certainly similar in species to those that engulfed Sleeping Beauty's castle before the prince's rescue) creeps from the woods and is fast approaching the house. Last summer we began the battle, wielding electric clippers and a newly purchased machete like weapons of war.

"This is our land," we silently declared as we began hacking away at the thicket. "We have the paperwork and the outrageous mortgage to prove it. You shall submit to our control!"

"Ha!" the land retorted. "Mortgage, shmortgage. We were here first."

Finding an enormous wasp's nest -- the hard way -- was the first clue that we were not in control after all. My husband was lucky; he was only stung once, a warning shot, when he got too close to the foot-tall nest hidden in the weeds. We try not to contemplate what a machete slice through its middle would have wrought. As for the briars, they were not about to go quietly either, clawing at our arms and imbedding thorns in our fingers. Just when we thought things couldn't get worse, we both got poison ivy, with a red, burning itch that lasted for weeks.

Licking our wounds, we retreated for the winter, only to mount a new offensive early this spring. We purchased the equivalent of a homeowner's tank: a heavy-duty field and brush mower powerful enough to take down small trees. Take that, briars! Out of my way, weeds! A fearsome contender, it effectively cleared large portions of the thicket, as we cheered in victory. Of course, the triumph is temporary. If we slack off on mowing, they gleefully return, mocking us.

There have been many other new, interesting experiences in Carlisle that we never experienced as former suburbanites. Like getting buzzed by carpenter bees that treat us like we're the intruders as they chew tunnels into the wood of our house. Like having deer eat our shrubs over the winter. Like being afraid to let our cats out in case they become coyote food. Then there are times I wonder if I'll ever get used to how dark it gets around here at night.

Am I still a nature lover? More than ever. Who wouldn't be, in this treasure of a town? Now, however, I'd characterize that love as being tempered by a healthy, humble measure of respect. And the one thing that has become abundantly clear is this: I will never be in control. As long as I realize this fact, we're going to get along just fine.

+YEAR+ The Carlisle Mosquito