Friday, May 31, 2002
Goodbye, little town
The very old wooden sign out front reads, "Dogwood Cottage."
The dogwoods, if there ever were any, are long gone. I imagine them chilled to death by some ancient frost. But that sign implies warm, happy lives within our cottage, and we freshened it up with new green paint and gold lettering upon moving in nearly five autumns ago. In place of the dogwood, there are tall white pines, scattered birches and oaks bordering the wide lawn where we planted a circular garden of lady's mantel and lambs ear. There is forsythia, monkshood and delphinium in another garden hugging the porch, a tiny herb garden by the kitchen window, a stripling of lilac by the back door and, out the back window, deep woods I've never fully explored.
My dream was to stay in this house and in this town forever. But I'm a renter. My homeowner's dream is suffering the fate of those phantom dogwoods chilled by the frosty realities of modern economics. So, somewhat sadly, I'm in the process of buying a small house in my price range in a town I'll only say is a world away from here from the Forum, the Mosquito and the snug charm of this cottage and this town I've come to call home.
Retiring veterinarian Dr. Peter Morey (who cared for my two cats in their last years and my aged but still lively Pomeranian, Jack) recently observed, a little wistfully, the rapid transformation of Carlisle from a village of beef and dairy farms to a suburban bedroom community in which we whiz in and out of town like those cyclists in splashy Spandex.
I suppose it's a sad sign of the times that we've become a nation of wanderers, pushed about the country by our jobs, our financial exigencies and our whims. My original across-the-street neighbor was hardly ever home. He lives in Houston now. I've forgotten his name and his face. In one sense, I might seem a victim of the "affordable housing" crunch with which Carlisle has struggled nobly (see Betsy Fell's March 1 editorial). But I loath state-imposed schemes, quotas and cookie-cutter subdivisions. Far better to rein in the runaway real estate market. It's madness.
So for now, with my house purchase still pending, I sit happily in this white clapboard cottage with green trim and a broad fieldstone chimney, festooned with rhododendron and flanked by a tiny garage crested by a tiny fan window that looks down a short macadam drive to Acton Street and a wall of moss-covered stones. Then there's that curious old gray gas pump with a cracked glass gauge attached to the garage. It pumped its last gallon generations ago. Squirrels have nested in its crown.
And as the shadows lengthen on the lawn, I'll go nest in my wicker chair in the little screened-in "summer house" that is a cozy miniature of the main house. Those shadows always give way to night. Soon it'll be, "goodbye, little house ... goodbye, little town."
But tomorrow, I think I'll finally explore those woods.
This week's feature article on Stearns Street underlines some of the major changes that have come to Carlisle. Many of us who have lived in town for a long time are saddened by the loss of farming and more recently by the increasing loss of diversity in our neighborhoods. It seems a terrible waste to tear down all the modest housing. The sellers of these homes are not to blame. The price of land and the demands of Title 5 cause them to sell to a developer. We need to find a mechanism to protect the smaller and older homes in town before they are all gone. They give much-needed character and diversity to our town. The Stearns neighbors have had three tear-downs and one more scheduled in a very short period of time. It is a drastic change to a very small neighborhood.
As DeLores Cook says in the Stearns Street article, the new neighbors will be welcomed. It is not the new owners who have torn down the houses. It is people who make a neighborhood, not the architecture. But let's try and find a way to keep a variety of housing in town. Stearns Street has examples of attractive additions to older homes and beautiful restorations as examples of what can be done besides tearing down the older, small homes.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito