Friday, January 24, 2003
Carlisle is very lucky when it can still hire local residents to work for the town, because their perspective can help Carlisle retain its sense of community. Residents are more likely to care strongly about preserving the quality of life in the town, and also tend to stay in a job longer, which can save on training costs.
Fifty years ago, town employees were almost all local residents. It's tougher to find qualified local residents to work for the town these days, because not only have the population and municipal services increased, but the jobs have often become more complex as well. The high cost of housing can make it difficult for teachers and municipal employees to live in Carlisle now, and these trends will probably continue in the coming years.
Today we rely on the many talented and very dedicated town employees who live outside Carlisle, and of course it is much more important to find the right person for a job than to hire based on commuting distance (with the exception of our on-call fire department, where commuting time is critical).
However, all other things being equal, there are intangible benefits from hiring locally. One example from the school system is the second grade's excellent Where in Carlisle? scavenger hunt, which might never have been developed without teachers who live in town.
The scavenger hunt encourages children and their families to explore Carlisle's natural and historical resources. Historical destinations include two old one-room school buildings; Adams' Mill, Turtle Rock, and the Native American grinding stone all located in Great Brook Farm State Park; Green Cemetery; the Clark, Sorli and Swanson farms; the town clock and the old Meeting House. Points of interest in nature include Wolf Rock (the site of Carlisle's last wolf den), the ancient trees in Carlisle Pines Forest, Castle Rock, Towle Field and the cranberry bog. Families are given several weeks to visit as many sights as they can.
While thus being nudged into spending lots of "quality time" together, parents learn about the town, and children learn about many things architecture, agriculture, Native Americans, and ecology. Our family has done the scavenger hunt twice, and found it to be a lot of fun. If you haven't had a second grader bring this assignment home, you might want to ask the school for a copy and try it yourself!
An arctic air mass has dominated the region, sending the temperature this week into the single digits. Goodwill for American enterprises around the globe also seems to have suffered a similar big chill. Here in Massachusetts we are facing formidable budget deficits; the legislature has just granted the new governor powers to cut local aid to towns and cities. Each day the news is full of new layoffs and cutbacks. The flood waters lap the gates of Castle Carlisle. It seems a good time to take stock.
My three hives of bees are, I hope, swarming around their queens. At the core of the swarm the temperature hovers around 90 degrees, even on nights when the air is close to zero. The bees on the outside of the swarm are frozen stiff; those next to the queen dole out stored honey to the restless queen. When a thaw arrives, I'll wade through the knee-high snow and check the sugar feeders to make sure they have a constant supply of supplemental food.
The other morning I spotted deer tracks that angled across the bank in front of our house and across the drive. The deer then plunged into the blueberry thickets beneath the pines. Whenever it rains in the winter months, or the temperature drops near zero, I think of the deer bedded under hemlock boughs. No doubt they are patiently biding their time between feedings on local rhododendrons.
The human life of the town has also gone under cover. Fewer people are out and about; still, the pulse of the town beats strong. Afternoons and evenings, the library is packed with students and readers. The Post Office has just won an award for outstanding service. Business is still brisk at Daisy's — hard to buy even a cup of coffee without running into someone you know. The school band rehearses every Thursday evening; the gym is packed to overflowing with basketball teams. Parents continue to volunteer in the classrooms. Committees meet late into the night working on town government. Concerts, amateur mystery theater, book groups and exercise classes fill public buildings in the evenings. David Flannery is stepping up as our new fire chief, and our police officers continue to patrol the streets with courteous professionalism. Taxes may be up and the stock market down, but the spirit and routines of our town soothe the soul.
I am reading a new book by Concordian Armand Nicholi, The Question of God. Dr. Nicholi teaches a course at Harvard Medical School that compares the atheism of Sigmund Freud with the belief in God of C.S. Lewis. Freud came to his atheism as a teenager and adhered to it until his death at the age of 83. C.S. Lewis also began his career as an atheist, but in a gradual process of conversion came to change his views about God in his 30s. Dr. Nicholi takes us on a fascinating journey not only through the well-known works of both authors, but through their personal lives as well. Certainly, the converted Lewis had the happier life by far. Dr.Nicholi reports on research that suggests we as a species may be hardwired for faith.
Faith may not be a bad ally in this season of war, recession, and dwindling resources. Churchill, Roosevelt, Gandhi, and King all had it, and passed it on to us. Now, it's our turn to make the hard decisions that will reveal our character.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito