Friday, April 11, 2003
Living in "Lonelyville?"
Are we living in "Lonelyville?" This is the term used by one Carlisle resident the mother of small children in response to a survey circulated by the Carlisle Planning Board in its effort to update the town's master plan for the future. In the wrap-up article by Darragh Murphy on March 28, this woman was quoted as saying that two-acre zoning works against a sense of community, creating a lonely environment where people can spend days or even weeks without any contact with neighbors.
I'm sure most readers responded to this statement as I did, with mixed emotions. There was the initial, sympathetic tug. Although my children are teenagers now, I remember that feeling of isolation when the children are small and the hours in a day revolve around napping and eating schedules. After living in Carlisle for just two-and-a-half years (self-employed in a home office), I remember the "new-kid-at-school" feeling during my first forays into Carlisle activities, wondering how to feel connected with my newly adopted hometown and the people who live here.
But the more I ponder the concept of "Lonelyville," the more certain I feel it is something possible for each of us to alter. We can have it all beautiful surroundings, fresh air, lots of space and close ties with our neighbors. However, in a rural area like this, that last ingredient takes more of an effort.
Although I'm a native New Englander, our family has moved around a bit, the longest stint being seven years in Naperville, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. Often, when we tell people that we lived in a town called Naperville, they think we're saying "Neighborville," and the name fits. In Naperville, what we lacked in land (our third of an acre was generous by Chicagoland standards), we more than made up for in social opportunities. There was a neighborhood pool, a neighborhood garden club (more social than horticultural, lucky for me); and with the houses close together, many opportunities to chat with neighbors who were out walking or tending their yards.
If occasionally I have the sensation that I have moved from "Neighborville" to "Lonelyville," there is also the conviction that I have within me the ability to change this condition, at least in my own little corner of town. If I have learned anything from living in "Neighborville," it is this: if social opportunities don't exist, we need to create them.
Instead of bemoaning Carlisle as a community of closed doors and drawn curtains, let's open our own doors and invite our neighbors in. Let's have open houses, ice cream socials, block parties. Let's host game nights, touch football games, and garden parties. I myself am in the midst of planning a progressive dinner (which was one of our favorite annual events in Naperville) for the stretch of North Road that I have identified as my neighborhood. If it is a success, perhaps we will adopt it as an annual event. Perhaps events hosted by other neighbors will follow. Ideally, new friendships will be forged.
I know there are areas of Carlisle (the cluster of houses in the center, for example) where such gatherings are commonplace. But as with anything else, these had to start somewhere, with one or two friendly people who were willing to make an effort.
Let's all practice random acts of neighborliness; let's make an effort. It is possible to "have it all" in Carlisle.
What do you think?
Is Carlisle "Lonelyville?" Or have you discovered successful ways to connect with your neighbors? Do you have any suggestions on ways Carlisle could become a friendlier, more cohesive community? We are currently working on an article on this subject, and value your input. E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org; mail them to Box 616, Carlisle MA; fax to 1-978-369-3569, or drop them off in the Daisy's drop box or at the Mosquito offices, 872 Westford Street.
© 2003 The Carlisle Mosquito