The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 25, 2003


Confronting "Lonelyville"

And what about a town coffee shop at 1 River Road? Zoning bylaws permit a restaurant "with no mechanical or live entertainment regularly furnished," to operate under a special permit at this commercially-zoned spot. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

Robert Frost wrote that "Good fences make good neighbors." But just as Frost's poem "Mending Fences" is actually about the negative aspects of boundaries and seclusion, there are those in Carlisle who struggle with boundaries created by large lots and roads that are not conducive to neighborhood strolls. One such resident (in response to a survey circulated by the Carlisle planning board in its effort to update the town's master plan for the future) went so far as to dub Carlisle "Lonelyville." This has sparked some interesting discussions in town among those who sadly agree, and those who are vehemently opposed.

"We moved from Concord center to Carlisle two years ago and concur with people who have written that they feel lonely in Carlisle," write residents Bonnie and Peter Krims of Westford Street, via e-mail. "The problem isn't with the people who live here, because we've noticed that people in Carlisle are very willing to reach out. It's the geography of the town and the lack of a central gathering place."

"One of the most significant impedimentsis the inability to be able to walk to your neighbor's house without risking your life," adds Sean Flynn of Woodbine Road, also via e-mail. "There are very few roads in town that are safe to walk on, especially for children. The thought of allowing my children to ride their bikes to a friend's house or to the town center is completely out of the question. Having safe pathways to traverse would go a long way towards creating a 'neighborly' community."

Certainly there are residents with busy lives outside of town who seek out the wooded sanctuary of Carlisle in search of the peace and privacy it offers, and not social interaction. But for people who yearn for both trees and a sense of community, privacy can turn into isolation, and isolation into depression.

But in spite of the fact that there is no central gathering place and many roads are downright dangerous to traverse, there are plenty of Carlisleans who have found ways to connect with neighbors and enjoy a strong sense of community. Dale and Don Ryder, who have lived on Lowell Road near the center for 11 years, were invited, soon after moving in, to gather with neighbors at semi-monthly potluck suppers; a tradition that continues to this day.

"It's very informal. Everybody brings something, and no one has to RSVP. In addition to the people who have become some of our best friends, we see people we don't get to see as often, which is so nice," says Dale.

Although she and her husband are deeply involved in the community, Dale allows that Carlisle is not a good fit for everyone. "To be happy in Carlisle [it helps] to have children in the schools, especially if you don't live in the center," she says. "It also helps to enjoy outdoorsy kinds of things, like hiking, camping and skiing. We love Carlisle, but it might not be enough for people who enjoy a more urban setting or a bigger center with more to do."

Several people have responded to recent articles on "Lonelyville" with comments that could serve as advice on how to alleviate loneliness in Carlisle. When Terry Golson moved into her Sunset Road neighborhood 12 years ago, for example, she put fliers in all the mailboxes, inviting neighbors to a party at her house. "When everyone left, my husband and I looked at each other and said, 'We couldn't have come up with forty people as compatible and interesting as these,' " writes Golson. "Since then, the neighborhood continues to have gatherings. In the summer we have spontaneous outdoor potlucks that last until the mosquitoes drive us home."

The others ways Golson has connected with the community is to get involved. She writes that she has forged friendships while volunteering at the Old Home Day art show and the Mosquito trash party, or while attending the Strawberry Festival, the library book sale, Historical Society house tours, open house at the Highland School art studios, the Carlisle Garden Club garden tours, trail walks sponsored by various groups, and walking to Concord on Patriot's Day. "This town is run by volunteers and they welcome newcomers. Get on a committee. Go to a meeting. At the very least, go to town meeting," she suggests.

Sally Hayen, a longtime resident of Concord Street, wrote, "At a chance discussion during a Christmas party several years ago, it was agreed that living on a main road heading into town made for difficulties in establishing any sort of neighborly feeling.

"Not long after that discussion a self-appointed committee was formed, made up of Holley Salemy, Gio Dinicola, Ann Marie Durlacher, Liz Carpenter and myself, all residents of Concord Street. We decided a party was necessary to bring the neighborhood together. Thus, the first Concord Street block party was held in June of 2001.

"In June of 2003, we will celebrate the third annual gala, open to all Concord Street families between Carlisle Center and the Concord-Carlisle line. An invitation will be sent to each house on the road. The party, a pot luck lunch, will have hamburgers, hot dogs and drinks supplied by the committee, and favorite salads and desserts from the other families attending. There will be a noon walk and outdoor games for the kids, while the adults make new acquaintances and meet old friends.

"We feel this party has been a huge success in providing a fun-filled afternoon while bringing people together who share an address, but little in the way of neighborhood. People now see each other at the post office, the library and the school and they stop and chat. Perhaps friendships have gotten their start at our June gathering.

"It does take a bit of effort, but Carlisle is indeed a friendly town."

"All you have to do is take the first step," agrees Ryder. "Get on the footpath committee or get involved at the school or a church. Once your name gets out there, people will be contacting you."

Judging from the responses of our townspeople, there are several available cures for "Lonelyville." Support the addition of footpaths in our town. Encourage · or initiate · the establishment of a central gathering place, such as a café or bakery. On an individual basis, we can ease isolation by reaching out to our neighbors (especially new residents, new parents and the homebound elderly, all of whom are most susceptible to loneliness); hosting gatherings and providing informal opportunities to get together. We can get involved. Carlisle is an active community (check out the "Community Bulletin Board" in this newspaper) offering book clubs, trail walks, classes, contra dancing, children's playgroups, a Newcomer's Club, choral groups and community theater, not to mention dozens of groups that enthusiastically welcome volunteers.

Conquering "Lonelyville" is within our grasp. All it takes is a positive attitude and a little initiative.

"Carlisle feels like a small town to me," says Golson. "No, we don't have picket fences that we can lean over and chat with our neighbors. But I think we have everything else."

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito