Friday, May 30, 2003
Driving home to Carlisle
I must admit I have done a fair amount of traveling in the past several months. In late February, my husband and I made a trip to Florida to visit friends who were staying on Sugarloaf Key, near Key West. A week after our return, we set off on another cross-country journey to attend a wedding in San Antonio, Texas. Then finally, this past week, we drove to St. George in New Brunswick, Canada, for the long Memorial Day weekend. Although we flew to Florida and Texas, all three trips involved a substantial amount of driving.
Looking back on each of these trips, there is the same vivid impression that greeted me as I made my way into Carlisle. Whether coming up River Road from Monument Street, or crossing the bridge into Carlisle on Bedford Road, or passing Great Brook Farm on Lowell Street heading towards the center of town, or taking Lowell Road past Middlesex School into Carlisle, each of these routes brought on the same set of feelings.
What was I feeling? It was a sense of tranquillity, returning home to a community with a rich historical past where the ugly aspects of commercialism have been kept at bay, where century-old homes grace our thoroughfares and steeple lights sparkle in the late-night air. No more fast-food restaurants, no more flashing neon signs; no more roadside shopping malls springing up one after another.
Yes, there is the rush-hour traffic in the center of town that has multiplied over the years, but the urban sprawl that has overtaken many of our neighboring towns has been warded off by the foresight of our town leaders decades ago and the determination of our citizens to maintain that vision.
There will be serious issues to be faced in the months and years ahead, but for now Carlisle is a wonderful place to return home to.
At last we have bid our overlong winter goodbye. The signs of spring are everywhere · flowering trees, the evening din of peepers, and cyclists on the roadways.
Spring is hardly even a season in its own right. It is more a time of transition, largely spent in anticipation of the better times to come. This year, however, our anticipation is tempered with anxiety, as we await the effects of a particularly wet winter on the population of our town mascot.
We in Carlisle have a special relationship with our mosquitos. We happily acknowledge their numerous presence, even naming our newspaper after them. Are we proud of being hardy enough to survive their onslaught, or do we simply trust in their effect as a deterrent to unwanted growth? (After all, how many people would move to a town whose newspaper is named the Mosquito?)
Our embrace of the winged Red Cross is sufficiently strong that we are unwilling to use sprays to suppress their reign. In consequence, for some weeks each year there are certain times of day when it is simply impossible (or at least foolhardy) to remain outdoors. I recall in particular a Memorial Day barbecue we hosted during our first year in town. Midway through dinner we realized we had become the meal. I was surprised to learn how quickly we could move everything indoors, especially while keeping one hand free to swat!
Since we don't spray collectively, we must each adopt individual techniques. Repellent sprays and creams have variable and limited effect. The most effective, according to scientific studies, are those containing high concentrations of DEET. Sadly, they are also the most toxic to children and other living things. Oily skin-softening lotions hold a prominent position in folklore, but have not proven effective in controlled studies. Those noisy electric zappers have largely been discredited · it seems their light attracts more mosquitos to the area than their grids destroy. We once installed a bat house in the woods behind our house, but were unable to detect a significant reduction in the mosquito population. (Is it possible the bats grew too fat to fly?)
My Father's Day gift last summer was one of those new biological devices that claims to lure mosquitos into a net. We suffered relatively few mosquitos last summer, but conditions were so dry I am left to wonder what effect the device might have had. This summer, with the swamp behind our home turned into a temporary lake, I will put the device to the acid test. If it can make my yard bearable under these conditions, my skepticism will be allayed.
Maybe we should simply find a new attitude. After all, if mosquitos were as commercially valuable as oil, we in Carlisle would assume parity with the Saudis. Or maybe we should just take solace in comparison to the northern tundra, where herds of caribou have toppled from blood lost to swarms of mosquitos more numerous and voracious than we see here.
Whatever we might decide in an ordinary year, as I stand on the crossroads from spring to summer, I fear we are in for something historic. If you find a good solution, please let me know!
© 2003 The