Friday, November 28, 2003
After giving thanks
What's left of the turkey is back in the fridge, and those of us who overate yesterday are either seriously exercising, or else thinking seriously about starting to exercise, or maybe just watching sports on TV.
Shopkeepers would have us turn our attention quickly to the next set of holidays, but I suggest we consider the message of Thanksgiving a while longer. This is a time to be grateful for our own good fortune, and to also reach out and help others. There are many opportunities close at hand.
The Open Table is one example. This organization offers a warm meal on Thursdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the First Parish Church in Concord, and serves over 100 meals each week. Groceries are also given to guests who need them. The Open Table welcomes volunteers and donations of groceries. Cereal, coffee, tea, canned fruit and soups are especially welcome, and donations can be dropped off on Thursdays between 2 and 3:30 p.m. at their food pantry in the back of the Concord Council on Aging building at 105 Everett Street. For further information, call the Open Table at 1-978-369-2275, visit their web site at www.opentable.org, or write them at P.O. Box 42, Concord, MA 01742.
Located in Lowell, the Open Pantry is a food bank that provides emergency food aid to families Tuesday through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to noon. Because of limited resources, families are eligible for food only once a month, but between 30 and 60 families are served each day. It is supported in part by money raised by the annual Greater Boston Walk for Hunger. Members of both Carlisle's First Religious Society and Congregational Church have been involved in helping the Open Pantry for many years. For information on how to volunteer or give nonperishable food, call 1-978-453-6693, or drop by the Open Pantry at 200 Central Street, on the corner with Hurd Street, in Lowell.
Even closer to home, the Carlisle Post Office collects donations of grocery items for Loaves and Fishes, a food pantry in Devens, Mass. Just place non-perishable items in the marked bin in the lobby whenever the post office is open. Project Bread is the parent organization of Loaves and Fishes.
With winter close at hand, many poor people in the area need warm coats. Through December 13, the Carlisle Girl Scouts are collecting donations of "gently" used coats, snowsuits, hats and mittens for both children and adults. These items will be given to a local family shelter. To make a donation, place items in the drop-off box at 8 Bedford Road in Carlisle Center (the house between Fleet Bank and the library.) For more information, call Darragh Murphy at 1-978-318-0319.
These are just four of the programs to help others in our area. Many more will be described in early December in a feature article by Carolyn Armistead.
The last best deal in Carlisle
On a mild day this past autumn I found myself strolling through Green Cemetery, waiting for Gary Davis, the town official charged with selling grave plots among the shrubs and quiet trees.
Green Cemetery, as befits such a resting place, is usually quiet. The traffic surf from Route 225 dies in the hemlock hedge. Even the birds seem discreet among the spacious maples, oaks, and beeches. Human visitors, even the youngest, rarely run or shout among cemetery monuments, perhaps because they know that one day this too may be their destiny.
Mr. Davis appeared suddenly, with a cheerful smile and vigorous handshake. I had told him earlier that I was undertaking the purchase of a burial lot; he had agreed to show me the available spaces.
Naturally, I wanted a plot in the main cemetery, somewhere under a well-established tree. Few of us, I think, picture eternity out in the wind and rain, unprotected.
Nonetheless, Mr. Davis led me away from the shaded, established lanes of the cemetery, whose plots had all been purchased. We walked gravely toward the Banta-Davis ball field, and emerged from the shade of 100-year-old maples into an open space where the whips of new maples were biting into the dust of the sandy soil.
"Does it matter where your plot is?" Mr. Davis asked.
It's one of life's great questions. It brings into play all one's notions about life, death, and the afterlife (or the lack thereof). It makes one want to read more theology and learned tracts on Egyptian funerary rites.
"Yes and no," was my evasive response. "How about plots along the stone wall?"
"All taken," replied Mr. Davis. "People like to lie next to a stone wall."
Even though I was new to cemetery plot shopping, I saw instantly that the best bargains had already been snapped up. What security, to rest interminably next to a stone wall!
We turned down one of the gravel lanes that crisscross the burial ground, headed for a small dip in the ground's contour. "Getting marshy," I thought, "a wet basement and no sump pump." I turned us around.
"You can buy a single plot for $200," Mr. Davis explained. "You can place two coffins in a plot, or up to twelve urns of ashes. If you decide to sell your plot, the town will reimburse your $200, even though the plots may be selling for more at the time."
No return on my investment! Indeed, there would very probably be a loss, even if interest rates remain at their current, historic lows. Mr. Davis also noted that prices might be pushing up soon. Despite his elegiac manner I felt the ashy panic of sales pressure.
Still, when you amortize the expense of a plot over the lifetime of its use infinite it's virtually free. Besides, as cemeteries go, Green Cemetery is more than pleasant. While it's bordered on two sides by roads, one is an access to playing fields an eternity of baseball and softball. On the other side lies a swamp, always a private preserve. Several times a year parades wind through the grounds. The Minutemen fire their muzzle-loaders stiffly over the graves of soldiers. And I have every reason to hope that those maple whips, or ones like them, will grow into proper, funereal shade trees. Who knows what comforts can come in a few hundred years?
Or else none of this matters a wink.
So I pulled out my checkbook and signed on the dotted line.
© 2003 The