Friday, February 13, 2004
February in Carlisle
I have been known to harangue friends living in such climatologically boring places as San Francisco about the glories of the four seasons in New England. Our spring may be short, but ah, the fresh green of newly unfurled ferns in May; winter may be cold, but the pristine beauty of fresh snow on pine trees in January cleanses the soul; and, of course, our autumn foliage is simply world famous. Time does not pass without notice in Carlisle. Nature celebrates each passing month with new colors and fragrances.
Except February. On Ground Hog Day it's time to leave or go underground. Anywhere else is better. Go north and winter is still well-behaved, cold temperatures and crunchy snow. Go south and the grass is greening. In Carlisle, precisely on February 2, the temperature begins to oscillate around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, rain and snow, freezing and thawing. Ice season — the least photogenic and most dangerous time of the year. My driveway is a 300-foot carpet of three-inch ice. Nothing melts in the shade of our famous Carlisle pines. It's a conspiracy. Forget terrorism; our greatest danger sits just past the doorstep.
Except for Valentine's Day, February has no redeeming merit. Someday, someday I will spend February elsewhere. In the meantime I plan to stay on the couch and eat chocolate.
Deep in the bowels of winter there are hours to contemplate what is really important in one's life, in one's community, the role of community in one's life and vice versa all of a sudden so much time (at least for a farmer). Yet, the abundance of time is seemingly illusory. Yes, there was time; time for a lot of things that did not happen, perhaps because of time wasted or ill-spent — or maybe spent on something apparently not very memorable. Now the previously unimportant vicissitudes of life take on greater import.
But the question pops up like spam: how do I find time and what will I do if I find it? When we were children, the mantra of the time-challenged was "if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it." Now everyone, it seems, is busy. And, in fact, they are. Committees, boards, children, parents — all seem to demand every quiet second of our waking and nodding moments. But mired down in the deep dark days of February, with its short days and long nights, the meaning of time and its currency becomes an issue.
February is the month to cogitate, evaluate and meditate. Luckily, the month is short because this can become habit-forming. Perhaps, more than any other month, February is the month to conserve, to hold things together and value what it is that makes our lives what they are. It is the time to focus on resources, personal, spiritual and physical; to attempt to understand the standards by which we measure the quality of our lives. It is a time to look about us before the dawn of spring and see what powers will avail themselves to carry us through another year.
We in Carlisle are an interesting lot as we constantly redefine our sense of community. We are at once near-hearted and far-hearted. We are a village in the near-hearted sense that cares deeply about community issues and relationships, about quality-of-life issues that are at our doorsteps. We tend to look after one another without being intrusive; we are apt to be supportive without being nosey. We are far-hearted in the sense that we care deeply about the larger world in which we live, about people whom we may never meet or know. While most of us have a professional life well outside the bounds of Carlisle, many bring back the skills and dedication gleaned from "away" to the great benefit of our community, and then dedicate endless hours to sharing those skills. So many of these people are unrecognized, but what they bring to us are "gifts". Somehow these individuals find time to give.
In Carlisle, citizenship is taken seriously. But it is only the wrapping paper on the gifts that we might share. Finding the time to unwrap the gift is the conundrum du jour. Some of us wonder what our gift may be. In this wondering, there is often a tender rumination at play. While each one of us has a gift for our community, it may not necessarily enhance the quality of the world we know at any given moment and may simply serve to provoke a more salubrious "gift" from some other quarter. The quality of your essence may be the gift you bring in and of itself.
Such musings are the joys of February.
© 2004 The