Friday, August 13, 2004
Green fields and lazy summer days
The lazy days of summer are here, and I cannot imagine a more peaceful spot inside Interstate 495 than Carlisle. Fields are still green and are being enjoyed by the cattle, goats, sheep and horses around town. And yet, there is a lot of work that continues throughout the summer to keep Carlisle beautiful and running smoothly.
The Department of Public Works has recently completed repairs to the culvert on North Road. Besides road repairs, during the summer months the DPW mows public spaces such as the Town Common and the cemeteries. The DPW is also building the pedestrian pathway along Route 225, and helps the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) with brush clearing, both at trailheads and along sight-lines at parking lot entrances. Trash bins at the conservation lands are emptied by a hired contractor.
Other ConsCom land maintenance is often handled by volunteers. For instance, the Old North Bridge Pony Club parents are refurbishing the Foss Farm riding ring. They have recently added wood chips to the ring to help keep down dust. Also, the boards are being replaced a few at a time, as volunteer labor permits.
The town's conservation lands would not include open fields for very long if the ConsCom did not maintain them. Many fields are tilled or mown by farmers in return for the crop. This is true for Foss Farm and the Cranberry Bog farmed by Mark Duffy, Fox Hill hayed by Dick Shohet, Greenough hayed by Gerry Cupp, and the Bisbee Land by George Frazier. This year the Benfield Parcel A is being mown compliments of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation (CCF).
Sheep are again grazing on the Towle Land. The sheep munch undesirable plants like poison ivy and buckthorn as well as grass, and the hope is that over time the grazing will reduce the number of these undesirable plants in the field. The project is funded by grants from the CCF and the WHIP (Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program) of the United States Department of Agriculture. Once the sheep are finished, the ConsCom will pay Jack O'Connor to have any remaining "loose ends" mown.
ConsCom Administrator Sylvia Willard said that the fields on the newly purchased Benfield Parcel A were mown by O'Connor and this was paid for by the Carlisle Conservation Foundation.
With the RecCom's care, the town's Spalding and Banta-Davis playing fields will be ready for action in a few weeks when the fall soccer season arrives again.
Are you ready for the busy days of September? Not me! Other than the matter of an editorial to write, this is a quiet, carefree day. White clouds float across a bright blue sky while two wild turkeys wander across the Mosquito's yard. At home during breakfast, we watched a hummingbird visit the pink blooms on the Rose of Sharon. To top it all off, a light breeze is keeping the bugs away. This is really a perfect summer day. Let's enjoy them while they last!
A friend of mine, who just celebrated her sixtieth birthday, posed the question, "Why do I feel so young?" She wasn't boasting; she was marveling at the contrast between her condition and the condition in which sixty-year-olds found themselves just a few generations ago. Back then, at 60, she would have been old — stooped, walking with difficulty, lacking teeth, perhaps incontinent, more concerned with the past than the present, and trying not to think at all of the future.
Of course, not everyone at 60 does feel young. Nor does everyone who comes into this world even reach the age of 60. Nor do the blessings that have made my friend feel young extend to everyone, but she is not unusual, for the great majority of those living in this country do reach that age and do feel young.
What are these blessings? To start with, most of us are better fed than were older generations. The knowledge of what makes a healthy diet is well known even if it is not always followed. The cornucopia of foods available at any supermarket is breathtaking — meats, fish, breads, fruits, vegetables, flavorings and garnishings gathered from all over the world, and all of it fresh and clean. And these offerings are cheap enough so that hardly anyone is compelled to forego a healthy diet.
The expansion of medical knowledge during the past 50 or 60 years is utterly without precedent. In that period we have moved from a time when doctors could cure only a handful of diseases and repair only a handful of injuries and defects to a time when almost the reverse is true. Today premature death from infectious disease is the exception, not the rule; likewise dying in childbirth or succumbing to injuries before help could arrive. The common causes of death — heart disease and cancer — are in a sense the consequence of living long lives, and even these diseases can be treated so many who have suffered from them continue to live well and happy. Indeed, my young-feeling friend has survived cancer.
Few of us today work at backbreaking or mind-numbing tasks for most of our lives, having been relieved by machines of many such duties. We talk a lot about stress, though compared with times past — when lives were far less secure and food and shelter and safety were far less taken for granted — our current lives are not anywhere near so stressful.
Beyond these objective improvements, maybe what my friend is feeling is merely the contrast between the way she actually feels and the way she imagined older people feel. When young, one supposes that older people are wise, that they have life all figured out, that they know what they're doing, that they've overcome their fears and doubts and accepted their weaknesses, that they are not assailed by sexual longing or passionate feelings. But it isn't so. Maybe older people always felt young inside but hesitated to express it. Maybe America's devotion to youthful behavior is actually a good thing. Ordinarily, the "cult of youth" is decried as unfortunate, glorifying something unremarkable — being young — and diminishing something more worthy of respect — reaching an older age with a record of achievement. But maybe living in a youthful society gives us the freedom to behave more youthfully; maybe wishing to be youthful makes us more youthful. Whatever it is, my friend is grateful that we live in a time and a place where most of us can feel as she does. So am I. So should we all.
© 2004 The