Friday, September 3, 2004
Catching up on Carlisle news
It was Saturday afternoon when we crossed the Chelmsford-Carlisle line, headed for home after a two-week stay in New Brunswick, Canada. As we traveled down Lowell Street my first stop was at Ferns Country Store for a loaf of bread, some milk, and the New York Times. I was curious as to what had been going on in town, and proprietor Larry Bearfield was eager to tell me that he had obtained enough petition signatures to place two questions on the November ballot: one to allow the sale in Carlisle of all alcoholic beverages, the other for the sale of beer and wine only.
Ten minutes later, unloading the car in our driveway, I was overjoyed to observe ripe tomatoes and cucumbers drooping off the vines in the backyard garden, and a multitude of colorful zinnias lining the path leading into the house. Finally, with bags, boxes, and suitcases piled on the living room floor, it was time to check out the 17 phone calls collected on our answering machine. Now I would surely learn more about the goings-on in Carlisle over the past fortnight.
Unfortunately three of the calls were to inform me of the death of Walter Woodward, longtime Carlisle resident and much loved music director of the Carlisle Cats. It was less than a month ago he had called my husband to report an interesting bird he had been watching from his home on South Street.
I returned phone calls and checked with others at the Mosquito to make sure we had received the Woodward obituary to go in the paper this week. Later, I learned that two other longtime Carlisle residents had recently died Mildred Davis and Katherine Jung, both formerly of Stearns Street.
On Sunday I was pleased to see the progress that the DPW had made on the footpath running along the side of Bedford Road. The last time I had looked, several weeks ago, it had gone as far as the Zezima property near the foot of Church Street. Now I could see that it had been extended down the road, through the field where the Shohets' cattle graze to a point across the street from the entrance to the Banta- Davis Land. Finally, I would have the opportunity to walk safely along a major Carlisle road, past the library, to the post office and, after two road crossings, onto the Banta- Davis Land playing fields.
Early Monday morning, about to sort through the crate of mail heaped high on the dining room table, I received a phone call from Election Warden Harriet Fortier asking me to work at the Primary Election on September 14. I certainly knew about the November election, but had completely forgotten about the primary in September. Happy to agree to work my usual time slot on Election Day, I hung up the phone and realized that after two days I was just starting to catch up on Carlisle news.
This summer's power outages that NStar claims were . . . um . . . sparked by squirrels were as annoying as the plague of mosquitoes that blanketed the town.
Our longest outage occurred on a sweltering July day when my visiting grandson, age six, and I returned home from the Butterfly Place in Westford. We had decided on pasta for lunch, but the absence of water and electricity foiled that plan. All other choices — peanut butter and jelly, turkey sandwich, cereal ("That's just for breakfast," he protested) — were rejected. So we had some leftover Kimball's butter crunch ice cream for lunch.
"The Borrowers" video was to be the afternoon entertainment. We headed for the TV before we realized there still was no power. "Can I play checkers on the computer?" my grandson asked. No, I explained, the computer runs on electricity and there isn't any. "Well, what can I do?" he whined. I quickly concluded that any narrative of my idyllic childhood devoid of computers and VCRs would not be welcome. "This is the worst day of my life," he announced dramatically.
I was apprehensive. I always am when the power fails. During the long afternoon, I called NStar four times just to hear the semi-comforting recorded message that they're "working on the problem." The house grew hot and sticky.
We played three games of Sorry (he won all three, legitimately). We made a list of all the things people can't do when the electricity fails. We took the puppy for a walk. I called NStar again in case the message had changed. Just as I contemplated taking us to McDonald's for dinner, the refrigerator suddenly whirred back to life and lights blinked urgently on every digital clock. The power was restored. Praise Zeus! (Can you tell I've been watching the Olympics?)
In retrospect, I wonder why even daytime blackouts in mid-summer produce such feelings of uneasiness. Nighttime outages seem far worsethey plunge us unexpectedly into inky blackness and eerie stillness, much like tumbling into the eternal abyss. The world stops turning. We stumble until we find the flashlight and candlesuh-oh, where are the matchesand we regain a small measure of control.
Those early morning outages in early August triggered immediate challenges: How can I make the coffee? How can I access my e-mail? I can't even take a shower! When the flick of a switch doesn't bring light and turning a faucet doesn't draw water, whether we're six or sixty we realize how truly powerless we are.
Compared with people in Florida, left without power for days and weeks by hurricanes, our problems were brief and merely inconvenient, hardly life-threatening. When the world turned again, we picked up our regular lives, reset all the blinking clocks, and placed the matches next to the candles for the next time the squirrels strike.
© 2004 The