The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 15, 2005


Carlisle's jewels

What are your favorite places in Carlisle?

For years I have called the Towle Conservation Land a "jewel" because of its beautiful rolling fields and woodland, its pond, and many trails for walking and cross-country skiing. Bluebirds and bobolinks are among the many species that nest there, and the view of the field from Westford Street is a refreshing vista for those of us who drive past on the way to work or to run errands.

Another favorite place is the town's Foss Farm. Dog walking, horseback riding, community gardening and farming coexist amazingly well there with the deer, and with less common wildlife such as woodcock and blue-spotted salamanders.

A third jewel is the Cranberry Bog on Curve Street. It provides another wide-sky vista, an interesting agricultural operation, beautiful ponds, woods and trails. Wildlife found there includes deer, beaver, snapping turtles and mink. Anyone who walks along the dike trails in summer will find Canada geese on the water and all kinds of dragonflies among the wildflowers. My list of favorite places includes Carlisle's two great ice-cream stands and the Town Green, ringed with historic houses and churches.

"Jewels" can also be events or institutions — like Old Home Day, or the Carlisle Public School and Gleason Library.

Making a list of Carlisle "jewels" can be an interesting and perhaps surprising activity. Try it with your family some dinnertime.

Driving ambitions

According to a recently published letter in Harvard Magazine about President Summers' provocative remarks on disparities between the genders, "the brains of men and women are substantially different" when measured by functional anatomy or behavior. "We homo sapiens are pretty darn cute, to be sure," the writer says, but hardly unique from the rest of the animal kingdom when it comes to differences between the sexes. If there's anyone out there who doubts this essential truth, just try having a conversation with a man about his car.

Let's face it: cars are primarily a guy thing. At both a symbolic and visceral level, they represent style, speed, power, and freedomthe call of the open road. Why cars should appeal to males more than females is somewhat of a mystery; perhaps this is a vestige of our hard-wired instincts from the hunter/gatherer days. Cars are controversial these days because they're energy hogs, pollute the air, and are a leading cause of death (nearly 50,000 traffic fatalities per year nationally). Yet there's also an emerging appreciation in our culture for cars as objects of beauty and desire, worthy of being displayed in museums.

Luckily for a car buff like me, Ralph Lauren made gobs of money selling fancy clothes and was thereby able to indulge his passion for collecting fine automobiles. A small portion of his fleet was on view recently at the Museum of Fine Arts, and it was as good an exhibit as I've ever seen there. What made it particularly fascinating was that each car had its own story: how it was designed, engineered, and fabricated; the people who drove it and what role it played in the evolution of automobile engineering and design. There was also a video showing the cars in motion, seemingly driving themselves along country roadsalmost lifelike characters, each with a distinct personality.

It's easy to see how people get attached to their cars, since they are such an essential part of our everyday lives and we spend so much time in them that they almost become members of the family. When I was a kid growing up in California, we had an ancient VW convertible that somehow acquired the name "Fred" and was passed down through the family as each sibling attained the magic age of 16 and could get a driver's license. Fred was so old and so cheap to repair that it didn't seem worthwhile, or merciful, to send him to the junkyard. He finally met his demise when our youngest sister headed off to college and there was no one left at home to care for him.

Getting rid of an old car can almost feel like putting your pet to sleep. We still keep our ancient minivan as the "dump car." It runs fine, though the driver's side door is rusted through and the paint is peeling off the roof in large flakes, exposing bare metal beneath. Last week I made the agonizing decision to retire "Lex," which has been in the family since 1992 and has given us 240,000 honorable miles. Lex has been displaced by a new leased vehicle. (I couldn't bring myself to actually buy one outright, as that seemed too final an act of disloyalty.) He now sits mournfully in the garage, awaiting his fate, which most likely will be donation to charity. This time, I went for a 24-month lease — more like dating than marriage — and will wait until it expires before deciding whether or not the new car is a worthy successor. Only time will tell.


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2005 The Carlisle Mosquito