The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 3, 2006


Change and participation — no regrets

If there is one thing a real Yankee hates, it is change. This may be why there are so few real Yankees around anymore. In the minds of many, change is apt to be related to entropy, and a good Yankee would tell you that is not a good thing. Others will ballyhoo change as the path of progress. Frankly, I am inclined to sigh heavily, certain only that, willy-nilly, whichever course is selected, things will change.

I come to this painful realization at about this time every year. On the one hand, I see Carlisle as a somewhat retro, halcyon enclave amid the hustle of the arguably more urbane Boston 'burbs. I find myself thinking of our town as a diorama in a cultural museum of social history. People probably drive through town and wonder if anybody really lives in this sleepy little burg with apparently none of the trappings of social modernity. We have our one remaining dairy farm, open to the public. It has one of the most productive dairy herds in the state, and the cows are still fed and milked by humans. Sadly, this approach to dairying has almost entirely gone by the boards in America. Carlisle also has the northernmost cranberry bog in Massachusetts. You can traipse through at your leisure. Don't go to Wareham, with or without your dog(s), and expect to do the same.

And, of course, Carlisle has other endearing qualities: we can't seem to officially locate the Town Forest; services are almost entirely absent; crime is virtually limited to jay-walking in the Center; individuals stand up in a public meeting and declare that they do not lock their doors; and an apparently successful farmer's market erupts spontaneously at Bates Farm. Who would want any of this to change? Public persona and individual initiative still count here. But change it will.

A couple of very Carlisle qualities must not change. Carlisle supports education and communication. The schools here are, without doubt, excellent. We have a fine and oft-honored local paper that is totally independent and not averse to reporting controversy. Most important is the sense of public participation in local government. However, I am concerned that too few of us are willing to sit behind the table at meetings. We are all good at speaking up about our issues; not enough of us want to listen. Too many of us sleep here, and not enough "live" here. This is primarily because too few of us think that Carlisle is where we will retire, never mind that it will be where we live ten years from now.

Institutional memory is in the collective consciousness of the people who shape community, take responsibility for the future and are willing to come onto the stage of public affairs for more than one-, two-, or three-year terms, if at all. It is also in the collective memory of the Town Meeting attendees who come year after year to voice their interests in a broad range of matters (not just a single issue).

If you have recently moved to town, never attended Town Meeting, or served on a local board or committee, I am sure all of us would welcome your interest and opinion. Too few people spend too many nights at Town Hall. Become a part of what has made Carlisle the unique and curious town that we are. Share what you love and why you came here. We would love your company and input. You will (almost) never regret it.

The rocks will speak

The outdoor memorial to Vivian Chaput that is now being designed will be more than just a tribute to a beloved selectman whose sudden death in an automobile accident on March 8, 2004, shocked the community (Mosquito, January 20, 2006, p. 1). The memorial promises to be a fitting tribute to Vivian, who gave so much to Carlisle, and an enduring asset to our community.

Resting on the Conant Land in back of Town Hall, sculptor Joe Wheelwright's "lightly carved" boulders, along with natural rocks and woodland, will define a new space and attract a wide variety of visitors — those who knew Vivian and those who did not, school children on nature walks, and anyone drawn to a quiet place of beauty and contemplation.

Carlisle has a few public memorials. The most prominent, of course, is the Goddess of Liberty statue that presides over the rotary in the center and commemorates the town's Civil War dead. The Wilson Memorial Chapel in Green Cemetery was given to the town in 1907 by Captain Horace W. Wilson in memory of his parents. At the gateway to Green Cemetery stands the imposing Heald Memorial Archway, a 1914 gift of Benjamin F. Heald 2nd to honor his parents.

Among more recent memorials is the outdoor garden that celebrates the life of Skip Anderegg, long-time volunteer, Mosquito editor and community activist, who died in May 1989. Her memorial garden, now in the courtyard of the Carlisle School near the Link Building, was moved from its original location at the school — and depending on the outcome of the master plan for school expansion, might be moved again.

Rory Bentley, a sixth-grader who loved running, died suddenly in September 1984. In his memory a physical fitness Par Course was built at the site of the current Tot Lot adjacent to the school. Last year, as an Eagle Scout project, Boy Scout Troop 135 moved the Par Course to a corner of the Banta-Davis soccer field, and added new equipment and a plaque honoring Rory Bentley.

A public memorial — whether it is a plaque, a newly planted tree, a statue, a garden or a building — is a tangible connection to those whom we as individuals or as a community have lost. Privately, family and friends carry their loved ones in their hearts always. The life of a much-admired public figure like Vivian Chaput, who touched so many people and left a legacy of service to Carlisle, inspires us to follow her example of leadership and caring about our fellow citizens. That is her true memorial, which will endure as long as there are people who remember her.

Thereafter, the outdoor memorial, representing the essence of Carlisle, will still be here. The rocks and boulders will speak to future generations of Vivian Chaput, a special person whom Carlisle will always remember.


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2006 The Carlisle Mosquito