The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 15, 2009

Opinions

Another day of working at the polls

Town Election Day, Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at Town Hall. The polls open at 7 a.m. and I have signed up to work the 4 to 8 p.m. shift and stay to count ballots once the polls close at 8 p.m.

Tuesday turns out to be a busy day for me. As it happens every year about this time, a group of long-time friends from the Bellows Hill Road - Estabrook Road - Indian Hill neighborhood gather for an early-morning breakfast at The Colonial Inn in Concord to celebrate the “the May birthday girls.” After breakfast I return home to work on an article for the “Friends & Neighbors Page,” then head off to the Mosquito for some early afternoon layout. I make it back home by mid-afternoon for a quick bowl of chili, a chance to greet my dog Masha back from a visit to Dave Bitzer, her groomer, with a new sleek look, and then it is time to check in at the polls.

I stop by to talk with Town Clerk Charlene Hinton and Assistant Town Clerk Irene Blake. “How have things been going so far today,” I ask? Only one person at the door when the polls opened at 7 a. m., I learn, and only 266 voting by noon. There were signs being held earlier in the day for the School Building Project and support for Library Trustee Larissa Shyjan. Before being sworn in, I sign in with Election Warden Kerri Piette.

I have one more question to ask the Town Clerk before I get to work. “How many years have I been working at the polls?” She checks her books and responds, “You started back in 1980.” That is a long time ago, I realize. Those were the days when Town Hall was situated in the front section of Gleason Public Library, facing Bedford Road, where the children’s section of the library is located today!

I take my place at the check-in table in the hall. My partner is Bev Guyer, with whom I have worked before. I am assigned to hand out ballots to voters who live on roads M though W. As I check off the first voter on my shift, I ask “Do you want a Republican or a Democratic ballot?” Oops, I catch myself…this is not a national election; it is Carlisle’s Town Election. From then on, I know better.

What better way to feel a part of the Carlisle community than by working at the polls on Election Day! On this beautiful sunny spring afternoon, I see folks I have not seen for many months or several years. Here come young people, some who have just turned 18 or are returning home from college with an opportunity to vote. “Is that you, Clark Bakewell? I ask before handing him a ballot. “How do you like Georgetown? Do you still have chickens?” “The voting is evenly paced and almost relaxed,” remarks poll worker Jean Donnelly during the late afternoon hours. Later, during the dinner hour, many parents accompanied by their children arrive, and the voting picks up. By the time the polls have closed at 8 p.m., 854 Carlisleans have cast their ballots.

Once the polls are closed, nine pairs of poll workers are assembled to count the ballots, mainly in the Clark Room. I am teamed with Annie Pauler, who has just returned home after graduating from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the town where my son Will teaches. We have a few minutes to chat before a large envelope of 50 ballots arrives and work begins. I read from the ballots and Annie carefully marks down votes on our tally sheet. We reverse roles on the second packet of 50. Each time we sign our names to the envelope before turning it in.

It is 9:45 p.m. when we finish counting. Several people are waiting in the Town Hall lobby to get first-hand results, but I plan to go home and await the results by email in the morning. For me, it has been a busy day, ending with the satisfaction of seeing, first-hand, democracy at work in Carlisle.

Carlisle’s conservation lands

One of the nice things about growing up or living in Carlisle is that neither we nor our children have to live with “nature deficit disorder.” This is a significant blessing that should not go unappreciated. As someone who meets lots of under-enlightened children and adults, I am constantly reminded that there is an ocean of ignorance and misunderstanding about the natural world and our green environment, an ignorance that is mind-boggling and a naiveté that is woeful.

Carlisle is blessed not only with copious and diverse conservation lands which encompass a broad spectrum of geophysical and biodiversity, but also a successful dairy farm, community garden and farmers market. There are almost endless opportunities for outdoor recreation in a pristine environment free from the whine of sirens and the drone of rush-hour traffic.

Very few towns offer the variety of cultural amenities and environmental opportunities that we share in Carlisle. Whether it is the Native American sites and the wonderful up-turned rock ribs of the Conant land, the fields and trails of the Towle lands, the agriculture of Foss or the serene woods of Great Brook Farm State Park, Carlisle is truly fortunate. We can experience nearly all of the wonders of nature which New England offers without leaving home (as so many of us are wont to do despite such wealth at our doorsteps). However, perhaps the greatest advantage that our natural amenities afford is the opportunity for outdoor creative play and exploration. Playing in any form outdoors is extremely instructive both in the short term and the long. Not only do we learn to be safe and confident but we also learn to recognize danger or unsafe circumstances for what they are instead of what we fear they might be. Children learn to process information in thoughtful ways and make toys and tools out of what they find instead of needing to go shopping. Play and exploration with parents and siblings fosters long-lasting societal bonds that are based on personal (rather than digital or mediated) communication.

Carlisle’s conservation lands are a childhood’s heaven where we, whether boys or girls, can be in touch with ourselves without the interference or over-burden of society’s pressing demands as perceived by peers or parents. Time spent on our conservation lands are, in fact, the halcyon moments wherein one can create the intellectual environment that will help us deal with whatever our world drops on us as we grow up or grow old. Time spent in our fields and forests gives us the opportunity to reflect on what is truly of import in our otherwise quotidian existence and to understand the simple poetry and rhythms of the natural world that surrounds us if we care to look.

If you have not read How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen by Russell Hoban or Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, you may want to take a look. Both are instructive and useful resources.

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© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito