Friday, March 12, 2010
Where have all the candidates gone?
By the end of the evening at the Town Caucus on Monday, March 1, it appeared that all candidates running for town government were running unopposed. With no contests in the Annual Town Election to be held on Tuesday, May 18, Tim Hult, who is not running for re-election to the Board of Selectmen, expressed it succinctly when he said, “There’s always a sigh of relief when there’s at least one candidate for each office, but it makes it a better process if we have contests.” And he added, “It makes the dialogue much richer.”
In a call to Town Clerk Charlene Hinton on Monday, I learned that no other candidates have contacted her to put their names on the ballot. However, it is still possible to run for office, if one acts quickly. For a name to be placed on the ballot, nomination papers must be obtained from Hinton, filled out, and returned with the names of 26 registered voters, no later than 5 p.m. Monday, March 15. Running as a write-in candidate is another possibility, but the name of the candidate and his or her address must be correctly printed and legible to poll workers who will be counting the votes.
And what about the League of Women Voter’s Forum, where townspeople have had the opportunity to listen to the candidates and judge who would be most qualified for each office? On Tuesday I spoke to Barbara Lewis of the Concord-Carlisle League of Women Voters to find out the date of this annual pre-election event. With no contested races, the League has questioned the need for a forum this year. Lewis explained that no date has been set yet, and voiced concern about this lack of “dialogue” if voters are not able to hear the candidates’ goals and why they are running for office. The League is still hoping to provide a setting where townspeople may come to be better informed about the issues and the choices that will still need to be made at the Town Election.
So here we are in 2010 with few candidates running for office. This does not bode well for a town like Carlisle, which may be heading towards a town-manager executive (instead of a town administrator) as is the case in all the surrounding towns. ∆
News flash –
Life is sweet
What joy to see the galvanized pails appear on the sugar maples over the last few weeks in Carlisle, Concord and Lincoln! We may yet experience blizzards, but if the relentlessly increasing warmth of the sun and length of the day, beginning about Groundhog Day, is the first sign of spring, surely the appearance of sugaring equipment confirms this is no illusion: the trees feel it too.
I was curious – who was behind the surprisingly large number of maples tapped this year? Sally Zielinski’s Mosquito article about the maples at Towle Field (maples I understand were planted 30 years ago by Carlisle Boy Scouts) answered the question: Gaining Ground, the non-profit farm organization that supplies locally grown fresh produce to area food pantries and meals operations. So one Tuesday after work I decided to drive home by way of Gaining Ground’s operation at the Thoreau homestead, just off the end of runway 11/29 at Hansom Field.
The experience was quintessential New England. I happened to come in the wrong end of the drive loop, and so was treated to the thrill of using the AWD and high clearance of the Forester, alternately slipping, sliding and accelerating through 100 yards of 8-inch-deep gumbo. Mud season! Ok, not quite Vermont, but enough to get me in the mood for a visit to a sugar shack.
In the gathering twilight three young women tended the fire of the cast iron and stainless steel boiler, made by a small fabricator in northern New England. Clouds of smoky-sweet steam rose through the vented roof of the shack. The hiss of the boil soothed away the stress of the commute. The steam condensed on the rafters, creating an intermittent syrupy drizzle. From time to time a kitchen timer would sound, indicating it was time to feed wood to the fire, some of it split by kids who had dropped by after school. At longer intervals a hydrometer was lowered into a sample from the finishing pan, and the specific gravity and temperature of the syrup noted. After a few quiet minutes in this sweet sauna, we fell to talking.
Maple sugaring is ancient activity. We tend to forget that this land had intelligent, creative inhabitants before us, in fact, long before the 1630s. The fields in and around greater Concord have been more or less continuously farmed for 5,000 years. And while later Native Americans grew corn, beans and squash, those plants were domesticated elsewhere. Maple sugar, along with venison, fish, oysters and other shellfish, are the truly indigenous foodstuffs of Massachusetts. Native Americans reportedly placed fired rocks in bark vessels of sap, or repeatedly froze sap, removing the ice, to produce syrup and eventually sugar. Imagine the intense taste, not to mention the precious calories, of maple sugar during the Hunger Moon. When we make and eat maple syrup and maple sugar we participate in an unbroken line of gathering wild food, unique to this place, going back 200 human generations.
Soon enough it will be time to start the tomatoes and other seedlings for May planting. Soon enough the weekend haze from spring cleanup fires will appear. For now it is enough to have the privilege to see again the deep tradition of collecting the first, rising sap of new life and concentrating it to American ambrosia – proof that life is sweet. ∆
© 2010 The