Friday, May 28, 2010
Rites of Spring
Isn’t May the best time of the year? Except for a bumper crop of this newspaper’s namesakes, the last few weeks have been lovely here, as swamps and woods and fields and lawns finally got a chance to dry out and we’ve been treated to days and long evenings of sun and mild temperatures. This time marks transitions – from cool to sultry, from school routines to summer ease, from the gray tasks of winter to sunnier diversions.
The joys of spring in New England are perhaps even more appreciated by those who labor in and around town government, as Town Meeting and Town Election bring a close to often intense preparations of budget and other proposals and to efforts to rally voters to support such proposals. It’s not that nothing happens in June and in summer, but the pace slows and tasks change, from the legislative decision-making of Town Meeting to the executive, running-the-town mode.
So this seems the moment to say thank you to our leaders for getting us through another round of policy-making, of funding decisions and debates, with minimal divisiveness and even, on this year’s really expensive issue (the $20 million Carlisle Public School renovation), a fairly broad consensus.
My own Pollyanna-ish appreciation for Carlisle’s Town Meeting and Election process probably stems from having come of age politically in the highly corrupt and contentious climate of Brooklyn during the Vietnam war. Consequently what I have treasured about Carlisle is that, with a few exceptions, we tend to discuss and resolve issues and make decisions in a non-partisan manner. Not that political debate and alliances and maneuvering are not involved, but positions and arguments relate much more to the needs or interests of townspeople than to party identification or ideology.
This does not make it simpler for the town to function, but this way our leaders can pay more attention to reality – that is, to the actual needs of their neighbors and of the town’s institutions. Not having political parties involved also helps us debate possible resolutions and priorities without getting entangled in quite so many conflicts, without as much wheeling and dealing or posturing as we see on the state or national scene. Another advantage is that our Selectmen can recruit and appoint committee members based on skills, training, interest, knowledge or experience rather than ideology, or as a reward for campaign help. Also, the relative absence of bitterness when disagreements do occur makes it easier to persuade ordinary citizens to serve, and gives us talented and committed volunteers to guide policies.
So let’s pause in our drift from the rituals of local democracy, from the hand-cranked wooden ballot box and appropriations for road repairs, to more casual summer celebrations of community, on Memorial Day and Old Home Day. We should congratulate ourselves. We made some tough decisions, divided up the town’s fiscal pie, and our sense of community seems intact, at least for one more year. ∆
The apocryphal pig
Like every young family with tiny children and outsize dreams about SATs and the Ivy Leagues, we moved to Carlisle for the ice cream. Our children’s formative years were enclosed like a grandparent’s loving arms by Kimball’s on Carlisle’s east side and Great Brook Farm on the north. As we natives know, both draw many non-Carlisleans to our town, which is good – Carlisle has a lot to show off and be proud about, and I think our ice cream industry is definitely showing one aspect of our best face. You can tell the out-of-towners at Kimball’s, at any rate, because they’re thinking about whether they should get any of the sizes larger than “small”, and sometimes they actually go and do it.
Of course our family has its ice cream stories. One daughter still recalls with bitterness unabated by the years the cup of Oreo cookie ice cream which she carefully stowed in the freezer, only to find the next day that another daughter had carefully mined out all the cookie fragments. There was the time when we got ice cream on a really hot day, and to avoid having it melt all over our seats I had the girls hold their cones or cups out the window while we drove home. The wind tore spindrift sprays of ice cream off into huge Jackson Pollack spatters all down and back the side of the car, where it hardened mercilessly and stayed a long time. And, there was the apocryphal pig. My daughters were sitting down eating their ice cream, and one of them was spacing out with both mind and focus off somewhere, when a largish animal came up and ate her ice cream for a while before she noticed. She and her sisters swear it was a pig, although to me odds of pigs roaming loose at either Kimball’s or Great Brook seem kind of low. Whatever the animal, it has entered myth.
Looking back over the years which now stretch from tiny little girls to graduates from life’s various levels, I would say that pretty much everything you need to know for life you can learn standing in line for ice cream: (1) Don’t worry about whether your line is moving faster or slower. (2) Don’t even think about getting cuts in line – it’s cheating. (3) Take your time choosing, then don’t feel buyer’s remorse. You have no good reason to think your life would have been better forever and ever with the other one. (4) Swat the mosquitoes, but don’t hate them: like you yourself standing here in line, we’re all just hanging out trying to put something good in our tummies. (5) Smile at people you don’t know. (6) Leave tips: tell the people who work for you that you love the product and they’re doing a great job. (7) Talk, tickle, rough-house, and joke around while you’re waiting for life’s Important Events to happen – fun with others is going to turn out to be your life’s main accomplishment anyway. ∆
© 2010 The