Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Very Best of Two Worlds

I commute to work in Boston, and for some reason folks in Boston say, "Wow. All the way from Sturbridge?"

Well, yes.

60.4 miles from my driveway to my little spot in the underground garage at work. What amazes me is that the folks that are usually in awe of my commute travel the same distance from Plymouth or Gloucester. It's different when you are coming from the west. Plymouth and Gloucester are on the coast, just up from the city, or down a ways, but west of the city? Towards Worcester? Well, that's near New York isn't it?

I grew up 12 miles outside of Boston in Medfield, and then lived in a town south of Milford on I-495 for many years. To me, anything west of I-495 was the Hinterland. And, Worcester? Well, that would require planning, trip tix from AAA, a packed lunch, and a space blanket for emergencies.

Growing up it was the towns next door, or the Cape, and sometimes Boston we would travel to. We always seemed to be pointed eastward. We never considered looking over our shoulders to the west, unless it was a school trip to Old Sturbridge Village. "Are we staying overnight in a hotel?"

So, I can see how those in the city, and in the Metrowest region think. Central Mass is a different world. It's the end of the world to most. Well, almost. First comes Worcester, then Albany, then Chicago, then San Fransisco, then the end of the world.

I am not alone, though. Many folks do the Exit 9 to Exit 18, or 24 shuffle each day on the Pike. It's a straight shot, and in a snow storm, it is usually the safest road out there, unless you are traveling between highway equipment yards. Sometimes the road is cleared so well, then the plows leave the road, turn around and head back the other way. Then you are on your own to deal with the unplowed and untreated section you just drove into. The plows from the other yard haven't made it this far west yet, never mind turned around to head back east.

All in all, the commute is fine. Occasionally I will hit traffic in Framingham, or around the Weston toll booths. I always allow enough time to go with the flow. Red Sox games will change things a bit, as do big concerts in town, but all in all, the commute is fine. I sip my coffee, talk "hands free" to my sister in South Carolina, or to Mary back home. Listen to some Lily Allen, or Michael Buble.

Good times.

So, why commute 60 miles to work? There are several reasons, but besides the obvious reason of really loving ones job, there is the added extra benefit one would not normally think of. You see, I can be in the heart of a very cosmopolitan city with its high rises, concrete and steel one minute, and about 60 minutes later be in the woods, or a meadow, or on a farm. But more importantly, I can be home in the heart of it all.

Sturbridge has become a bedroom community. Most folks work outside the town, and many of them commute a distance. We may like to think of ourselves as being in farm country, but until the recent real estate debacle we grew more bedrooms than cows. Gone are the days of waking up, having a hearty breakfast and ambling out to the barn to put in a days work. Although, those days are gone from our neck of the woods for most of us, they are still here for others. As a result, we are blessed to have the very best of both worlds.

As a bedroom community we have more than what is required. First of all, we have the bedrooms. Houses, especially as of late, aren't in short supply here. We have fine schools, Little League, a dance studio, soccer teams, and softball leagues. We have a bar every half mile or so, two Dunkin' Donuts, and a Honey Dew. We have a Wal*Mart, a Marshalls, and two supermarkets. We have a 200 year old inn with a fine restaurant, a pub, and an excellent bakery. We have the Mill Stores and anything from beads to graphics to moccasins to lunch to furniture and clocks can be had there.

We have churches. A bunch of them. We have ball fields, and lakes to float on. Streams to jump over and a river to fish. We have little stores that sell everything from wrought iron drawer pulls, to antique textiles. We have a store for leather goods, firearms, and pet supplies. A couple of paint stores, and cell phone stores.

And, we have the people. I know more people by their first names in the short time I have been here than in the 25 years I spent just south of Milford on 495.

So, when folks ask me why I commute so far I usually tell them I have the best of two very wonderful worlds, and to me, I am blessed.

When we open our eyes, and look around us, and actually see the things we do have in our midst, we could all be very happy, grow more content, and eventually become complacent. Instead, we acknowledge it, and give thanks for what we have, and it gives us the drive to save it, care for it, and dream to improve it.

When I get off the Pike in the morning, and am driving home west on 20, Lead Mine Mountain rises up behind Old Sturbridge Village. This is Mary's favorite view. The morning mist, and sun play with the light on the side of that hill, and I smile. The drive was worth it.

I'm home.

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