I moved into my house on Lake Mansfield in Great Barrington in the early 2000s. I can memorize Shakespearean monologues and whole plays, but dates not so much. So, I can’t remember the precise date, but the scene of my first encounter is vivid.
I arrived at the driveway with the realtor. We drove up the driveway toward the house passing the lake. I stopped the car, got out and couldn’t believe my eyeballs. At that time, I had been living a dual life as an actress and writer, between New York City and a second-homer in Great Barrington for more than 10 years. I had never even heard of Lake Mansfield, no less viewed its bucolic setting around the corner and up the hill from the bustling, can-never-find-a-parking-space Main Street of Great Barrington.
Wow! This beautiful pristine Lake was now available for my daily living.
I turned to the realtor and said “I’ll take it.”
She asked if I would like to see the inside of the house.
I said ”Not necessary. This is where I want to live.”
Since moving in, I spend most of my time — all seasons except for hurricanes, tornadoes, unwanted and unannounced visitors — either on my porch or by the lake.
Disclaimer: A few years ago, creeping age and brittle bones moved me incrementally South to preserve me so I could return to my heartbeat at Lake Mansfield in milder seasons.
All those years ago, I joined the Lake Mansfield Alliance along with many others supporters. Thus began my journey of speaking from both sides of my mouth — a human condition I am unfortunately very familiar with. I felt so clever.
As the town became more and more popular, we began to experience rush-hour traffic. I had the convenience of escape, using the road around the lake, short-cutting downtown traffic patterns. Hooray for S.J.!
My duplicitousness was only exceeded by my hypocrisy. One day I would race around the lake in my car while walkers pantomimed “slow down” and other not so nice words. The next day as I walked, taking in the beauty of the Lake Road, I would berate the racers around the lake shouting epithets of “killer” and “speed demon.” “Slow Down! There are children and old people!” (Of course, this was before I considered myself an old people).
In time, I noticed the decay of the road. The potholes were becoming large enough to swallow your tire whole. The road was narrowing enough so it was definitely conceivable to find you and your vehicle going in for an unauthorized swim. The Great Barrington Land Conservancy was doing its best to reserve, preserve and conserve Lake Mansfield as a recreational resource for the town. From one side of my mouth, I complained how the road around the lake impeded my speed. From the other side, I performed my pantomime dance attempting to slow down killer cars.
Then, the rumors began.
Rumor: Close Lake Mansfield Road to vehicle traffic.
Me: You can’t. I need that road.
Land Conservancy: We need a clean lake. We need to preserve the wetlands. We need vegetation and drainage to divert storm runoff that negatively impacts the road and the lake. We need a recreational area that offers the community walking, biking, fishing, swimming and boating without fear.
Me (stamping my foot): I don’t know how to get where I’m going without the lake road.
My conscience: Google it!
The biggest human fallacy in relationships as well as nature is that what is here will always be here. If I don’t want to be taken for granted, why should anything as vital and as beautiful and as natural as a healthy Lake Mansfield be taken for granted? Keeping Lake Mansfield and its environs healthy needs the vigilance of the Great Barrington Land Conservancy, a community-run group of enlightened citizenry who work tirelessly to reserve, preserve, conserve.
I converted. And for all of you sitting on the fence, I ask you to join forces with the Land Conservancy in not fooling around with Mother Nature. She likes to be taken seriously.
Here’s one added benefit: Speaking out of only one side of my mouth is easier. Also, I don’t look so funny.