December 23 2020 Edition
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By the Way
Holidays are here. We're on the eve of evergreen and firelight, when many of us (in the Northern half of the globe) take a deep breath at the beginning of winter.

A lot of us need the rest, right now. This is a year when things that once seemed simple have become rare.

Last weekend I sat on a bench in the snow at Berkshire Theatre Group, watching an outdoor performance set in the Depression. An eight-year-old boy and a cousin who was mother and grandmother to him were saving pennies all year so that on one winter day they could make fruit cakes.

She knew the woods near the pastures around them. They took all day to hike in, to cut a tree and carry it across three creeks and haul it home in an old pram. They made each other kites and waded through the grass in the field so they could fly them, "feel them twitching at the string like sky fish as they swim into the wind." And she had never been more than five miles from home.

It's a story about making and finding and seeing what you have close by. Five people could get up on a wooden platform with a weathered barn for a backdrop, and we had a play, with little more set than a sewing basket and a knitted blanket. The actors and the audience all kept a careful physical distance. The energy between them was tangible in the air.

This year I keep re-learning how deep and complex simple things can be. I can walk out my front door without feeling afraid. My closest family are well. I live in a place where I can take a long walk in the woods — up White Oak Road maybe, up the old wood road past the trail heads in Mountain Meadow and around by East Mountain Farm, where the Herefords are out in the snow, burly brown cattle with white foreheads.

Even in a pandemic, I'm learning, people want to talk, and walk uphill in the snow until they're too warm for a jacket, and stand in the dark and watch planets converge.

Thank you all for talking with me. And listening. The year is turning, and every day now will hold a little more light. To all of us, Happy Hanukkah and happy Solstice, merry Christmas, joyful Kwanzaa, warmth in the winter — and hope for the New Year. By the Way Berkshires


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Williamstown, MA 01267