March 01 2021 Edition
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By the Way
A friend has been asking me what it means to me to live in the country. She moved here a few years ago from the city, and she’s trying to feel it out. She is thinking about people who have come here in the pandemic and looking for ways for the city and country to talk together.

She started with easy questions about physical things. I told her I’ve worn a cotton shirt for working outdoors. They’re usually my dad’s ancient shirts with the sleeves rolled up. I wear them for jobs like picking blackberries hauling square bales off a hay wagon by the twine and stacking them in the barn.

I wear them in summer, when the work involves rough surfaces, and I want something to protect my arms, but something light that will breathe when I start sweating and I’ve got hayseed plastered to my ribs.

Is that what it means to live in the country, to have a feel for outdoor work? I’ve worked college summers on a farm, but I never worked the hours the farm manager did, dawn to after dark. I can drive a tractor, but mostly just up the driveway to empty the bucket after shoveling out the sheep pen.

She asked about what lives here around us, and what I can call by name. Caring for the land I live on, I’ve found black walnut, angelica, staghorn sumac, joe-pye weed, maidenhair fern, hemlock … I know them familiarly, from walking with my parents, the way my brother is taking my niece hiking now in the backpack he used to ride in when he was a year old.

Is country living about botany? As I think about it, for me it means having earth under my feet. More than trees outside my window or a park up the road — it's a daily contact with living ecosystems. It's knowing when the sap rises. And it's a kind of ingenuity, invention, a freelance making-your-own-joy.

All my life I’ve met the assumption that anyone creative, intelligent and passionate will leave the country. They’ll head to the city, looking for people and creative life and the work they want to do. There are layers of assumptions wrapped up in that one, beginning with the idea that people have a choice in where they live and what they do. But I have seen it happen.

So, as Covid shifts some working structures, I wonder whether some choices may open up in new ways, for some people. It’s a hard question right now, I know. A lot of us are moving one day at a time, and as I look at this week’s events, people close by are struggling to keep warm and safe and sheltered and fed tonight. That’s living in the country too. That’s real, and I hear it.

Yesterday I was walking in the snow with a friend, and we heard a clear repeated call — a black and white bird larger than a crow was beating across the field — and she told me it was a pileated woodpecker. I’ve seen one in warmer weather, holding vertically to a trunk, bold and grandly large, but in all these years I’ve never heard one call or seen one fly. That’s living in the country, for me — sharing that moment of astonishment, feeling the surge of it and putting it into words, wanting to give it to you. By the Way Berkshires

Stories

A farmer gathers greens on a late summer morning at Indian Line Farm.

The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook savors local stories

On a warm and quiet day, Elisa Spungen Bildner was sitting with Kim Wells, the farmer at East Mountain Farm in Williamstown. They had walked up into the woods where his pigs forage in summer ...

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Sunset turns the hills golden in Pomfret, Conn.

The woman behind 'Whistler's Mother' endures

'Whistler’s Mother' has become one of the most recognized paintings ever made. But few people know the woman in it. Looking at the elderly figure in her black dress, how many people see a young woman helping her doctor father in his lab in New York — or a young mother holding her dying 2-year-old son on a ship to Russia?

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Events

Jen Salinetti, co-founder, farmer and director of education and community engagement at Woven Roots Farm, gathers abundant greens. Press photo courtesy of WCMA.

New Ecologies: Sustenance

February 4 at 5:30 p.m. (online)

Farmer and teacher Jen Salinetti, herbalist Mandana Boushee, and artists Yoko Inoue and Sarah Rara will hold a conversation on artistic practice, land stewardship, food studies and activism, with the Williams College Museum of Art.

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The Berkshire Jewish Film Festival presents 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit,' adapted from the book, as a girl and her family are forced to leave Germany to survive as the Nazis take power.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Through February 4 (virtual)

The Berkshire Jewish Film Festival (BJFF) will offer the film 'When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit,' the adaptation of Judith Kerr's novel set in Germany in 1933.

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An eastern bluebird fluffs feathers to keep warm in the cold. Creative Commons courtesy photo

Winter Wings

February 5 at 5:30 p.m. (online)

Mass Audubon naturalist will reveal the lives of the birds who live in the Berkshires through the winter, in backyards, woods and fields, and talk about how they survive the snow and the deep cold.

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Berkshire and nationally known vocalist Wanda Houston. Press photo courtesy of the artist.

Warm up the winter concert

February 6 at 7 p.m.

Wanda Houston and the Wanda Houston Band will perform a free virtual concert with Construct Inc. in Warm Up the Winter: Call to Action for Emergency Assistance.

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Visitors take in the bright color of Sol Lewitt's murals at Mass MoCA.

Auditory After Hours: Jason Moran

February 6 opening at 7 p.m.

Mass MoCA opens on a winter night as jazz pianist, composer and bandleader Jason Moran merges color and sound, inspired by Sol LeWitt's vivid wall drawings.

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Nan Bookless' photograph 'Neighbor's Truck' appears in the OLLI art show 2021. Press image courtesy of OLLI

OLLI annual art show

Ongoing (online)

OLLI at BCC is putting on its annual art show virtually, with photography, sculpture, mixed media, painting, drawing, fiber arts and more.

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