On this raw, rainy night, my brother and I came in from walking my parents’ dog down the dirt road. My mother was slicing Stamen apples, the kind my adopted grandmother liked for pies. We pulled out the drop-leaf table to its full length and hunted through cupboards for the table cloth the family has spread for holiday meals for a hundred years. As we set up for tomorrow, I am thinking of how many gifts this year has given me.
Living in the Berkshires, I come across them all the time — moments of flavor and generosity, intelligence and unexpected kindness. They stay with me tonight, like a cup of cafe au lait at Pleasant on Main as smooth and rich as chocolate. The people I meet as I dive into stories invite me into the beauty they make: Blues and tap percussion, Ragtime, Camille A. Brown turning Double Dutch into contemporary dance, and the gentle understanding of the cast of Where Storms Are Born.
In early fall I heard Andrew Motion at The Mount, spinning poetry out of helicopters searching over Baltimore. He is a former poet laureate of the UK, and his words are clear and taut , as visceral as Keats eating a ripe peach, and sometimes sad. Afterward, we wound up sitting not far apart at dinner in Edith Wharton’s front hall, and he asked whether I saw cause for hope in the world.
This year hasn’t always been easy, but I do, and as long as people gather in the Berkshires on fall nights to read poetry, I will. As long as the maple leaves turn yellow over my favorite log on the banks of the Hoosic, so I can lie on my back and watch them fall — and as long as my family gathers in the New England hills to spread a cloth from Egypt on my grandparents’ table, I will be thankful.
Happy holidays to you all!