Talking face to face in the first days of spring — #Berkshireweekend

An almond croissant and coffee on a sunny morning — my first signs of spring are coming to me at Patisserie Lenox, talking with an old friend. She’s my first boss and my first editor, and by now we’ve known each other more than half my life.

We’re talking about oral histories, and what it means to understand events from many perspectives, in the past and in the community right now. We are both still involved, one way and another, in the work we used to do together at the old Berkshire Advocate … an independent newspaper that no longer exists.

I remember the summer night when she called to invite me to interview — I was just graduated from college, fresh from exams, about to get on a plane for California to see my sister. I had that interview jet-lagged in an empty dorm room across the country, and I spent two or three days thinking about what working for a community newspaper could mean, before I called Judith from Yosemite to take the job.

Nora Krug, a German American author and illustrator, examines structures that lead to extremism — and people who resist them. Press photo courtesy of the Norman Rockwell Museum
Norman Rockwell Museum

Nora Krug, a German American author and illustrator, examines structures that lead to extremism — and people who resist them. Press photo courtesy of the Norman Rockwell Museum

But I had no way of knowing then what the job really would mean. Because the job is talking with people. When you’re writing based on conversations and experiences, when you’re meeting people face to face, sitting at their tables and listening, that practice shapes your stories. And it can shape your relationships.

Judith is the first person who taught me to interview, and talking to people isn’t a skill most of us get to practice. Feeling out a conversation is a skill, or a web of skills — helping someone put thoughts into words, understanding when to ask, when to listen, when to push back gently and when to sit back and pay quiet attention.

When I talk with someone with a pad and pencil in my hand, I hear and absorb what they’re saying much more clearly. I’m there. I’m paying attention. Something about taking notes seems to slow us both down, and we find or make a space together that they can relax into.You can feel it when someone settles in and takes a breath, and you know they feel comfortable saying something real.

Tunnel city Coffee has been serving its own roasted beans on Spring Street in Williamstown for decades.
Photo by Kate Abbott

Tunnel city Coffee has been serving its own roasted beans on Spring Street in Williamstown for decades.

You can feel it, when a conversation picks up momentum and one idea launches the next, and you’re both flying. A good talk can be a high. It can send you out ready for action. It can make you feel close to someone, close enough at least to hear and understand honestly what matters to them.

Those skills feel so increasingly important now, and one clear reason why would hit me later on today in Nora Krug’s new exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Among sketches from her awardwinning graphic memoir, she also illustrates Timothy Snyder’s principle to practice corporeal politics.

“Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.”

As I look at her images, illustrating his words, I think he means we hold power in our bodies and minds — confidence and compassion, excitement, willingness to act. Mental strength has symbiotic relationship with physical and tangible exchanges with people and to the world around us. Put it simply … We all need human connection.

Images Cinema persents the The Quiet Girl, the acclaimed Irish drama nominated for an Oscar for Best International Feature Film.
The Quiet Girl

Images Cinema persents the The Quiet Girl, the acclaimed Irish drama nominated for an Oscar for Best International Feature Film. Press image courtesy of Images Cinema


Energy is stirring as we come to the equinox. Images Cinema screens international Academy Award nominated films, the acclaimed Irish film ‘The Quiet Girl’ and ‘Close,’ and Mass MoCA’s artists in residence open their studios …

Events coming up …

Find more art and performance, outdoors and food in the BTW events calendar.

Daffodils anticipate the spring in the annual show of bulbs at the Berkshire Botanical Garden.
Mar 1 2024 @ 9:00 am
Spring comes early inside Berkshire Botanical Garden’s Fitzpatrick Greenhouse as the annual Bulb Show brings daffodils, narcissi, tulips and more, free and open to the public, daily through March 17.
Skyler Gallun and Sky Marie hold hands laughing in Barrington Stage's 10x10 Festival of New Plays. Press photo courtesy of the theater
Mar 1 2024 @ 7:30 pm
Barrington Stage Company's annual 10x10 New Play Festival returns for its 13th Year as a compact cast of actors perform 10 short plays by 10 playwrights.
Full Well Farm brings wreathes of rosemary and dried flowers to the North Adams Farmers Market.
Mar 2 2024 @ 9:00 am
Chocolate peanut butter cookies, fresh flowers, jams and pickles and cheeses ... the North Adams Farmers Market returns with more than a dozen farmers and makers.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

If you’d like to see the website grow, you can join me for a few dollars a month, enough for a cup of coffee and a cider doughnut. Members get access to extra stories and multimedia, itineraries a bookmark tool. Let me know what you're looking for, and we’ll explore together.

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