By the Way Summer magazine underway

Douglas Adams died 16 years ago, and at this time of year — in May,  in Santa Barbara, California, and probably on a day this warm. He was 49. And I am feeling gently sad, because he is not somewhere in the world watching silverback gorillas or musk oxen, or tubing through New Zealand caves, tracing constellations in the glow-worms on the ceilings.

A while ago I happened on his posthumous collection, “The Salmon of Doubt,” on tape at the Williamstown library, and I can drive along with the window down listening to his admiration for the Brandenberg Concerto and palm-top computers and Richard Dawkins’ writings on evolutionary biology — and I can’t talk to him about them.

I can’t ask him for an update on his theories about the effect of the Internet on the newspaper industry either. He predicted a staggering amount of the last 10 years in one column. I can’t even thank him for teaching me the word “stotting,” as in “a black poodle stotting in the snow,” which means “jumping with all four feet at once.”

All I can do is re-read the Dirk Gently mysteries and wish for an infinite impossibility drive.

In this universe, I will spend the next four weeks at my desk, preparing for the summer and giddily assembling calendar listings for the 2017 BTW Summer Magazine (here’s the new spring one) under the eye of a card from my dad which reads “I love deadlines — I love the wooshing noise they make as they fly by” — a Douglas Adams quote.

That means hundreds of possible future events are flowing in this direction, to join dozens of orbiting present events that I know about and can’t get to. It’s like a gravity well. But they say that every possibility is carried out somewhere.

So in another universe I maybe set off on the Asparagus Valley pottery trail this past weekend to look for puzzle jugs and the smell of drying clay.

On a warm afternoon I’ll walk the Taconic Crest Trail looking for seas of yellow trout lilies and wade in ponds and pools at Pleasant Valley, catching minnows at fish tales, and pick up old bottles on cleanup day.

I’ll wish Berkshire Natural Resources Council a happy 50th birthday and amble through Berkshire Botanical Garden’s play houses —  timber frame cottages, shepherd’s wagon, twig buildings, a treehouse — and sit in a round room beside the quaking aspen trees, calming my pulse to the pace of a Japanese tea ceremony.

I’ll walk through the new Building 6 at Mass MoCA … and skip into the fourth dimension, remembering the summer of 1999 when the museum opened, and I was an intern there, writing about visiting bands in the companionable office over the gatehouse and ferrying boxes of chair castors for Richard Criddle.

And over the way maybe I’ll move between Picasso at the Clark Art Institute and Meleko Mokgosi considering him in an incisive side note among his wall-sized murals at the Williams College Museum of Art. And if I’m genuinly lucky, maybe Mokgosi or the contemporary artists in Building 6 will be in town on a quiet, warm day, and I’ll have a chance to talk with them.

There are few pleasures like talking with friends after seeing a play, a dance, a painting up close, and letting the conversation make the experience still more real. But talking with an artist is one of them.


In the photo at the top, a blooming tree (crab apple, I believe) reminds me the warm season is coming up fast. (Photo by Kate Abbott, taken in Denver, Colo., in April) This column is adapted (and updated) from one that ran in Berkshires Week in April 2011 in my time as editor there. My thanks to Eagle editor and VP of News Kevin Moran.

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