Pittsfield

Fiddlers jam at Hancock Shaker Village

Imagine holding hands and spinning until the room blurs. Imagine that movement in someone’s arms, to the beat of music. Imagine the musicians sliding from one tune to the next, the melody racing over the chords. Across the country, across 200 years and more, folk dance music has stayed alive. Mill workers have played on their breaks,…

Springside Park in winter

Berkshire naturalist Thom Smith explores the wildest corner of the city.  Springside Park’s 237 acres of mostly undeveloped field and woodland fit gently into the residential neighborhoods of Pittsfield’s North End. Far more trees — and squirrels — live in this part of town than any other, in the city’s largest park. How large is…

Herman Melville through women’s eyes

The maniacal sea captain, the mad-cap whaling ship, the crewmen from New England and the Ocean Islands sleeping peacefully in a lantern-lit tavern in New Bedford … the book was a radical and visceral challenge when it came out, more than 150 years ago. Can the story hold as radical an edge today? Maybe, if women tell…

A treasure hunt for people of hay

Berkshire naturalist Thom Smith has gone searching for sculptures, from jazz musicians to refugees to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza …  I have often called Berkshire artist Michael Melle’s sculptures, ‘straw people,’ but they are not straw — he chooses second cutting hay chosen for the best results. These hay and stick sculptures are fluid,…

Milkweed brings the monarchs

Berkshire naturalist Thom Smith goes looking for butterflies and their food plants.   This early August afternoon, before a heavy rain drove me home, I watched two monarchs apparently mating and another acting as if it would soon be laying eggs. I found them on milkweed plants. Flower and weed guides list Asclepiads syriaca as…