We have liftoff into the Northern Lights (Nov 17 newsletter)

The berries make a vivid streak along the road, and there’s something buoyant about that wash of color now against a grey sky. I’m picking my way through the yard and around the greenhouse where they would be selling seedlings in summer and pointing people to the pick your own blueberries and into the field, so I could walk up among them — a whole row of winterberry bushes, all of them brilliantly and unabashedly red.

I’ve never seen this kind of a thicket of them anywhere but at Windy Hill. Head up Route 7 from Great Barrington right now and you’ll see them coming up, past the high school as you get near to the center of Stockbridge. The farm and orchard is transforming this week into its holiday colors, and they have found a focus no one else has.

The front steps are lined with bushes in pots, thick with berries, yellow and orange and crimson. The shop has a timber frame like an old barn and a sense of living greenery, wreathes and paperwhite bulbs and local honey. I walk through it feeling an earthy kind of inventiveness. That kind of energy pulls at me.

It’s been a long year, and as this holiday season rolls around, the county sometimes feels subdued. Many of our familiar rituals are quiet or changing, and maybe we’re all shoring up our reserves to get through the winter. But then I’ll stumble on Betty Carter LPs in the jazz section of the local record shop, or a conversation in a bookstore — or a film installation from Manitoba, flickering with Northern Lights — and that energy will be there, the grit and brightness that flares on a cold, cloudy day.

Standing in a row of winterberry in full scarlet glow, I look up at a break in the clouds, and I want to laugh.

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.

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