Last time I saw the fairgrounds, two glass-blowers were shaping a pumpkin on a metal rod and pulling the molten glass like taffy to give it a stem. A fiber artist brought panels as large as oil paintings in silken thread, and my parents found a table of wooden books — boxes carved like grimoires with ingenious hidden openings.
We were at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton on a sunny fall day, like this one. The first long weekend in October brings out artists and artisans along with ripe squashes — all through the hills.
The sun’s coming out after a week of rain this weekend to warm up the annual Harvest Festival on Saturday and Sunday at Berkshire Botanical Garden. They’ve hosted this party for more than 80 years, and this year they’ll gather live music, jazz and ukulele (or maybe both together), more than 100 artisans — ceramics, alpaca wool, herbs — and a countywide farmers market, pony and hay rides, tag and plant sales … and workshops on cheese-making, cider and mead, beekeeping or heirloom apples.
The inside look at hands at work continues on Saturday, from the Stationery Factory in Dalton to back roads in the southern Berkshires, as the Guild of Berkshire Artists holds its last Open Studio tour of the year, with 20 artists in nine studios, in abstracts and oils, photography, pen-and-ink …
Not far away, In Lenox, photographers come close to the natural world as Art in the Barn opens an exhibit of Mass Audubon’s annual contest winners on Saturday. (Here are the 2017 winners, to give a feel for kind of images people capture. An iridescent snail curls over a petal, and white egrets fly over sunlit meadow grass.)
East over the ridge, the Paradise City Arts Festival is coming to the Three Country Fairgrounds in Northampton for all three days of the long weekend, and I’ll be there on Monday. In full disclosure, I have family there this year — my mother’s cousin-in-law, Daniel Weinstock, is a sculptor in wood and ceramics. My mother’s cousin, Lisa Parr, restores carousel horses and is a beautiful artist in her own right.
And while I’m waiting, I may wander west toward the Taconics. Hancock Shaker Village is planning a weekend of food and words and woodworking. On Sunday, playwright Jesse Waldinger will hold a staged reading of stories from local history: Elizabeth Freeman, who won her freedom in 1781, and a free black man who turns to the law in original ways to bring his daughter home from the Shakers.
On Saturday, I can come into the kitchen. Boston Globe correspondents and Hungry Traveler bloggers Patricia Harrison and David Lyon will be there, with Shaker cooking and a cookie competition in the afternoon, and local farms and gardens will provide a worlds’ people dinner.
But here’s what caught my eye first. On Saturday night, Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Muldoon, one of Ireland’s leading contemporary poets, will read his work aloud — sly and warm and unexpectedly rhythmic.
He tells the story of a people who
“… pored over the mud
of mangold- and potato-pits
or flicked through kale plants from Comber
as bibliomancers of old …”
A bibliomancer tells the future from a book, and these people tell it in a garden of cold-hardy plants. Harvest and making and a fleck of magic root together and pick up speed, like clay on a wheel.