Happy holidays! (December 22 newsletter)

This month has been full of gifts already. I walk into Chocolate Springs one afternoon just as Joshua Needleman is making chocolate peppermint bonbons, and he offers me a taste. The centers are white chocolate peppermint coated with his own dark chocolate, and they’re magical.

Friends offer me küchen by their wood stove. I’ve brought cookies made with chestnut flour from the farm over the ridge. We walk in their garden, put to bed for the winter, and they tell me about the Canadian plant nursery where they found their cold-hardy rose bushes, and we all walk with their puppy in the woods behind their house. They tell me where they saw bears in warm weather.

On Saturday afternoon, as the snow starts to change to rain, five or six intrepid Wassailers gather at Wild Soul River and head up the street to sing to the neighbors. We’re carrying jugs of cider from Jaescke’s to offer, and people come to the door and laugh to see us, damp and a bit draggled in our winter coats, gamely singing a folk tune out of Somerset apple orchards.

Oh, master and missus who sit by the fire,
pray think of the travelers who walk through the mire …

And we’re laughing too. It’s part of what I love about this time of year, we take the time to do something zany and generous, show up unexpectedly and give some energy and juice. And the universe can offer something back. Family comes from a distance for a few rare days. As I head home to meet them, trees along the pike are coated with ice, silver clear and shining, and by the time I get home, the full moon is rising. Happy holidays to you all!

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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