Where to catch falling leaves in the sun — #Berkshireweekend

My nephew asks me why I don’t live in California. He’s three years old, and I know from where he’s standing he just means he’d like to see me, and I’d like to see him too. But he has me thinking about an inverse question. How can I explain to someone on the sunny West Coast why I live here?

He lives in a beautiful city, where jade plants grow like hedges and lemon trees bloom, where whales migrate up the coast and the world is rich in inventive people. It’s real and vibrant in its own ways. And how would I tell him how it feels to me to live here when the nights are touched by frost?

I remember the scent of pumpkins in the fields when I was his age. My sister and I were walking through the grass, carefully choosing a pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern. Like his sister now, she would have been newly walking then and intent with her new freedom to explore the world. The pumpkin stems curled rough in our hands. Back home my dad carved them for us on the old butcher block table, and we raced for the slide and crackle of leaf piles.

Maples turn golden against the quartzite boulders along the Chestnut Trail in Williamstown.
Photo by Kate Abbott

Maples turn golden against the quartzite boulders along the Chestnut Trail in Williamstown.

And I live here because of old friends gathering, emerging quietly from the pandemic with a play of ideas and generosity. Because of laughter and understanding, a full moon shining in a sukkah, cider and homemade spice cookies. Because … a book I found at the Bear and Bee, Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s To Speak for the Trees, give me the Gaelic word saoirse — ‘the freedom to be and express yourself, the freedom to think … the freedom of spirit and imagination.’

… And because I can walk the trail on the ridge behind my house up to the quartzite bluff and lie on my back listening to the leaves falling. The sugar maples and moose maples and birches hold the light, and the boulders are thick with rock polypody. And I remember my mom showing me those dark green fronds on granite erratics in the woods near home.

Then I come up to see the plays running this week at the Bennington Performing Arts Center. Short scenes weave together into a warm community, and the 15 actors on stage together generate an abundant energy. I feel a power in it — the actors feel as though they know each other. They have had time to create together, and they play off each other fluently. They have me in tears more than once and laughing aloud before the end.

On another fall night I can come into the Bear and Bee to talk about storytelling and remember the warm depths in fiction. Conversations like this take me back to my grad school days, and I remember the way stories can open like tide pools. As you write, you feel your way into a scene, a person, a way of feeling, and find tenacious life, infinitely varied and surprising.

Not long ago, a friend handed me a hermit crab. We were standing on the shore of a tidal river, and he told me they compare shells, not competitively but cooperatively, and if they see a mutual benefit, they’ll swap. The crab walked across my palm on points of feet as light as pine needles, a tiny translucent creature no wider than my fingertip, and I tried to imagine living that way, open to exchange.

Fall mosaics

The maple trees turn golden along the Chestnut Trail and the quartzite boulders on the class of ’98 Trail in Williamstown….

Events coming up …

Find more art and performance, outdoors and food in the BTW events calendar.

Fall color comes to Pine Cobble and the stacked cobbles of the Ledges in Williamstown.
Dec 7 2022 @ 4:30 pm
Wild Soul River holds a weekly gentle exploration into the symbols and stories of the tarot in an affirming environment.
Ornaments glow after dark at Winterlights at Naumkeag.
Dec 7 2022 @ 4:30 pm
Winterlights is back with a magical outdoor experience as the gardens sparkle with thousands of shimmering and artfully designed holiday lights.
Harpist Teresa Mango performs at the Red Lion Inn in the winter holiday season.
Dec 7 2022 @ 5:30 pm
Throughout December, the Red Lion Inn partners with Norman Rockwell Museum to bring a month-long celebration of holiday cheer. You can sip a hot drink by the fire and take in live music on cold nights. The inn offers activities for all to enjoy, including Christmas Caroling in the Winter […]

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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