Magical mystery tours are waiting to take you away (#berkshireweekend)

A luna moth made out of firelight is glimmering in the leaves. Jack o-lanterns hang like lanterns, carved with petals and wings. I’m turning slow circles in the long walk in the garden at Naumkeag, just at the right time as dusk is turning into night, and the pumpkin show is back.

Families are eddying around me, a father carrying a toddler on his shoulders, teenagers calling for adults. The day is still warm, and the gardens have transformed in mellow fall colors.

I’ve made it a few minutes before sunset, almost by accident, so I’m watching the light change. When I came up the hill, it was still deep late afternoon. I remember Brian Cruey and Carrieanne Petrik telling me years ago that the sunsets are unmatched up here, and tonight one of the George Rickey sculptures from their summer show is gleaming like water in the autumn flower beds.

I walked up, because I came as local press and ambling around the back way is more fun than looking for the shuttle — and really because the quiet old road through the cemetery feels so apt on a fall day.

The path comes in past the stumps of old trees wider across than I am tall, past the plot where Elizabeth Freeman lies buried and between the double row of massive conifers. Black cattle are standing quiet in the field on the hillside.

And then I’m walking up the blue steps into a fantasy of gourds and ghosts. Some of them have grown here. Some are classics, pumpkins with whirling eyes or amiable buck-toothed grins. And some are astonishingly intricate — a stag on a mountainside, a great-horned owl.

At a bend in the woods, sea creatures are swimming together, whales, octopi and a school of fish. The couple behind me call my attention to one I’ve just walked past — a sea turtle massive enough to cover two pumpkins, mottled shell on one and head thrust out onto the other.

Dragons spread their wings on the steps to the terrace with the Venetian carved poles. The first floor of the house is Gothic with candles. I enjoy the skilled whimsey of it — the lava glow of a volcano, the optical illusion of a river or a spinning tunnel through the greenhouse — the way I enjoyed hanging out at a theater rehearsal this week, watching the directors call changes in the lighting.

But I’m glad to come out toward the end into a room full hung with dried herbs and pumpkins carved into the elaborate skeletons of Dia de los Muertos, grinning like José Posadas broadsides at the Clark Art Institute this summer — his ironic, comic sketches from Mexico City. The herbs hold a sharp sweet scent, earthy and real.

By the time I come to the last stretch of the path, night has fully come. The old road down the hill is invisible in the dark, and the moon is almost full.

Grape vines gleam with fall lights in the dark on the path down the hill at Naumkeag.
Photo by Kate Abbott

Grape vines gleam with fall lights in the dark on the path down the hill at Naumkeag.

Fall mosaics

The leaves are coming into peak fall color, and every sunny day is unique in these few weeks. The maple trees are bright along the trails on Sheep Hill at Williamstown Rural Lands, and the meadow is brilliant with late wildflowers and wild raspberry …

Events coming up …

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

Daffodils anticipate the spring in the annual show of bulbs at the Berkshire Botanical Garden.
Mar 1 2024 @ 9:00 am
Spring comes early inside Berkshire Botanical Garden’s Fitzpatrick Greenhouse as the annual Bulb Show brings daffodils, narcissi, tulips and more, free and open to the public, daily through March 17.
Skyler Gallun and Sky Marie hold hands laughing in Barrington Stage's 10x10 Festival of New Plays. Press photo courtesy of the theater
Mar 1 2024 @ 7:30 pm
Barrington Stage Company's annual 10x10 New Play Festival returns for its 13th Year as a compact cast of actors perform 10 short plays by 10 playwrights.
Full Well Farm brings wreathes of rosemary and dried flowers to the North Adams Farmers Market.
Mar 2 2024 @ 9:00 am
Chocolate peanut butter cookies, fresh flowers, jams and pickles and cheeses ... the North Adams Farmers Market returns with more than a dozen farmers and makers.

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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