Saturday, June 28, 2008


One of the interesting things about living in the Berkshires is what goes on in the summer. As with all areas that have something that attracts tourists, we don’t have beaches or an ocean, we have mountains trees and all sorts of cultural activities within minutes of our house. I think if you live in a tourist area you find it interesting what people come hours and spend a weekend to see what you have with in minutes away. We have many second homeowners and while many are very nice people, you can usually pick them out. And the ones who still think they are just in a different part of New York don’t even try to blend in.

Tonight we ventured across town to Tanglewood, which is the summer home of the Boston Symphony and sits on 200+ beautiful acres and at what use to be one of the big Berkshire cottage estates. In addition to the BSO it is also used for all sorts of concerts and events and also is the site of two summer music programs for gifted young musicians. If you walk the grounds during the week beautiful music drifts from various small cottages that are practice studios.

But tonight the reason we crossed town was a live broadcast of a Prairie Home Companion (on public radio). We left home about a half hour before the ticket time, to allow for parking lot traffic and having to walk from the car. The shed, as the wall-less amphitheater is known, was full as was the lawn. Unfortunately our tickets, which I purchased on the first day of sales, were in the last row and 15 rows ahead there was this pole that seemed to move as the key people on stage did…..Well I’m sure you can get the rest of it. We had planned on going because a relative really loves this show and they wanted to go. What we didn’t know, and after we had non refundable tickets, was that all the snow days of the last winter pushed an important graduation right to the same day. So they couldn’t go but our kids now got the chance to go and have the experience, which despite the seats was a fun and interesting.

Here is one of their pictures of Tanglewood. I am still working on the camera :(

Then after the show we hit the back road exits and are at the ice cream shop in 5 minutes as many others sat in the lines waiting to get out.

So far this year we have seen something at Shakespeare and Co., a nationally known theater program, the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, at Barrington stage Co, [where it was developed before it moved to Broadway] and Prairie Home and the summer is young. The kids are also getting the opportunity to see good theater and concerts within almost biking distance, which is great.

So our pay for the quiet and boredom of the winter months is these wonderful opportunities that normally would never exist in a town of 5,000 in the hills of the remotest part of a state. But it does here and we are glad.

Here are some links to Tanglewood

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Buffalo and the black plactic around the tennis court

The town of Lenox has several resorts and inns that serve the many tourists coming here for the cultural events, to be with nature and just escape. Some quite luxurious and where the celebrity set is found and some are modest and there is much in between. A short distance from where I live is a resort named Eastover. It is an interesting place. A little on the rustic side [some say tired] and definitely on the casual side. It has one of the largest civil war memorabilia coolections and also has tennis and pools and lots of activities and hosts events such a the special Olympics and many event weekends. It is set among woods and has great tracks of pasture land that run for miles up against the ridge. One of the unique attractions of Eastover is a herd of buffalo that live on the property. They can be seen from the road grazing in the meadows and there is a hay drop by the main road with a pullover for folks to stop and see them feed by this unbelievably muddy pond. The buffalo are fun to watch especially when a new little one is born, though if you didn’t know it was there you might drive right by the small turnoff. When my kids were little it was often a routine stop to check them out and as I drive past now there is frequently a car pulled off with people peering over the fence.

A definite sign of summer is that each year about this time the fence around the Eastover tennis courts is wrapped completely in black plastic with wood supports to keep it from flapping in the wind. When we first saw this it seemed odd. Especially because the plastic seemed to appear mid week and then by the next week it was gone and things were back to normal.

Then we learned that the black covering signified “nudist weekend” at the resort and one of the agreements with the town for allowing nudity was that the tennis courts be shielded from passers by. When the kids were young, my son joked about seeing a nude body between the slits in the plastic and his reaction was, EEWWWWWWWWW. That continues to be a part of family lore and the image of nude tennis still brings a smile.

So, on this first day of summer when you think of the signs that tell you that summer is here, I offer up another that is a sign of summer in this section of the Berkshires, the black plastic around the tennis court.

Summer is here. Welcome visitors to the Berkshires.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A replacement

Under $15.00 and on its way. I love e-bay

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Taking it for granted

I live in an area of exquisite beauty and on at least daily marvel at it. I think, how many ways can I describe a mountain view or the mist on the flood plains in the morning sun or the morning clouds that hang over the river at the base of the ridge? Each time I look it is different: the light, the colors, the breezes, the position of the clouds. I am in awe. But for some the repeating of these themes I am sure is boring. Oh well………

For the past several months I have taken to running in the mornings. While I am not the athletic type I have enough serious swimming, cycling and volleyball in my more distant past to know that I have the leftover muscle structure and can be disciplined if I am so motivated. But for the past several years the will and spirit for serious exercise has eluded me and as one would expect, it shows on this mature body.

But as the sun has just begun to rise I now find my self drawn to the street. The feel of the air, the morning view of the ridge, the sounds in the woods, the back streets with few if any cars and almost no people. As nature draws me out, a strange thing is occurring. The many hills (it is hard to find “flat”) I have to traverse starting at my driveway and that so discouraged me at the start are now almost unnoticed. The one mile of run stop and walk and stop and walk and then collapse at home has become 3, 4 and 5 miles of steady running up hills and flats and along long stretches that border wetlands and pastures with an occasional walk of no more than a half a minute or enough to add some stretching. Listening to NPR on my MP3 but also able to hear the birds. On days when I know I have to take as a rest day to avoid injury and not burn myself out I miss being out there and somewhat resent when I only have a half hour of time or the schedule is so chaotic that it completely squeezes out this time. Having kids who run for track also helps because I became more aware of the need for good shoes and shelved my K-Mart specials for a pair that is meant for the task. The kids and my wife are also the cheering squad when I add another half mile to the trip though I know the kids don’t comment on my times. My time is “ok” for a starter and for someone my age [it makes me feel old just saying and thinking that] and as I track it in my log it gets very slowly better. So my goal, as I am putting it out to more people, is a 10k by the end of the summer in under 60 minutes. So if you’re a runner reading this you are laughing or if you have ever been in a dormant phase you are not. You gotta start somewhere.

So what is this post really about? It’s about never taking for granted this beautiful area that, for at least for this phase of my life, I am able to be part of and to be motivated by. The second is in setting goals and at first working quietly towards them but then not being intimidated to put them out there as a way of keeping on track and seeking new strides. So when I start with my first 5k hopefully in a couple of weeks, with two teen escorts, the first part of the goal will be met. Then on to the next.

So what is the picture about? It’s the last picture out of my trusty camera. I thought it was back but now it is down for good and no tinkering seems to make it wake up. So I’m scanning ebay for another cheapo camera. Sure I could go for something serious but then where would be the challenge and also I’d be less willing to haul it around everywhere afraid I would drop an expensive one. So probably no pictures until a replacement is found.

Friday, June 13, 2008

How do we measure value?

Several days ago getting out of the car to go in the house my hands and arms were full of books, lunch bag, PDA, water bottle, notes, mug and camera. This is not all that unusual as after an hour commute even having to make 2 trips back the 25 feet to the garage to bring things in seems like too much. Sometimes, though not often, something drops and I end up putting everything down on the other car to again get everything balanced and still have a couple of fingers available to open the door to the house. Hey, we all have are quirks. Balancing as many things as I can carry is one of mine.

On this one day it was my camera that slipped and crashed down hitting this two inch concrete strip at the base of the door. CRAP.

As I have written many times this camera is a cheap one, one of many bargains I have found along the way. It usually lives in my car or pocket and, as you’ve seen, I take pictures of whatever grabs me- even if it’s a view at 70mph (I never take my eyes off the road and just point the camera in the direction and click many times. The end product when I get home and upload (cheap cameras don’t have view screens) are sometimes interesting, great, blurred in some interesting way or just ready for the delete button. The pure joy of digital – no cost of processed film to feel guilty about deleting and starting over. But where was I going with this?

Quickly checking the camera out after dinner nothing rattled differently than before but no lights came on. It was dead! My initial reaction was sadness. This very basic thing had become an outlet for a new form of creativity, an opportunity to play with a different art form and be free of making mistakes. Plus I have to say that I like the challenges of having to work with such a basic camera and accompanying editing software that really only lets you crop the photo but not touch it up or manipulate it. My second reaction was to put it away until I had time to think about it and figure out how it worked while at the same time scanning e-bay for something similar.

For the next few days, picking it up and putting it down, I pulled the batteries out to understand more how it worked, which is extremely basic. The button pushes down and makes contact with the batteries and activates the shutter. That’s it. So playing with the switch and pulling out the batteries and recharging them (this thing eats up batteries which is why I bought a set of rechargeable ones) and the light when on. Adjusting the contacts on the inside, the shot counter lit up. YEAH!!

So it works again. The touch of the button is different (from me playing with the contacts and it will take some readjusting of me to get used to how long I hold the button down to wake the thing up and then to get the flash on and then to click a picture. But one the first pictures out of it is this one and it made me smile.

So what is the purpose of this entry other than to ramble? Easy!

My camera has become a creative extension to me even though it was cheap and is so very basic. That really doesn’t matter because when I play with the pictures and add words to them, it gives me happiness.

We all seem to juggle and pile on so many things in life that occasionally something very basic that we have come to rely on or enjoy falls off the pile and crashes. When it does it makes us almost as sad as if it was something more important or expensive. And then there is tenacity in not just giving up and tossing something aside because it was cheap and is basic.

Value is measured in so many different ways and some of the most valuable things to us cost the least.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Finding hidden beauty

Yes I am still around, just wilting like many others in this heat. Words are having a hard time coming out this week. Too busy, too many things going on at work. These times seem to crowd out the creative thoughts.

Even worse I dropped my camera and am still playing with it to get it to work again. I not sure I could ever repeat such a bargain.

I took this picture last week as I was driving home and approaching the hills of the Berkshires. Taking pictures at 70mph doesn’t always produce the best focus but such is the uniqueness of this blog. The light makes it seem almost black and white, which is the same effect that it had on many pictures I took over the winter when it wasn’t a bright say. This is a $15 camera after all.

But if you really look closely you can see shades of blue and green. A storm is coming up or rather I am driving into one. Here the picture is waves of clouds fluffed up with trees along the edges. Interesting but on the dull side, or is it.

There are many times when the darker shades, whether it be in nature or life in general seem to be dull and sometimes dismissed as being bleak. Take a look at it more closely and you see the hidden subtleties: the patterns, the currents, the shifting textures. The clouds are all moving to the different currents of the storm. The texture of the clouds varies if there is distant rain. There is something special in it that just doesn’t fit the general mold of what is considered beauty.

How many other things can we think of that can fit that description? Most of us don’t fit the classic or marketing definition of beauty yet the textures and colors and patterns and subtleties of our character create a different beauty of its own.

Today our family has been blessed with laughter, roudy humor, hugs, love, meditative thought, good food (I cooked), discussions, literature, friends, sawdust, dirt, music and yes humidity. All in all it was an ordinary day and on its own nothing on the surface might be imagined as extraordinarily beautiful but capturing the depth and texture and flow made the day as beautiful as any scene I can imagine.

So, look for beauty where is its not expected; in the ordinary, in the gray and darker areas, in the routine, in the humid heat. Sense it, feel it – it is there.

And don't underestimate....….My camera doesn’t always do so well in poor light in giving me what I want all the time, but it is wonderful in good light and even in poor light can give me something to study and explore beyond the picture that came through the lenses.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Show up for life

Believe in all that is possible and be open to what seems impossible

Hold on tight - the ride is sometimes rough

Engage the spirit within and around

Life happens, be there - don't sit on the sidelines

These are themes I have been collecting to paint on flat rocks that I've picked up on our vacations on Cape Cod. The rocks are still in a bag and the thoughts collect in the PDA, so its time for movement and to get on with it. The only paint brush in my near future is for house paint.

What thoughts would you add?