Berkshires Hike – Clark Art Institute Forest, Williamstown

How can a journey among three friends to a region new to two of them turn out to be perfect?

Especially when these three, who do bird together on long excursions, have, nevertheless never gone anywhere overnight together before?

Our fellowship, already splendid, deepened with every new trail or museum, bird and wildflower.

Perfection is always the reality in Williamstown.

The best thing about Williamstown is that it is entirely ringed by mountains.  Out every window of the Clark Art Institute, beauty stuns, in serious competition with Ghirlandaios, Winslow Homers and Renoirs on the walls.

To run an errand is to be surrounded by mountains.

To eat an unexpected and vivid Mexican supper (see earlier post) is to sit across a babbling river from a steep mountainside entirely forested.

To wake to mountains, that shadowy mountains are your last glimpse at bedtime, –there is no greater privilege.

I am still wordless regarding this spectacular journey.  It’s never easy for a poet to admit that a picture is worth 10,000 words, but it’s truer and truer in my experience.

Here is the scrapbook of perfection: some of the trails on the grounds of the Clark.

Teepee of 21st Century, Clark Art Institute Trail

Teepee of 21st Century, Clark Art Institute Trail

One of Few Signs, Clark Art Institute Trail

One of Few Signs, Clark Art Institute Trail

First Sensitive Fern, Clark Art Institute Trail

First Sensitive Fern, Clark Art Institute Trail

First Trillium, Clark Art Institute Trail

First Trillium, Clark Art Institute Trail

Beechwood Glow, Clark Art Institute Trail

Beechwood Glow, Clark Art Institute Trail

Cairn at the Crossroads, Clark Art Institute Trail

Cairn at the Crossroads, Clark Art Institute Trail

Tadao Ando's First Clark Art Institute Building

Tadao Ando’s First Clark Art Institute Building

Normandy Clouds, Boudin and Jongkind Clouds, Clark Art Institute Building by Tadao Ando

Normandy Clouds, Boudin and Jongkind Clouds, Clark Art Institute Building by Tadao Ando

Eternal Sentinels, Clark Art Institute Woods

Eternal Sentinels, Clark Art Institute Woods

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Exploring The Berkshires, with The Intrepids

I convey this brief post on the evening we arrived home from our Berkshires week of hiking, arting, feasting, laughing, exploring, wildflowering, birding, treeing…   all to the tune of brooks, streams and rivers, and the leitmotifs of mostly invisible birds.

These lively pictures were taken by Jeanette Hooban, one of the Intrepids, as NJWILDBEAUTY readers well know.

My fellow author of the book on Stuart Country Day School’s fifty years, Carolyn P. Yoder, has become an official Intrepid — our heroic driver who wrote immediately upon return to say, “fabulous, just fabulous,” adding, “everything was so easy, even the driving.”  No one in my experience has deemed the negotiation of the NYSTATE Thruway from Troy to nearly Somerville, ‘easy’.

Both Carolyn and Jeanette are always ready for anything.  They don’t bat an eye, for example, when trail maps, such as those from the Clark Art Institute, turn out to be misleading, wrong and just plain infuriating.  “More time on the trails,” they sang out, as we trundled on.

Our birding was mostly by ear — especially exuberant oven birds of the Hopkins Forest Trail maintained (and well mapped and signed and blazed) by Williams College.  At one point, alongside a wildly twisting stream, we heard the few unmistakable notes of the almost-never-encountered bob-white.

I don’t trust words tonight.  And it’s beyond me to upload my own pictures.  Jeanette’s will serve as appetizer, partly metaphorically, and partly in reality, in the interim.

Enjoy!

Our Hiking Feet Cool Among River Rocks, at the Clark Art Institute Reflecting Pool

Our Hiking Feet Cool Among River Rocks, at the Clark Art Institute Reflecting Pool

One of the main reasons we go there is the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

My Favorite Renoir, as well as Sterling Clark's Favorite, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass

My Favorite Renoir, as well as Sterling Clark’s Favorite, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass

This is my all-time favorite Renoir.  It turns out to have been Sterling Clark’s as well.  Eat your heart out, Barnes Foundation!

Our favorite work there, bar none, is Ghirlandaio’s lady with a red dress.  If Jeanette has an image of that, I’ll add it.  Or find on line.  But not tonight.  This aristocratic Florentine remains vividly gracious, across all those centuries.

Another major reason for the Berkshires is hiking.  You’ll get that post when my pictures are uploaded or downloaded – could someone explain the difference.

In between hikes and arts, we feasted:

Arugula Salad, Coyote Flaco, Williamstown, Mass

Arugula Salad, Coyote Flaco, Williamstown, Mass

Stuffed Pepper Appetizer, Coyote Flaco, Williamstown, Mass

Stuffed Pepper Appetizer, Coyote Flaco, Williamstown, Mass

In more ways than one:

Margaritas Arrive, Coyote Flaco, Williamstown, Mass.

Margaritas Arrive, Coyote Flaco, Williamstown, Mass.

Coyote Flaco was a first for all of us.  It’s on Route 7 north on the left-hand side heading into town.  We were welcomed like royalty, even though it was MOTHERS’ DAY! evening.  We were graciously seated outside, beneath vivid umbrellas, at the edge of a babbling brook (which also ran alongside our motel, a little farther along Route 7.)  A steep hill, completely forested rose directly from the brook, which never stopped singing.

The vivid, most exciting food is Mexican and Spanish, with exquisite sauces, tropical beauty, exciting yet subtle flavors, and lashings of lobster.

The Staff so welcoming, as though we were their long-lost relatives, at last come to town.

Wonderful people, murmuring with delight, filled the indoor rooms.  We could savor vivid delicacies in a timelessness not known by any of the three of us in our complex professional lives in Princeton.  At the end, the Staff GAVE us their three signature desserts.

And THREE ROSES, still velvety and fragrant, as we reluctantly drove south on 7 this morning.

Stay tuned for other Berkshire miracles, and some from Hyde Park, in quest of Eleanor, of course.

Clearing After Storm — Bennington, Vermont; Green Mountains; Apple Barn

As New Jersey skies increasingly disappoint me, –resembling the inside of a vacuum cleaner bag–, my heart and memory leap back to the Berkshires and the Green Mountains.  OK, I’m this big New Jersey booster, but I’ve had it with gloom.

This is how Vermont skies looked, immediately on the heels of a Nor’easter.  Deb and I headed over to Bennington from the Cozy Corner Motel, along Route 7.  The Apple Barn is a key ritual of my trips to this region — for a cozy family place, with unbelievable vistas, and the best aged Vermont cheddar of my life.  Ditto mountain apples.  Baked goods aren’t bad, and the maple syrup is worth of the journey.

However, I’m giving you a feast for the eyes:

Clearing after Storm, Apple Barn, Bennington VT

Clearing after Storm, Apple Barn, Bennington VT

Apple Barn Crops

Apple Barn Crops

Apple Barn Picnic Table

Apple Barn Picnic Table

To the left, at another picnic table, a family was having a lovely outdoor feast, when the rain had hardly dried upon our windshield.

Bear and First Peeks of Sun

Bear and First Peeks of Sun

Monarch of the Apple Barn

Monarch of the Apple Barn

Spent Sunflower, Magnificent Even in Death

Spent Sunflower, Magnificent Even in Death

Harvest Time

Harvest Time

"Nothin' but Blue Skies, From Now On..."

“Nothin’ but Blue Skies, From Now On…”

"The Party's Over..."

“The Party’s Over…”

"Who Has Seen the Moose, Neither You Nor I..."

“Who Has Seen the Moose, Neither You Nor I…”

One time, when I was alone at Cozy Corner and at a corner cafe in Bennington, I was the only person in there who had not seen the moose.

They do to moose what Hopewell just did to oxen:

Moose of Route 7

Moose of Route 7

A few moments later, at a mansion near the Bennington Monument, we came upon this artistry.

Bennington Spectre Awaits Hallowe'en

Bennington Spectre Awaits Hallowe’en

Even the gloomy isn’t gloomy in this neck of the woods.

Can you see why I feel, it’s always beautiful in the Berkshires and Bennington?

Far Beyond Hikes and New England Beauty — Mass Moca’s Amazing Art

Mass Moca Exhibits, late October 2014

Mass Moca Exhibits, late October 2014

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that Deb Hill and I spent a late October week in the Berkshire mountains, mostly hiking, much art, and, o, yes, food.  I’m torn today between giving you our astonishing Bennington VT stroll, our electrifying views from the Apple Barn on the way to Bennington, and the art of Mass Moca.

The last wins, for sheer outrageousness.  I’d get right back in that car and drive to Willilamstown tomorrow morning, if it weren’t for saving New Jersey Land at D&R Greenway – so we could return to Mass Moca’s thrilling and thought-provoking art installations.

Walk with us through the parking lot:

Approaching Mass Moca's Front Entrance

Approaching Mass Moca’s Front Entrance

Mass Moca Alleyway

Mass Moca Alleyway

Gramercy Restaurant, that doesn't do lunch in late October

Gramercy Restaurant, that doesn’t do lunch in late October

Techno-Beauty, Mass Moca

Techno-Beauty, Mass Moca

Campanile, Mass Moca

Campanile, Mass Moca

O, ‘Moca’ means Museum of Contemporary Art.

Those of you who’ve been up there know that this was a factory, enormous and (to me) stultifying to its human occupants.  That brilliant and courageous people conceived of transforming this enormous set of structures, determined to bring North Adams, Mass., back to life after its inescapable desertion by industry.  The courageous ones found backers, successfully creating one of the most stunning art settings of my entire life here and in Europe.

Now, North Adams is a happening town, what my mother would say, is “full of ginger.”  Probably quite literally, as the restaurant scene is lively and ever-expanding.  A delightful set of once run-down houses has been turned into a place to stay, called “The Porches.”  You can see these engaging dwellings from the museum.  Manhattanites delight in coming up to partake of their unique hospitality.

But Mass Moca’s not just about art.  Every installation teaches.  Scenes from past visits still fill my head, more irresistible than sugarplums, — teaching about the circularity of the environment, about poisons in our food, making us face the beauty of polluted landscapes, confront the inescapability of wars — all through astounding beauty.

Spectator with Teresita Fernandez Multi-Room Installation that seemed like massive bird migration, even how passenger pigeons may have been...

Spectator with Teresita Fernandez Multi-Room Installation that seemed like massive bird migration, even how passenger pigeons may have been…

Room With a View, Teresita Fernandez Installation Suffuses Another Room

Room With a View, Teresita Fernandez Installation Suffuses Another Room

Teresita Fernandez Molten Gold on Jet Black Background -- 3-D Printing!

Teresita Fernandez Molten Gold on Jet Black Background — 3-D Printing!

Teresita Fernandez Tube Installation

Teresita Fernandez Tube Installation

A Constellation of Tubes

A Constellation of Tubes

Wheeling Through the Tubes

Wheeling Through the Tubes

Tubes from the Balcony, Where Supervisors No Doubt Scrutinized Factory Workers

Tubes from the Balcony, Where Supervisors No Doubt Scrutinized Factory Workers

Original Factory Wall

Original Factory Wall

Are You Amazed Yet?

Throughout the museum, architects left walls, ceilings, floors, pillars, and even the restrooms, as they were when they were the habitat of workers.

Factory Washroom, Down the Basement

Factory Washroom, Down the Basement

Factory Bathroom, Left Mostly Intact

Factory Bathroom, Left Mostly Intact

I have the eeriest sense of understanding places like concentration camps, when I am faced with the realities of these long ago workers.

Back to Teresita's Black and Gold Art, which brings up industry, oil, gold, greed, through beauty...

Back to Teresita’s Black and Gold Art, which brings up industry, oil, gold, greed, through beauty…

Splendid and Irresistible Abstraction -- We could hardly tear ourselves away...

Splendid and Irresistible Abstraction — We could hardly tear ourselves away…

Plastics Array -- to Force Us to Contemplate the Role of Plastic in Our Lives...

Plastics Array — to Force Us to Contemplate the Role of Plastic in Our Lives…

This is the work of Lee Boroson, who is quintessentially suited to Mass Moca’s artistic and intellectual paradigm.

Each room is a journey, some easier than others.  All unforgettable.

Come back outside with us now.

Restaurant Wing, Mass Moca

Restaurant Wing, Mass Moca

Departing Mass Moca

Departing Mass Moca

We could not eat at Gramercy, despite its enchanting, old-world name.

Deb’s Garmin led us to a restored rail yard, with a famous pub.

The Freight Yard Pub

The Freight Yard Pub

We were welcomed with a real hardwood fire, and tables of formidable women and men in Harley garb.  I was told they are quite particular about their lunch stops.

I fell for their vaunted (purportedly nearby) Boston Clam Chowder and Crab Cake — a big mistake.  The craft beers were splendid and seasonal and welcome.  This is, i later learned, Burger Central.

The Freight Yard's Famous Coffee Place

The Freight Yard’s Famous Coffee Place

There’s a famous tunnel, dug through the mountains, near North Adams — a tunnel in which many died during construction.  It’s a key tourist attraction, which we neglected to visit.

Sense of Olde London in the Restored Freightyard Area

Sense of Olde London in the Restored Freightyard Area

Mass Moca is light years, but only minutes, from quaint Williamstown, of my previous post.  In fact, Mass Moca is light years from most museums I have ever visited in any country.

It is a country unto itself, with tremendous consciousness, determined to wake up its countless visitors to realities in their 21st Century world.

Truly, as Michelin says of restaurants, Mass Moca is “Vaut le Voyage” — Worthy of the Journey!

HALLOWE’EN ~ SPOOKINESS WITHOUT COSTUMES

Bennington Historic Mansion, Dressed for Hallowe’en

Bennington Spectre late Oct. 2014 Williamstown trip

Perversely, I returned to the Berkshires for the Anniversary of Sandy-the-Hurricane, by any other name.  There I was marooned, two years ago, forfended by tree-strewn roadways, lacks of electricity and gasoline, and, frankly, long-continuing storm, from returning to Princeton.  Where, as it turns out, after, finally, a gruelling 10-hour drive, there was no power in the house here, yet again.  Somehow, I needed to re-experience Williamstown without a hurricane – which, yes, reached even there, darkening nearby North Adams.

SNor'easter Skies late Oct. 2014 Williamstown

View From Window of Cozy Corner Motel, Williamstown, toward Shrouded Berkshires

“Best-laid plans of mice and men, gang aft agley…”  The anniversary trip involved what seems to have been a six-day Nor’easter.  I remember when they used to be called 3-day blows.

Agandoned Factory Nor'easter October 2014 Williamstown 001

Faded Glory on Water Street, Williamstown

Oddly enough, though we did manage hikes and beaucoup art, and some sunlight, many of the pictures look worse, weather-wise, than I remember.  In fact, spooky.  What do you think?

Glory of Yesteryear late Oct. 2014 Williamstown

Glory of Yesteryear, Once-Essential Chimney, Williamstown

Factory Windows late Oct. 2014 Williamstown 002

Venerable Factory Windows

No Touchdowns Today Williams College Field in Nor'easter

No Touchdowns Today — Williams College Field in Nor’easter

Where Are The Players of Yesteryear late Oct. 2014 Williams College

Where Are The Players of Yesteryear — Williams College Field

Chef's Hat Breakfast Haven late Oct. 2014 Williamstown

Chef’s Hat Breakfast Refuge, Williamstown

Not About To Take Off Greylock and Williamstown airport

Not About to Take Off, Williamstown Airport and Mt. Greylock

We boldly ascended Mt. Greylock that afternoon, the peak that purportedly inspired Herman Melville, who lived near another flank of this mountain, to write Moby Dick.  I must confess, I could live near Greylock for any number of decades without writing anything about the sea, let alone a masterpiece…

Overlook Trail Greylock Summit late Oct. 2014 Williamstown

Overlook Trail, Mt. Greylock, Nor’easter Days

Greylock Summit Noreaster Days late Oct. 2014 Williamstown

Summit View, Greylock

Mt. Greylock Tower late Oct. 2014 Williamstown

Greylock Tower, Berkshires

Greylock Vista Noreaster late Oct. 2014 Williamstown

Weather Systems, Mt. Greylock Summit, Berkshires

Survivor late Oct. 2014 Williamstown Nor'easter Days

SURVIVOR – House of Noble Heritage, Williamstown

What Stories They Could Tell late Oct. 2014 Williamstown 003

What Stories These Windows Could Tell

Promise of Change late Oct. 2014 Williamstown0

Promise of Change, View From Cozy Corner Motel, Williamstown

Glowing Through the Storm Williamstown

Glowing Through The Storm — Cozy Corner View of Autumn and Tumultuous Brook