Sunday, April 13, 2008

Great Barrington

When winter starts to fade, and the temperature begins to rise, I try to begin most weekend mornings with a walk for the paper. It is about a mile to the store. I walk past the heart of the main street of town. It is filled with restaurants, clothing stores, shoe stores, record shops and many other small businesses. On most weekends, it is busy in this part of town.
My journey then takes me past banks, churches and into a commercial part of town that has seen better days. Several buildings have no tenants, some places are in great disrepair. Ceilings have come down, leaving exposed insulation on the floor. It is an area that has long ago been forgotten and left to rot .

I walk past several small shops that have somehow survived the difficulties here to stay and fight another day. I finally reach my destination. It is a convenience store/gas station. The men and women behind the counter show the signs of hard lives. You can read the struggles in their faces. I greet them, sometimes enter into small conversations of no import, buy the paper, and then start my walk in reverse. I am in Great Barrington and this is my home.

My wife was always concerned that I would never be able to calm my senses enough to get comfortable with the cadence of a town like this. Living outside of New York City, in a part of the world that does not find slow in its vocabulary, I have been told that I don't know how to relax. While I may, to many, seem an affable , take it easy kind of guy, I have never been able to do nothing very well. I eat quickly, I play golf quickly, and when I am not doing something, I think I should be. So, you can see why a somewhat sleepy New England town might not be what I had in mind as the perfect getaway. But, it is.

We were lucky enough to be able to buy an apartment here last spring. Since then, I eagerly await each trip as it seems to me a vacation of the body and the mind. On weekend mornings in the Berkshires, we have been taking long walks with several close friends. It has become our new old tradition. At our appointed hour, we all emerge from our homes, and begin our trek. Up and down the hills, we converse about the events of our week, we talk of the housing market and whether there are bargains to be had in Great Barrington, we look at the beauty of the scenery, walk past the local lake and soak up the company and the surroundings.

On summer afternoons, there is a gathering of many of the apartment complex residents by the pool. There are 20 units here and most are occupied by people who are in the latter part of their lives. The area next to the pool is shaded by many large trees. Thus, when the heat of the day begins to fade, chairs are placed in a circle, and the crowd begins to fill in. With drinks in hand, they sit around and chat. It is a time of friendship and it is filled with comfort and good cheer.

This is a place where you can block out some of the distractions of the rest of your world. We all face the concerns of our businesses, our children's lives, our parent's lives, and the myriad other matters that take up much of our waking thoughts. But, there is a sense of calm and serenity that attaches to my life in Great Barrington. The issues that are so critical become just a little less pressing. The dilemmas I have to face will be still be there tomorrow , but today they are on hold.

The hours pass and day turns into night in my home in the Berkshires. If we have plans with friends, if we find ourself at Tanglewood, or at a local theatre, or if we are just hanging out, it is all good. I find that I don't have to map out a day of events to fill my plate. It is enough for me to just be here. It is a quiet time , a time for relaxation. As much as I never thought I would say it, I believes it suits me just fine.


Anonymous said...

i look forward to many weekends in GB (side note: way to not call it the Berkshires) this summer. and many week nights at yankee stadium. for me, they have become an oasis as well.

Robert said...

GB and Yankee baseball. Life is good.