Monday, August 24, 2015

SUMMER 2015 The Berkshires, Boston, and Franklin


This weekend we spent in The Berkshires , a very verdant and beautiful land of fields and forests and hills as far as the eye can see.  It is in the far western part of Massachusetts, bordering New York.  The Berkshires were also named among the 200 last great places by The Nature Conservancy.  It is about 2 1/2 hours from Boston and about the same from NYC.  Many of New York's elite helped to found it as one of their summer retreats.  When they wanted the beach they went to Newport Rhode, Island or the coast of Maine and for mountains and forests they came here.  Still do.  But now it is for everyone's enjoyment-no longer only the rich and famous.  This region is known not only for its natural beauty but also for its vibrant celebration of music and the arts.  There are numerous small theatrical venues, many world class museums, and of course, Tanglewood.  


Dale and I love the very sound of it.  It sounds like it should be in a Tolkein book about hobbits and elves. The inspiration actually came from Nathaniel Hawthorne's book "Tanglewood Tales."  I have always wanted to come here and most especially to experience Tanglewood.  (That Bucket List is getting shorter by the week :).  I was not disappointed. 

 Following is a brief history of Tanglewood:

The First Berkshire Symphonic Festival was organized by a group of music-coving summer residents who held 3 outdoor concerts given by members of the New York Philharmonic.

I love that they always have and still call it The Shed.  So unpretentious.  And it is. Very simple. concrete floors. Stadium seats. But the sound is spectacular!  And the grounds are gorgeous.  The Shed holds about 5,000 and the grounds about 14,000 more.  Sitting on the grounds is actually preferred by many because you can arrive 3 hours pre-concert and set up chairs, tables, blankets, etc. and picnic  there.  Some people go all out...linens, china, crystal, and candelabras, and gourmet foods. 
Cookbooks have even been written just on Tanglewood picnics! 

But I am getting ahead of myself. 
More on Tanglewood later.

First thing we did upon arrival in the Berkshires was to explore Stockbridge, a charming little town where Norman Rockwell resided the last years of his life .  He loved it there and said it was the 'best of America'.
He paid homage to it in one of his paintings- "Christmas in Stockbridge."

The town looks nearly the same today.  following are photos we took walking along the sidewalk in front of these stores and businesses. The Red Lion Inn is on the far right.

My kind of town...American flags galore!

The Red Lion Inn.  I absolutely love the porch culture here.  Every rocking chair was taken.  People enjoying sitting, chatting, reading and people watching on a lovely summer afternoon. There was even a (slamming) screen door!  

One of the most impressive places we visited we almost missed- the Clark Art Institute.  Somehow it wasn't on my radar but a local said it was a must and there was a Van Gogh exhibit and Whistler's Mother there now as well as one of the most extensive Impressionist collections in the world. That's all I needed to here. We were there!

No photos were allowed inside this museum so this will have to suffice !  :D!
The interesting part of this exhibit?  See the small painting within the painting on the wall ?  Whistler also painted it and it was displayed in the exhibit as well.

One of the loveliest features of this museum besides the incredible collection of art is its thoughtful landscape.  It is situated on 140 acres of expansive lawns, meadows and woods.  It was designed with the intention to create an ambience for the enjoyment of art; "an unhurried experience punctuated with moments of discovery in a beautiful, natural setting."  More than 2 miles of walking trails traverse the property so one may also enjoy the beauty of the Berkshires. God's art, so to speak.

A patio area outside the main hall.  Again, every chair was taken.  I not only love that they have these chairs here but the fact that people actually enjoy them, that they stop and 'sit a spell'.

Walking along one of the trails through the woods to get to anther part of the museum.

Glorious!  Day and vista!

The Van Gogh exhibit was truly sensational !

We went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and we saw more of his work here!
Photography was not allowed so I pulled up a few internet images so you could get a taste of what we saw.

The amazing thing about this painting...
they not only had this painting but displayed in a case right next to it was the copper vase!
The original vase that Van Gogh used for this painting!  It belonged to him. 
That was a thrill!

This painting, "Cypress", was my favorite of the exhibit. 
These images don't come anywhere near capturing the incredible color and depth and movement and life of the actual painting.  I heard a lady next to me describe it as "delicious." ...saying it looked yummy,like a treat you want to eat'! Incredible!

  I wish photos were allowed.  So many gorgeous masterpieces!  Saw so many Monet's and Renoir's as well.  I was a happy girl.

This lovely water lily pond was on the campus of the Clark as well.  Made me think of Monet.  And the air was full of the song of bullfrogs... bah rump. bah rump. bah rump.

We were amazed and delighted by this fabulous museum so full of so many wonders, so out in the 'middle of nowhere'.

Next stop:  The Hancock Shaker Village.

This is a 750 acre outdoor history museum with 20 authentic buildings.  The main difference between this and Sturbridge Village is that while Sturbridge's buildings were authentic, they were brought in from around New England to recreate a village, this is an authentic village- built here and remains here.
Who were the Shakers?
They were a religious community of Protestants called the United Society of Believer's in Christ's Second Appearing.  They got the nickname 'Shakers" because of the vibrant dancing and whirling that is part of their worship. Shakers are mostly known for their celibate and communal lifestyle, pacifism and equality of the sexes.  They lived in, worked in, slept in, ate in, separate spaces and in their worship the men sat on one side of the room and the women the opposite.  They had a separation of chores -men on the farms, women in the kitchens, and sewing etc. yet they felt all work was of equal value.  You rotated jobs so you weren't say stuck in the kitchen peeling potatoes for the rest of your life.  They took in children from orphanages and taught them skills and treated them kindly and incorporated fun and play as part of their days.  At age 18 they were given the choice to stay with the order or leave. 
They are also known for their simple living, architecture and furniture.

The Dwelling Building.  Men slept in one half of the building , the women across the hall.
The kitchens, canning rooms, sewing rooms, meeting rooms were also in this building.

It was a bright and sunny place- cheerful.  It seems they were a happy, contented people.

We thoroughly enjoyed the entire village but our favorites were the music and dance interactive program and the round barn.

Music was the main part of their religious service. They have over 10,000 songs! Some of the songs last 20-25 minutes and it was not unusual for a service to last 3-4 hours.  300 people at its' 'heyday', would fill the meeting room and it's said you could hear the singing and clapping and stomping 8 miles away!

This is one of their more famous songs.

I love so many of their beliefs...
Humility is one of their biggest themes.  The person next to you is just as important as you are. 
'Love is little.
Love is low.
Love will make my spirit grow.' 
They believed in Zion and unity.
They didn't really do a lot of preaching by the spoken word and sermons.  They taught their sermons through music, feeling that singing lots of repetitive verses and themes would gently remind you of the doctrine and sink into your heart and mind instead of having it hammered into you from a  pulpit. 
I learned that the word 'sinister' comes from the latin word that means 'left, on the left side'.
Whenever they sang about sin or anything like unto it, if it involved a body movement such as clapping or stomping, you used your left hand, left foot, etc.
And on the literal other hand, right = righteousness. i.e. ...
The right hand of God, etc.

I hope this video comes through because it was fun to learn one of their worship songs about stomping out sin with my left foot and shaking off evil.

I was really hoping we would learn this dance... it looks kind of like Michael Jackson's Thriller. :D !
(scary faces and all!)

The Round Stone Barn

This building was/is an architectural marvel in concept, design, and execution.
The creative ways they came up with to solve every day problems and to make their work easier were so impressive.  Absolutely brilliant.  Things like loading in the hay and unloading the cow waste.  I won't go into detail here but if you see me and want to know more, ask me about it and I'll be happy to share it with you.  

Had to include this in honor of Vincent Van Gogh!

Now on to one of our favorite American artists, Norman Rockwell. 
Seriously, who doesn't love Norman Rockwell?

I took this photo but it looks strange to me... like an artist's rendering. Weird.

 (photography was allowed here)

Most of his work was featured on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post and Look magazines.  Both Dale and I grew up with these magazines in our homes and his work is familiar to us as practically our own families.  
We were discussing how he felt his work didn't measure up against the world's great artists but that he painted what he loved , small town American life and its people, and loved what he painted. 
We disagree with him.  We not only think his work holds up to any artistic standard but we treasure it because it evokes emotion.  He depicts scene and moments we can all relate to.  He has painted our lives.  We treasure him for that.
As we were talking about these things we came upon this within the museum and it relates what I've been trying to say so perfectly.  

We walked through these galleries with a big smile on our faces the entire time.  
Thank you, Norman Rockwell.

This little guy reminds me of our grandson, Ben.  

So dreamy!  :)

How can you not just love this little girl?

And I'll end this with one of my all time favorites: The Gossip Chain.
Just look at those faces! Such character studies, each one. 

Mr. Rockwell's art studio.
We were able to tour inside it as well.
And the grounds of the museum.

 I don't know how I am going to be able to bear to leave all these magnificent trees.

 Kinda bad photography but since it looks slightly "impressionistic"  I'm including it.

Now back to Tangelwood.

The cars were lined up for miles, as far as the eye could see, on both sides of the road to enter the parking lots. ( this was taken 3 hours before the event)

Some tangled wood.  HA!

The beginning of a beautiful night.
Rain and thunderstorms were predicted for the entire weekend.
It poured on the way there and rained on the way home but the entire time we were there was picture postcard perfect weather. 

The view from our seats (white and grey sweatshirts folded over the chairs) inside the Shed. 
We opted for the inside seats in case of rain.

But anyone who knows me well knows these picnics are just my cup of tea.  I would so be all over that if we lived nearby and went every year. So Fun! 

Under the spreading Chestnut tree. 
(towards the back of the grounds.)

I wasn't kidding about the candelabras!  We saw many them scattered throughout the crowd.

The view from the original summer cottage on the grounds.  You can't really see the concerts from here but the sound travels beautifully.

We missed out on Tanglewood last summer because by the time we arrived on our mission here and got our feet under us, it was sold out as were nearly all accommodations.  So we ordered these tickets for this year as soon as they went on sale last January.  
A different group, individual, orchestra is featured every night.  We chose John Williams'  Film Night. 
He conducted the Boston Pops for years and is very beloved here. 
As most of you know he has written the scores for so many of our favorite movies...
Star Wars, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Home Alone, Superman, to mention but a few. Other notable works include the theme music for 4 Olympic Games, NBC Sunday Night Football, and the NBC Nightly News.
He has won 5 Academy Awards, 4 Golden Globes, 7 British Academy Awards, and 22 Grammy Awards.  With 49 Academy Award nominations, he is the second most nominated individual, after Walt Disney.  He is kind of the musical equivalent of Norman Rockwell for us.  :)
We love him.

(and what makes him even more endearing- he kind of looks like Santa Clause.)

He was supposed to conduct that night but sadly he hurt his back and was unable to make it.  The Pops current conductor, Keith Lockhart, stood in for him.  He was fine but
we missed  Mr. Williams. :(

Here is our program:

We were disappointed it wasn't all John Williams' music but it was all so incredible we are not  going to complain.
It was amazing and powerful hearing a live orchestra playing these familiar tunes often accompanied by video clips on a big screen as they played. 
A night to remember!  

Now let's back track again, this time to Wednesday.
We headed into Boston for my every 6 month mammogram and check up.   As of this posting I haven't heard the results back from the mammogram but the blood work and doctor check up all were thumbs up. 

I love how they have designed this building so the entire outer hallway is a wall of windows with a great view of Boston before you.

Since we don't get into the city nearly as much as we'd like, after the appointments, we headed to Chinatown for lunch. 

Everyone raves about this place , the Gourmet Dumpling House, so we figured we'd give it a try.

A long line to get in... good sign. It's got to be good, right?

Teeny tiny place.  Don't let that mirrored wall to the left fool you.  Maybe 10 tables at most. Smashed in like sardines.  On a very hot and humid day and very poor air conditioning. 
And a wait staff that resembled that guy from Seinfeld's Soup Nazi.  Not happy to be there, not particularly happy to see you, plenty of people waiting outside to take your spot so just hurry up ad order, no time for questions. 

Maybe it was the wait, maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the staff, maybe it was the food, but for whatever reason we were underwhelmed.
Very good but nothing incredibly special. 
Had pork and leek dumplings, green onions pancakes, and a noodle dish.

From there we walked to the Public Gardens so I could go on a Swan Boat.  We missed those last year as well so I had to get it in before we leave and they close for the season.  It's a Boston tradition.

This young lady noticed my badge and I got to do a little missionaary work with her. 
Another reason we go out instead of sitting in our apartment and taking phone calls.  We would never get to meet and visit with anyone that way.  :)

Off we go!  These boats are peddle-powered.  The young man powering ours said it is like riding a bike uphill in a high gear.  He says you get used to it.  

 And of course there are real swans.

 Walked through the common to the North End just to explore it a little more.

We tried Mike's Pastry last time we were here so this time we tried its
 rival- Modern Pastry.  Think I like Mike's better.
This was my reward for being good at the doctors.  :)

The North End is the Italian section of Boston.

 Getting ready for one of the biggest events of the year in the North End - St. Anthony's Feast.  It will be held this coming weekend.  Parades, streamers, lots of food and dancing.

This shop  made us feel as if we had gone back in time. Love it!

Love this city street scene.  Notice the meat cleaver embedded in the sidewalk!

And these two!  They made our ride home on the subway a happy one. 

Thursday found us in our usual happy place, the Boston Temple.
Today I had the pleasure of helping a family who brought their 12 year old son to do his first temple baptisms.  The parents were impressed to start this tradition when their oldest son turned 12.  In our church, many of the youth come as a group and do baptisms but this family wanted his first experience to be with his family.  Afterwards they go out to dinner and make it a very special occasion.  His older brother also accompanied him.  The parents said the younger brother and sister can hardly wait until its their turn.  Inspired parents. 

Okay. So... we have seen these being advertised all summer long but having had "the world's best" in Maine,  we weren't really interested in these but a friend of ours here told us they were actually very good so we braved trying one.
Bad idea.  Not good. At all.  (sorry Bother Thornock)

On our way back from the Berkshires, we decided to go to church in Franklin where I lived during my high school years. 

I can't tell you how happy these words on the program made my heart.
Franklin 1st Ward
 1st. Which means there is more than one.
Ward. Which means bigger than a branch.
When we lived here, initially and until right before we moved, we were the only Latter Day Saints in the town.  My brother and I were the only members in our high school. 
Now there is a ward, a branch, and a singles ward. 
Wonderful! Wonderful!
I talked with a woman there who was very interested to hear my story, particularly that my brother and I were the only members in our school, for she also experienced that.
She was converted when she was 16 and was the only member of her family to join the church.
She said she was a punk-rocker with spiked hair and there was one Mormon girl in her high school.  She said she was always drawn to her because she was so nice.  She looked for excuses to be around her.  One day this girl came into the store where our convert worked and started talking with a friend they both had in common.  In the midst of that conversation, a pair of sister missionaries came in.  The member introduced them to the other two girls.
Our convert said she had the same good feeling she had about the member girl when she met the missionaries.
Soon after she was learning about the Gospel from them in our member girl's home and was baptized not long after.  
Next week she is going to California for a reunion with the missionary who taught and baptized her and the member she so admired.  They have kept in touch all these years.
Our convert has served a mission, married in the temple and has a lovely family.  She is currently teaching Seminary. She was baptized in 1986 and I left there in 1969.  
Much has changed since those dates for both of us there in Franklin. 
The Good News is being heard.  

And this fills our hearts with rejoicing!


  1. Oh wow. What an outing. Love it all and wish we were there. Love you both and miss you tons.

  2. Looks like a amazing adventure.Love how active you guys are!!