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Posts Tagged ‘Berkshires’

bookstore lenox sign natalie goldberg event

A couple of Sundays ago, I skipped out on church early and drove out to the Berkshires for the afternoon.

I’m a longtime fan of The Bookstore in Lenox, despite the fact that I only get out there every couple of years. Matt, the owner, writes a rambling, erudite e-newsletter which I love reading every week, and in early July I opened it to find that Natalie Goldberg was coming for a Sunday afternoon reading and book signing.

This came the day after I’d been talking to a friend about Natalie’s work – explaining how I stumbled on Writing Down the Bones the summer after I graduated from college, when an acquaintance was selling off a few of her books. I bought it and a few others (including Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water), never dreaming what an effect Natalie’s words would have on the way I thought about my writing and my life.

The whole afternoon, from start to finish, was a delight. It felt – as these things sometimes do – like grace unbidden.

bookstore lenox interior shelves

It started with the drive there, listening to good music on the radio and Elizabeth Gilbert’s delightful On Being episode, about following your curiosity. It continued when I walked into the store and heard the events manager testing the mic by reciting “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” in an Irish accent. He stopped after a couple of lines and mused, “Should I do the whole poem?” Everyone who’d already gathered responded, “Yes!”

I browsed a little while, then perched on a stool near the front counter for the event itself. Natalie arrived with her cousins in tow, and she was warm and down-to-earth, as I always hope authors will be. She read a few sections from her new book, standing in the middle of the store in a long black dress, telling us about love and illness and noticing, about grief and doctors and paying attention.

“You’re such deep listeners,” she kept saying to the group gathered in folding chairs or leaning against the back shelves. I think we were all simply fascinated. But it was clear that everyone in the room was so happy to be there.

I loved every moment: the breeze wafting through the open door, other browsers wandering in and out, my fellow audience members listening so intently and asking good questions. Most of all I loved hearing Natalie’s voice – which I have heard so often in my head over the years – in real life. Afterward, I went up and asked her to sign both her new book and my copy of Writing Down the Bones, bristling with Post-Its. “I’ll sign as many books as you want,” she had said to the crowd, and many of us took her up on that offer.

The great pleasure of any bookstore is browsing, of course, and I wandered among the shelves for a little while before and after the event. I ended up with a copy of Natalie’s new book (of course), a memoir by a 747 pilot, some Alastair Reid poetry, and Matt’s slim, self-published memoir of his years working at the now-defunct Gotham Book Mart in NYC. He exclaimed when I brought it to the register, and we had a delightful exchange. I told him I’d been there before, and how much I love the store. Matt offered to sign his book, and when I peeked inside I saw that he’d inscribed it – to my delight – “For Katie, who came back!”

I left feeling nourished in a soul-deep way: from having spent an afternoon among people who love words and good stories and this world. “I wanted to grab a hunk of living again and hold on tight,” Natalie writes in the introduction to her new memoir. That afternoon in Lenox was a vivid, flavorful hunk of living, and I savored its sweetness all the way home.

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Since we moved to New England, people have been telling us we needed to visit the Berkshires, which is only a couple of hours from Boston but might as well be another world. We spent a recent weekend there, celebrating J’s birthday, exploring half a dozen charming little towns and touring a historic Shaker village. It was green and fresh and blooming, quiet and relaxed and charming, and simply lovely.

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We stayed at the Apple Tree Inn, eating breakfast on the veranda, playing Super Scrabble in the living room, reading in the front yard, and taking deep breaths of the spicy, woodsy air all around.

apple tree inn lenox ma

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Just up the road was Lenox, where we stuffed ourselves with pasta at Frankie’s, savored ice cream at The Scoop, and sampled a range of tapas (and sangria) at Brava. (Fried calamari + patatas bravas = YUM.)

brava interior

Lenox boasts one bookstore, aptly named The Bookstore, where I found a wonderful old hardcover edition of Anne Frank’s diary (complete with newspaper clippings about Otto Frank) and a copy of a brand-new E.B. White collection on dogs. (He and I share a deep affinity for dachshunds.) They have a wonderfully eclectic selection and an enormous amount of poetry. I could have browsed for hours.

the bookstore lenox ma

I spent far too much money at Colorful Stitches, a gorgeous two-story yarn shop, and we also stopped by the Lenox library book sale, where J and I each scored a $2 find. (We figured that balanced out the big yarn bill.) From there we drove to Lee, where we poked around a bit and had lunch at the Starving Artist Creperie & Cafe. (Delicious.)

colorful stitches porch

We then drove up to the aforementioned Shaker village, where we saw medicinal herb gardens complete with cool old seed boxes:

shaker seeds

There were also baby animals, and lots of old farm equipment, some of which J tried out:

j with buckets

I was fascinated by the looms and spinning wheels, once used by the women of the community:

shaker looms

shaker looms wheels

On Sunday, after checking out, we drove to Great Barrington and enjoyed omelets at Martin’s, then spent a while wandering around Main Street and its environs. The sun was out and so were the locals.

Just before leaving, we enjoyed some (more) ice cream at the SoCo Creamery shop. This was the same brand served at The Scoop in Lenox, and it is delectable. That blue concoction you see below is called Cookie Monster. Nom nom nom.

cookie monster soco ice cream

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All in all, a perfect (and delicious) weekend. We’ll be going back.

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