Saturday, May 26, 2012

Supermoon serendipity

If the road we wanted to take hadn't been washed out, we wouldn't have had to find a different route to get to Tannery Falls.

If we had decided that the 'unassumed road' on this alternate route wasn't worth the risk of bottoming out the car or possibly getting stuck in some ditch far away from help, we would have missed out on the most beautiful (double!) waterfalls I've ever seen. And some impressive tree-roots making the most efficient beeline to water!

Had we decided not to go to Tannery Falls because of all the crazy road impediments, we would have been on a different road at a different time and missed seeing this beautiful bear! (Just like the one we saw recently in Gatineau but didn't get a photo of.)

Had we not done all that waterfall adventuring (which took a lot longer than anticipated), we would have been at the Indian restaurant for lunch instead of dinner and we would have missed sitting beside the couple who we got to talking with, who told us about the free concert they were about to attend.

Had that couple not forgotten their leftovers, we may have decided not to be spontaneous and go find them and see about this free show.

And I would have missed the most incredible evening of African song and dance I have ever witnessed, all in honour of their beloved professor, Ernest Brown, who passed away quite recently. I would not have been moved to tears by the raw talent, passion and intensity of these talented young musicians, dancers, and singers. And I would not have been part of the procession of audience members and performers drumming and singing out into the streets where the celebration continued into the night, under the light of the supermoon.

Several times that evening I wondered happily, how did I get here?

I wish I had some photos or videos of that night's performance, but I've found some youtube videos that are similar to what I saw. This one of the Zambezi Marimba Band that Ernest founded and directed, and this one of Kusika. Definitely worth watching!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pretty pretty nature stuff

Ok, I'm almost done sharing stories and photos from my week in MA. Along with various farm animal and art encounters, we went on a few walks through new, spring-fresh forests to see some lovely waterfalls. And because we seemed to be hitting the Berkshires directly in the off-season, we rarely encountered another hiker and had the quiet of the forest all to ourselves. 

The Cascades
Tucked at the end of a quaint residential street between Williamstown and North Adams, the trail to The Cascades is short, and most definitely worthwhile.

Wahconah Falls
Audible from the parking lot, this picturesque waterfall tumbles over angles and edges into a large pool, surrounded by lush, mossy vegetation, and so many different kinds of ferns!

Tannery Falls
Not the easiest to get to, but if you adventure along the use-at-your-own-risk "road" (more like ATV trail), you will be rewarded with not one, but two spectacular waterfalls. Double waterfalls! What does it mean?! Only a few hundred feet apart, but completely different from one another.

Natural Bridge State Park
On the site of an old marble quarry, a waterfall tumbles over stark, white marble and through rock forming kettles and channels and the namesake bridge.

Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation
Made up of two bumps rising sharply out of the Pioneer Valley—North Sugarloaf (791 ft) and South Sugarloaf (652 ft)—these loafs offer a commanding view of the Connecticut River and the Holyoke Range to the south. I wouldn't say I'm afraid of heights, but driving up the narrow road running up the dramatic cliff-edge of South Sugarloaf was scary! (Worse going up, because you're on the outside of the road, closer to the edge...)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sunset on the Mohawk Trail

The Mohawk Trail was one of the first scenic byways in the United States, along what was once a trade route connecting Native North Americans on the Atlantic with upstate New York. It winds east-west from Greenfield to North Adams, through the Berkshires, along the Hoosic River, getting increasingly narrow and winding (and impossible to photograph!) through Florida county, where evidence is still visible from the surging hurricane waters of Irene last summer.

We got to the top of the famous hairpin turn as the sun was setting, so we sat, and waited, and watched the light change. From this vantage point overlooking North Adams and Williamstown, you can see the Taconic range in New York to the west, and the Berkshire mountains extending into Vermont to the north.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hancock Shaker Village

I could relay so many interesting things that I learned about the Shakers. About their lovely architecture, amazing innovations, penchant for hard-work and quality craftsmanship. Or about their admirable values of gender equality, responsible land stewardship, and pacificism. But as has become a theme of this vacation, I'm going to rave about the animals.

It was lunch time by the time we got to the round barn (which could be a post on it's own, for it's remarkable architecture), and we were lured to the pens by loud, raucous bleets, oinks and other bellowing. One little lamb in particular, Alice, followed the farmer around like a puppy, and it was this adorable little lamb that I got to bottle-feed!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Art in the Berkshires

The Berkshires are home to some seriously impressive collections of art. In Williamstown we visited the Clark Art Institute (free!) and the Williams College Museum of Art (also free!), the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art near Amherst, but unfortunately missed the MASS MoCA in North Adams.

The Clark

I was totally blown away by Sterling and Francine Clark's—heirs to the Singer sewing machine fortune—personal collection, which includes (to name just a few) Impressionist, Renaissance and Dutch works. Even a Botticelli! Are you kidding me?! Amazing.

Domenico Ghirlandaio (Domenico di Tomaso Bigordi) Portrait of a Lady, c. 1490, tempera and oil on panel

Hilaire Germain Edgar Degas Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, modeled 1880-1; cast 1919-21, bronze

Claude Monet Rouen Cathedral, The Fa├žade in Sunlight, 1894, oil on canvas

Lawrence Alma-Tadema The Women of Amphissa, 1887, oil on panel;
detail from Preparations for the Festivities, 1866, oil on canvas

Joachim Wtewael The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis, 1612, oil on copper

I think the security guard makes a nice fifth bust in this row, don't you think?

Williams College Museum of Art
This on-campus gallery houses works from antiquity to present day, including a Hopper! I don't think I've ever seen an original before! I love that exciting first impression of seeing the original of a painting I studied in school. You can get up close and see the detail, the brushstrokes, the dimension of the paint... there's just something magical about seeing the piece that they actually worked on—standing just as close as they once did—rather than a reproduction in a book. 

Seated Vairocana, gilt bronze from the Yuan Dynasty (1280–1368),
Louise Bourgeois, Eyes (nine elements), 2001, bronze

Edward Hopper, Morning in a City, 1944, oil on canvas

Mary Cassatt Ellen, Mary Cassatt in a Big Blue Hat, c. 1905, oil on canvas
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Other than baby piglets and llama hiking, this gallery was a major highlight for me. As you can tell from my Pinterest boards, I am drawn to illustration, specifically for children's books. For the last ten years the permanent exhibition has been The Art of Eric Carle: The Birth of a Book and a Museum about Carle's life and process, with the originals for the book Slowly, Slowly, Slowly said the Sloth. A very inspiring exhibit; I was excited to learn that he was a graphic designer too! The other exhibition space displayed paintings by Kadir Nelson from his latest book WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball. The Carle also has an extensive library of children's books and a fantastic bookstore—I could have easily spent all day (and all my money) with all those wonderful books.

Leo Leonni, Imaginary Garden, 1978, bronze

Street Art
After visiting the Carle, we went to Amherst to explore the lovely university town, and judging by the number of professors in robes and students in cap and gown, I'd say it was graduation day! Anyway, in Amherst we spotted this nifty street art: