I Visited Utopia Today

We’ve had a busy few days up in the Berkshires, mixing book business with fun. Our primary purpose was to check with the places carrying my children’s books to see if they needed more copies. And on Tuesday, I was scheduled to read with families at The Mount, home of the writer Edith Wharton. (But I’ll tell you about that in another post.)

On Friday evening, at Tanglewood,  we heard selections from Ravel, Haydn and Ades performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons. The young Russian pianist, Daniil Trifonov, was the featured soloist for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C. The Andante, or F major slow movement, was popularized in the 1967 film, Elvira Madigan and his performance hauntingly filled the July night. The audience would not let him off stage until he played an encore and he chose Prokofiev’s lovely Cinderella Waltz.

On Sunday, we listened to a World Premier of John William’s “Markings”and Tchaikowsky’s Violin Concerto in D Opus 35. It was a concert I’d looked forward to for quite some time. Violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter was the soloist. She’s one of my favorite musicians. She was the inspiration for the first chapter set at Tanglewood in A Berkshire Tale. 

Afterwards, I spoke with her and gave her a copy of the book. I’d wanted to do that since its publication two years ago, but had not had the opportunity. She promised to read it, although with her schedule, I’ve no idea when she will find time.

In between business, Charley and I fit in a visit to the Furnace Brook Winery, 18 holes of golf, a few romantic dinners, and a visit to The Hancock Shaker Village,  the setting of the  November story in  A Berkshire Tale. I think the Village is a magical place. When we arrived, we were given a sticker to wear that read,  “I Visited Utopia Today”.

The flowers were in full bloom. Docents in costumes were leading tours of students listening attentively to the history of the Shakers.  The animals, except for one howling calf, were on their best behavior. A group of people were engrossed in a session of goat yoga. (Yes, yoga with goats – it’s a thing big around here, now.)

There were art works displayed throughout the grounds. Tess, the barn cat,  made an appearance and rolled around at my feet in cheerful welcome.

Now, the Shakers were a religious sect led here in the states during the 1770′ and 1780’s by Mother Ann Lee. They lived a healthy lifestyle, worshiping God in work, song and dance (mostly shaking to ward off sin). They were pacifists who generously shared their prosperity with others who came to live and work with them. And they were writers, musicians, engineers, farmers, architects, inventors and so much more. They led simple lives and took care of each other in a community devoted to spiritual living.

We visited the Discovery Barn where children and parents were involved in hands-on activities to learn about some of the things the Shakers did on a daily basis. Charley colored while I took pictures. Many of the Shaker art work could be found on the explanation boards numbered along the woodland path. None of them were done in crayon, however, but he seemed to take to the medium quite well.

It was the first day for constructing fairy houses along the woodland path. I was able to coax Charley away  from his masterpiece and  we headed out to the trail where work had begun on creating the spirit houses, as the Shakers probably would have named them.

We stopped at a welcome table and were given an explanation of what the project entailed. A father and daughter were making use of some of the forest elements to build their structure. Other families could be heard farther off in the woods. Even though it was the first day for this activity, there were quite a few houses all ready under  construction.

For counsel and advice, three official architectural/engineering consultants, Tom Cracolici, Jonah He, and Paul Byrd,  were right out there on the trail to provide help. When we stopped by, they were in the process of making an elaborate tree house, but they took time to pose for a photo.

I’ve always believed that any successful children’s book must contain a reference to Poo and Pee somewhere in the plot line. Poo and Pee are very popular with young readers and can send them into gales of laughter if placed strategically in a story. (Actually, anywhere in the story will suffice.) I contend that there should be a Poo-litzer or Pee-body Prize for authors who are most adept using this technique. If ever I become rich and famous, the very first thing I will do is establish these awards.

My contention was given further credibility when, farther down the trail, a little boy came running up to me to announce he’d just “pooped in the woods”. I displayed my intense admiration for this rather rustic accomplishment and he rewarded my praise with further details on the mosquito that had tried to “bite him on the butt” (emphasizing this point by turning his right cheek toward me and solemnly nodding his head). Luckily, he informed me, his mother had been there and took care of the pesky insect. After happily posing for a picture, he commenced  helping his father and mother with the design of the family creation.

The laughter of two young girls could be heard up ahead. They were gleefully gathering twigs and leaves and feathers to bring to their mother who’d wisely decided to build in a protected area a bit off the trail. This spirit dwelling would be welcomed by any introverted fairies or ones who valued more privacy.

And so, we ended our day at the Village. I would have loved to stay for the parade of animals, but we had more book business to attend to. I’ll have to make sure I stay for this during a future visit. I may be returning in October for their Harvest Festival. They’re planning on bringing in some alpacas and I could find myself reading The Pacas Are Coming! to families amidst humming crias. What a glorious thought!

Even Baby James loved hearing about Alpacas

In my next post, I’ll write about the artists and art works presently displayed at the Village.  Of course I’ll do a post on Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount, where I spent  Tuesday morning taking photos in the gardens and reading about ZuZu’s adventures with families visiting for the day.

       Have a peaceful day.


34 thoughts on “I Visited Utopia Today

  1. What a wonderful adventure you’ve had. Thank you for all the photos. My granddaughter makes fairy huts around her yard and I love seeing her inventiveness at work. As for the Poo-litzer and Pee-body awards – they are gonna be winners even without any winners! Not only hilarious but necessary. Maybe the Loo-ker award is next, but you’ll have to ask the Brits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Osyth. I think their way of life was exemplary although their firm belief in celibacy was self destructive in the end. I always feel so much at home when in the Village and have taken some of the most beautiful photos during the seasons passing by there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You certainly have been busy Claremary. This was a great post chocked full for us to enjoy. We’re envious is a good way of your being able to view Tchaikowsky’s Violin Concerto in D Opus 35. Those violins always get us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your trip was a delightful combination of work and play Clare. Reading about the Shakers, I can’t help wonder if they have some connection to Quakers. Perhaps a breakaway group from earlier times…?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, In England, Mother Ann Lee left the Quakers to form the Shaking Quakers shortened to Shakers. Her group, the Wardley’s, religious worship included the shaking of the head and arms to ward off sins. They emigrated to America in 1774 and set up their religious colonies around the US.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve written about it in previous posts and the in the November charpter of A Berkshire Tale the children visit and ZuZu listens to them tell about the village at dinner from her quilt bag in the hall. There were artist’s works all around and I’ll do a post about them this week, I think??????

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Clare this is a delightful post. I can see why you love this village, it’s enchanting. I think the idea of constructing fairy houses is lovely. My granddaughter and daughter have built fairy houses in their garden and they are a source of wonderment and magic to the little ones. Great photos too! The concert sounds wonderful. So nice to be able to present the inspiration for your book with a copy of A Berkshire Tale.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This does sound like Utopia!! I hope you changed clothes before Roxie smelled that other cat on you!
    How exciting to get to watch all those kids do the activities! And Charley looked like he was having fun!!
    It’s ok, I color too!!
    Goat yoga????

    Liked by 1 person

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