This is a love letter to a great North American region; I’m about to get mushy and more than a little verklempt, if you’ll permit me. I’ve been more a little emotional the last few days just thinking how quickly the time has gone by and how soon we must leave Benson House and Harvard Forest: tomorrow morning. I have fallen badly in love, seduced by scenery, sweet little towns with steeples, rivers and lakes, goshawks and fishers, and above all the air and light in the New England forest. The songs of the wood thrush and veery top my hit parade of great musical experiences, along with a magnificent Beethoven’s 7th at Tanglewood, performed in a thunderstorm.
Herewith are things I love about New England, in no particular order, with love and kisses from the Motmot.
New England keeps its ancestors where you can see them every day. Out west, cemeteries are dull monocultures of gravemarker plaques planted down flat for easy mowing. Here in New England every little town has a real honest graveyard, a good solid tribute to townspeople who lived here short and long, their lives told in a few well chosen words. I’ve spent five months across the road from a small one begun in Revolutionary times; I’m looking at it right now as I sit on the front porch of Benson House.
On Martha’s Vineyard there’s a beautiful graveyard with engraved granite boulders as an option to the usual headstone (see Belushi’s for comparison), and at Mt Auburn in Boston the grounds in spring crawl with birders(me among them) chasing warblers and grosbeaks and a zillion singing migrants in the most glorious flowering landscape I’ve ever seen outside of a botanical garden. When I go, please bury me at Mt. Auburn. I’d like to spend eternity with birders walking over my grave. Especially if they get a rarity from somewhere around my kidney. That would be special.
This has been a wet, wet summer, and the fungi are going to town and everywhere else. The diversity is astounding. I had to buy a field guide, of course, but if you knew what you were doing you could eat like a king. A king with a royal taster, natch. While I was painting up at The Ledges in Royalston last week, a couple climbed up beside me carrying plastic bags full of something pungent and black which they said would go well in pilaf. I personally will let others enjoy what I dare not eat. The price of bold and hungry ignorance is high in this arena. Bon appetit!
I’ve managed to see a thrilling bunch of animals here, simply by being in their vicinity without making too much racket. In my tenure as Harvard Forest Artist-In-Residence (that’s my official title, in fact) I’ve had close encounters with mink, beaver, fisher, deer, squirrels gray and red, chipmunks and woodchucks. And that’s just the mammals. Sad to say I never got a look at a moose or a bear, but it’s probably just as well. I don’t run fast and I don’t climb trees.
Museums floor me; since April I’ve been to the MFA in Boston three times, the Clark in Williamstown twice, the Bennington Center in VT once (to drop off my paintings for Impressions of New England). In May I went back to CA and spent a great afternoon at the Getty Villa, and in June dined in the Museum of Natural History at Harvard (the glass flowers are awesome and the wine was most excellent). I’ve discovered that the best way to enjoy a museum is with a sketchbook. Use a pencil; the guards frown on pens.
Tomorrow we will pack up the car and head south; I’m getting a little choked up just thinking about it. But I’ll continue this paen tomorrow from the road if I can. I’m just getting warmed up. There’s so much here to love.