Although that first autumnal crispness faded back to some hot sun (no complaints), the collective gestalt around here has moved on from summer’s lovely pleasure seeking ways to a sense of productivity (or should that be Productivity?). School’s in session, walkers and bikers go to school and work, along with more cars and yellow school buses, swarms of Smith students make treks to Faces and school buses, kids on the soccer fields all about town and many more signs of studiousness and back-to-business-nessness.
Now, whether there’s more attention to collaborative work these days—due, as my kids would say, to these “tough economic times”—or not, I’m not sure. I will say that I’m noticing collaborative efforts more, from the smallest scale to larger efforts. And I’m really digging them.
Certainly, the Five College consortium exemplifies cooperative spirits on the rise. As individual schools plow through this tighter era, economically, the incredible resource that is the consortium reveals itself as that much more valuable; in this case, the chance for schools to send their students to other campuses for offerings not provided on the “home” campus has increasing appeal, as does the ability to share some services. Glass half-empty, you can say that means there’s less on any individual campus. Glass half-full, you can see that schools may use this time to build upon each other’s strengths (and their own strengths) and in so doing, forge fruitful ties between faculty and students across campus lines. Hampshire students have always availed themselves of the other campuses more than other schools’ students have flocked to Hampshire and—to toot Hampshire’s horn for just a moment—to a one, my friends who teach at the other schools tell me how much a couple of Hampshire students enliven and invigorate any given class.
Museums10 is another great example of shoring up resources and finding ways (relatively) small institutions can support one another for a collective goal of bringing more people to see some of the amazing cultural offerings available across the Valley. Then, there’s a great collaboration being made between Pittsfield and Northampton’s artistic communities. Cultural Pittsfield and the Storefront Artist Project have mounted a show this month—RANGE—that brings Northampton artists to Pittsfield art seekers. In conjunction with RANGE, there are a couple of events at Ferrin Gallery (one of the real agents in Pittsfield’s cultural successes) on Saturday as well: an opening reception for Joe Goodwin’s show of large scale acrylic paintings and intimate monotypes, A Recent Epoch and a presentation of Northampton artists—East Meets West—as well as Lucy Feller’s solo show of digital photography, Wish You Were Near (I’ve seen some of Feller’s pieces for this show, photos and collages both whimsical and wise, and I just love them). Some folks promoting cultural development in Pittsfield and Northampton have been meeting to share their experiences and resources on a semi-regular basis. Given how the New York Times has deemed Buckland part of the Berkshires, melting the boundaries between the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires—artistically, at least—seems timely. More to the point, there is so much interesting, innovative, and just plain neat stuff surrounded by both sets of hills, we should all avail ourselves to enjoy and admire.
Academia and art aren’t the only loci of collaborative efforts around the Valley, though. CISA, which stands for Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, is about to celebrate the harvest. On October 2nd, you can attend Eat the View, a large, local, community supper event at the Northampton fairgrounds. Here’s a link to purchase tickets for the event, which is a fundraiser for CISA.
Harvest is part of the sense of productivity at this time of year, for sure. I gasped a couple of weeks ago when I saw mums for sale at the Northampton Farmer’s Market. Then, yesterday, I listened to scientist Steve Sauter explain—on the radio, to Bill Dwight—that the determining factor for leaves changing color is how much daylight there is, not the temperature outside. I know I knew this, but I can’t say I remembered the particulars and so it was fun to re-learn this information (here’s a link to the podcast). The other factoid I loved learning or re-learning: all the colors leaves show are intrinsically in the leaf. We see green and then orange or yellow or red, but those colors—not yet revealed—were there the whole time. I haven’t yet figured out why I’m so tickled by this, but I keep returning to it in my mind. It feels a little like Glinda telling Dorothy she had the power to return home the whole journey through Oz. And maybe at this time of year, especially, knowing that you have what you need at your disposal is particularly comforting.
The root vegetables are beginning to unleash their bounty now, all heavy and substantive (and delicious), and apples scent the air if you situate yourself wisely. When the evenings cool off, the warm food one can make with this “category” of goods starts to seem really appealing: soups, breads, and other dishes that are cooked slowly. I’m going to get ingredients to make my first pot of autumnal soup from Tuesday Market (essentially, I make the same soup again and again, with tweaks, but that’s a whole other story).
Tuesday Market has a website now, another example, small-scale, of successful collaboration. My son, Ezekiel, about to turn 14 this weekend, with a tiny bit of assistance from me and Ben James and Oona Coy (of Town Farm) set up the site as a WordPress blog. Why did Ezekiel want to help out like that? For one thing, he’s a teenager and setting up blogs comes pretty naturally to him (unlike his technologically creaky mum) and more so, he loves Tuesday Market. Walking downtown to the Market, seeing friends, often including his piano teacher, Ed Rosser, playing under a small tent, and sitting on the wall with a good book and a slice of pizza from Sam’s (featuring farm ingredients) is high on Ezekiel’s list for favored late summer activities.
To the extent that the blogosphere connects us and encourages that sense of shared creations and shared worlds, I stumbled upon a photograph on the blog for Justamere Tree Farm, which sells maple syrup at Tuesday Market (and other markets, too), and I knew all of the kids smiling for the camera. It was so small world (I dutifully sent the link to their parents), small town, big-hearted. This, I guess, goes part and parcel with the leaves’ storing their many colors. To me, collaboration, sharing—of resources, skills, ideas, people, kindness—is really where it’s at; I think we are, on some level all of us, these days seeking ways to see the world as less vast and more friendly. By banding together, we find ourselves making the world a little more tenable, and a lot nicer, too.