Saturday, November 21, 2009

Western Massachusetts: A Home in Our Hearts

Here in Western Massachusetts we have much for which to be grateful.

Our landscape is an Eden of elements, carved by the hand of Mother Nature with her tools of glaciers and frosts and hot and cold and ever-erosive currents of wind and water. Indeed, 'tis nary a dwelling window here in the boondocks of the Bay State that doesn't frame a tree or brook, rolling hill or pleasant valley or field, whether that window be in the city, suburbs or sticks. Our streams and rivers run cold and clear and our lakes and ponds are clean and healthy. Our forests are strong and diverse, the represented species a blooming bouquet displayed in wild acres unbroken, tucked into urban parcels or gathered into parks lovingly tended. Moss and ferns, blade and brush: Like a warm, cozy blanket, the lush terrain of Western Massachusetts covers an unforgiving strata of stone, soft comfort atop a solid base ideal to build upon, a platform from which to reach for the stars. Autumn colors and spring scents, the nip of winter air...shouts of summer swimmers, to live here is to live in a layered tapestry that envelopes and delights the senses. It is easy to feel blessed.

The farms and forests of Western Massachusetts combine to form a habitat rich with animal life. Growing populations of moose and black bear are testament to the area's wealth of undeveloped land and fertile food sources. It's common to see long fields hosting gatherings of wild turkeys or red-tailed hawks soaring and circling high overhead. Bald eagles are here and here to stay. Shad push up the steady Connecticut river with the spring swell and year 'round native trout ply the deep pools of icy brooks flowing out of the blue Berkshire hills. Fur and feather, scale and skin: We share paradise.

And as Mother Nature shapes the landscape, the landscape shapes the inhabitant. From rocky soil and snow-deep winters, April floods and summer droughts (ah, the price of beauty) spring a hardy stock of folk, willing to hunker down and get the job done. Rising seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year, well before the dappling first rays of the rising sun, Western Massachusetts' farming families have a long tradition of providing soul and sustenance to the communities gathered 'round their furrowed fields, hungry guests to a feast. From harvest to table, 'tis the tasty fruit of their labor that drives the heart of the collective body, provides the power that makes it soar.

Like living spokes from a hub, energy radiates throughout Western Massachusetts with a visible hum. It surges and swells and softens to the flowing amperage of informed and active minds allowed to expand without restrictions or biases, lest they be self-imposed. The energy is seen in our architecture and artwork, old and new. It is apparent in our church spires and town libraries and our thirst for knowledge and enlightenment. The energy is seen standing at bus stops in the rain or passed hiking remote narrow trails on a late fall day. It is VFWs and struck-up conversations in doctor's waiting rooms. It's a door held open or a smile offered to a stranger. The energy is a well-maintained garden, a task complete, a favor given without asking. It is a photograph, a painting, a story retold with mirth. This buzz of non-choreographed communal continuity makes Western Massachusetts more than a mere location. Just as a dwelling becomes more than a house once occupied, it is home, Western Massachusetts is, and we welcome each other into it with that knowledge. Family.

There is much to be thankful for, much gratitude to be felt. We are the fortunate ones, honored by nature's palette. We live and work and love and rise or fall in one of the most magnificent locations on the planet. We pass along the heritage of our homesteads to the young ones and pass on, sinking roots into a deeper spiritual till, at last one with the land that had borne us to the spot, or return to the soil scattered as ashes in warm-favorite haunts, the sunny afternoons of our lives. For now, we have today. We have each other. We have our dreams. And no matter how far they may make us roam, we have Western Massachusetts.

Thank you, readers...friends. Your loyalty is humbling. May your Thanksgiving be filled with happiness and plenty.

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