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Our own bests: Locals share home places

posted Jun 26, 2012, 7:29 AM by Jv Hampton-VanSant
Taken from Our Own Bests (from Berkshire

Thursday June 21, 2012

Bzzzz. At first, the soft buzzing noise sounds like the work of a bee. The odd creature moves towards a bulletin board titled "What's in Bloom" and lingers for a moment. Is it a large bug? No, it's a hummingbird come to see what sweet nectar it can drink at Barth olomew's Cobble in Ashley Falls. Just as quickly as it came, and with the soft unzip of a camera case, the hummingbird vanishes up the closet trail in search of its lunch.

What other hidden treasures lie in the Berkshires? As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


A green bench blends in with the background of the trees behind it at Bartholomew's Cob ble. Gwendolyn Hampton-Van Sant, executive director at Multicultural

Elena Traister plays her fiddle at a music Jam in North Adams. (Eagle file)
Bridge in Hou sa tonic, sits and breathes in the fresh air at her favorite "hiding spot."

For VanSant, who has traveled all over the East Coast in her childhood because her father was in the Navy, the Berkshires feel like home.

When she came to Bard College at Simon's Rock at the age of 15, she said, that was the first time she had set foot in the Berkshires. After graduating, VanSant decided to stay in the area because of the networks she had developed, as well as the beautiful scenery. She now lives in Monterey.

The Cobble serves as a healing ground for VanSant during rough times. Once, she said, she came to visit this setting after a bad car accident. She returned last week to rest in this peacful place once


"It's very peaceful here. The animals, the water, everything makes you pull from the strength of the Earth," she said. "It centers me."

"It's very peaceful here. The animals, the water, everything makes you pull from the strength of the Earth," she said. "It centers me."

This calming place also has easy-to-walk trails for VanSant, who is not a hiker. She walks Hurlburt's Hill because of the beautiful view; the Ledges is her favorite trail to walk.

"You get to see the cows in the field and all the pretty colors," she said.

When her kids were younger, VanSant would have to keep them from running up to touch the cows. The tree roots, both old and new, make up the trail according to VanSant. Her birthday is in October and coincides with her favorite season, the fall. Bartholomew's Cobble provides her with the best birthday present: trees in foliage.


Some people move from a smaller city to a larger one. Others do the opposite. Elena Traister, professor of Envir onmental Studies at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, moved from Los Angeles, Calif., to the Berkshires more than 10 years ago.

Originally planning to attend medical school, because her family has a medical background, Traister decided her interests lay elsewhere. She discovered Williams College, where she pursued her interests in science and the outdoors until she graduated in 2001.

"I fell in love with this area," Traister said. "There is a close-knit community and great towns next to a natural area."

Now living in North Adams, Traister said she bumps into people she knows all the time, something that is harder to do in a big city.

On Saturday mornings, you will find Traister at one of her favorite spots: the Lickety Split in Mass MoCA, playing her fiddle at the weekly music Jam. Traister is not classically trained. She plays for pleasure, not professionally, and views these jam sessions as a hobby.

The group of musicians can reach 20 in all, and may see eight to 12 on an average day. It is a great way for out-of-town folks to experience the local culture from this community of musicians, she said.

Traister said the people listening dance around, and that even her 1-year-old son, Solomon, has a good time.

"He's moved from his spot in my fiddle case to a high chair," she said with a chuckle. "You'll see him tap his feet or chew on someone's drumstick." 

Bartholomew's Cobble

105 Weatogue Road,

Ashley Falls in Sheffield

(413) 229-8600.

Music Jam

Lickety Split at Mass MoCA

1010 Mass MoCA Way,

North Adams

(413) 346-4560.