Noted author Priscilla Gilman, when not in NYC, has spent weekends and holidays in the Berkshire area for the past fifteen years, enjoying the area from her home base in Sharon. Here, she shares with us what she loves about this beautiful, tranquil retreat.
What draws you here?
I love the area for its pristine and varied natural beauty, its sense of expansiveness, its gorgeous vistas, the music and "mellow fruitfulness" (Keats) of its autumns, its rich and deep cultural life, its unaffected people, its enlightened commitment to health and well-being, its remarkable combination of serenity and vibrancy.
Who do you most enjoy spending time with when you are up here in this neck of the woods?
For me, the area is a place of retreat, restoration, and renewal, and those 3 Rs require both hibernation and socializing. I love the fact that one can be at once very private and very engaged here-there's so much open space and yet so many vibrant pockets of community life. Many of the towns have lively main streets and walkable main areas, there are numerous concert halls and venues that attract extraordinary performers, and many spirited community events and gatherings. But people here respect each other's privacy and need for alone time and quiet.
Whats your favorite Berkshire ritual?
A day in Great Barrington with lunch or dinner at the delectable Bizen, gift and holiday shopping at Tom's Toys, stocking up on delicious and healthy food at Guido's Market, and a movie at the Triplex.
An afternoon/evening in Millerton with food buying at McEnroe's Organic Farm, shopping for sturdy clothing basics for my kids at Sapersteins, book browsing and toy buying at the amazing Oblong Books and Music and Oblong Jr, coffee and snacks at Irving Farm, exquisite tea at Harney & Sons, a movie at The Movie House, and a scrumptious dinner at Manna Dew.
The Berkshires area boasts many who are passionate about the arts; who among them is your favorite?
My favorite Berkshires "artist" is James Taylor, whose songs I grew up on, sang to my babies, inspired much of my writing, and which I now sing with my 13 year old son Benj while he plays guitar. In his unassuming brilliance, purity of voice and purpose, mellow yet intense demeanor, celebration of the sheer joy of music-making, appreciation of the myriad beauties of nature and the many pleasures of family life, James Taylor represents everything that is best about this area to me. And I love that he has remained steadfastly committed to this area and contributes to its cultural life and presence in ways large and small, including appearing regularly at Tanglewood and playing Bob Cratchitt in a local production of A Christmas Carol last year!
Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading right now?
My favorite authors are William Wordsworth (whose poetry is threaded throughout my memoir, The Anti-Romantic Child), Jane Austen, Thoreau, Marilynne Robinson, Virginia Woolf, Robert Frost, ee cummings, Kazuo Ishiguro, Toni Morrison, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mary Oliver. I always have lots of books going at once: right now I'm re-reading Mary Catherine Bateson's Composing A Life in preparation for writing my next book proposal, reading aloud Elizabeth Enright's Goneaway Lake to my younger son, and reading for the first time Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, John Elder Robison's wonderful Be Different, and the soon to be published My Poets by critic/poet Maureen McClane which I'm reviewing for the Chicago Tribune.
Tell us about other people who are drawn to this area?
No one who wants a "scene" and needs to see and be seen comes here. People who are drawn to this area are seeking peace, value their privacy, cherish the natural world, and are devoted to the arts.
When not here, where in the world do you most enjoy spending your time?
I am a New York City girl (I grew up on the Upper West Side and now live in the Hudson Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan), and I will always love the museums, architecture, parks, restaurants, and cultural diversity of New York City.
Berkshire Style is...
unpretentious, relaxed, simple, cozy, soulful, authentic.
You can find Priscilla Gilman at priscillagilman.com