gooollysandra

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Tag Archives: Williamstown MA

“Great Wide Open” – Brennan Kilbane

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I went to Williamstown, MA a couple weeks ago (one of my favorite places on earth). On my way there, during the 14 hour Amtrak train ride, I was flipping through Allure magazine and came across an article by Brennan Kilbane entitled “Great Wide Open” about the great outdoors and how we should be spending more time out in it. How fitting considering I was on my way to the beautiful Berkshires. I love being surrounded by inspiring landscape and I feel happiest when there is space to breathe around me, rather than crowded by a city. There’s definitely something therapeutic about the freedom to listen to the birds, smell the manure (call me crazy, I don’t care!), and look up at the sky and admire the stars.

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Kilbane brings to light the staggering statistic that more than half of us spend less than five hours a week outside. He points out the incongruity between how drawn we are to natural products and the aura of the outdoors, and the effort we make to actually spend time outside, which is very little. Research shows that being outside is good for us in every way, from our skin to our brain and our emotional well-being. I guess this explains why I love the Berkshires so much. So let’s get outside!

“If the Great Outdoors had a LinkedIn account, it would be highly connected (happy to introduce you to the most epic sunsets and hiking trails), it would get ringing endorsements from the world’s top scientists (lifts mood! lowers cortisol!), and its stunning profile would be viewed my millions.” – Brennan Kilbane¬†

A weekend getaway in the Berkshires

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What is it about getting away for a few days that helps you put things into perspective? Getting out of your bubble, the space you occupy, and the actions you perpetuate on a daily basis to clear your mind and refresh…refresh in the sense of either confirming certain convictions, or taking a different path with a new mindset.

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I went to the Berkshires this past weekend with my mom, as the two of us often do, but this time two of my best friends drove in from Boston for a couple days. I absolutely loved getting to share a place that I hold so dear to my heart with two people that are also close to my heart. It was interesting to hear their reactions to Williamstown because they are city people and their main observation was how quite it is. Too quiet. But I love the quiet. I love the peace and tranquility and the smells. I guess it just feels like home. They definitely also recognized how nice it was to get away from the city though, and how different the pace of life is – like stepping back in time away from the modern world.

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The first thing I did early Saturday morning before my friends arrived was go to my favorite little goat farm that I used to visit when I lived there – Mountain Girl Farm. I’ve had a long-standing love for goats and it’s no secret to those who know me well that I dream of having a goat farm someday. I am completely happy when surrounded by goats. Hence the million repetitive pictures you’ll see below…

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I promise I did more than just frolic with goats while I was in the Berkshires. I got to take my friends to my favorite restaurant in North Adams, MA called Public, which is a tourist attraction and brings some urban flair to the country, both in ambience and food selection. We went for a couple walks in the fields because luckily it was sunny and warm. I took them to my favorite coffee shop in Williamstown, Tunnel City Coffee, where the baristas still remember me even though I haven’t been a regular in 4 years since I lived there. And I took them to the Clark Art Institute, which is a magnificent world-class art museum tucked away in the hills. We also had a meal, more like a feast, at home with a good family friend who happens to be a chef (among other things).

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It was hard for my mom and I to leave this beautiful place we love so much (and I didn’t want to go back to the city), and I think we came away from the weekend with an even greater love for it and sense of connection to it.

 

Gratitude

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I was reading the fall edition of The Magnolia Journal, which is themed “Gratitude” for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and it came at a very apropos time in my life since I’ve recently received some medical news that has been a bit of a shock and definitely not welcome. When things like this happen it is so easy to fixate our minds on that one facet of our lives and forget about all the things we should actually be grateful for.¬† So I am mindfully trying to make an effort to appreciate the positives in the face of adversity, with a little help from Joanna Gaines.

I am, of course, a fan of the show, along with the millions of others who have been inspired by the stunning transformations that she, Chip, and their team churn out season after season. And not to mention the effervescent love between Chip and Jo…I mean, will we all be lucky enough to find that kind of love?? One can only hope!

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In her article on gratitude, Joanna outlines some basic everyday activities in which she has found a sense of pleasure, and even comfort, that I can identify with. Cooking for her family is one. While I don’t have a family of my own, I did enjoy cooking for my parents when I lived at home. I also like cooking with/for friends. I even like cooking just for myself, even though it can be hard to sit down and eat by yourself after putting love and energy into crafting a nice meal. There’s something about it that just feels unnatural…a good meal is definitely better when in the company of others. Cooking can feel therapeutic and productive, not to mention its visual and palatal benefits that result from the finished product.

Driving is another thing Joanna mentions as being a source of relaxation for her, and I can absolutely relate to this one. I don’t always love driving around town when I have to deal with traffic and the constant stop and go, but even then it can be nice to just be in my own head space for a while and listen to music. I LOVED driving when I lived in Williamstown, MA in the Berkshires because every view was just so darn beautiful. The Berkshires are not big mountains, in fact I think they may technically be considered hills, but they are majestic nonetheless. I found any excuse to drive to surrounding towns simply for the scenic drive. I remember driving 45 minutes to the nearest Starbucks one fall evening to get my first pumpkin spice latte of the season. When you have just the right tunes going while on a scenic drive, you can be transported to another place. I don’t have a car now that I live in Chicago and I have to say I do miss driving. But I certainly wouldn’t want to drive in Chicago traffic…

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Gardening and laundry, a couple other activities Joanna mentions as bringing her solace, I haven’t quite mastered. I don’t like getting dirty or coming across the unexpected worm, and I find laundry to be quite tedious. BUT, I found her article so helpful in serving as a reminder to look for joy in little things we do every day and to be grateful that we are even able to do them in the first place. Some other things I would add to the list of things to be grateful for (aside from the obvious family & friends), are random encounters we have everyday – like witnessing two strangers on the subway trying to make a genuine connection, or seeing two people on the street laughing together and wondering what’s so funny. These encounters might not directly pertain to us, but they remind us of the connectedness between people and the importance of these connections, because we are all linked in some way. Not only that, these encounters remind us of our place in this web of connections and that our place is so small (which can be both scary and comforting). And that there are far more devastating issues than those we face, which is humbling. I am constantly reminded of this in Chicago where homeless people lining the streets is a sight on practically every corner and L ride; or take the recent weather-related tragedies that have devastated peoples’ lives… We should also be grateful that we were born into privileged circumstances, all things considered. And taking a look back at all that we’ve accomplished and realizing – damn, how did I do all that?? – is a good opportunity to recognize our worth.

We have to try to remind ourselves that somehow everything will be OK even when it’s hard to see any good in a situation. Things have a way of working themselves out that is usually impossible to understand while we’re on the struggle bus. Especially when we’re faced with an impending obstacle, or a potentially life-altering development, we have to try to remember that there are so many things for which to be grateful regardless.