I awoke yesterday morning to the sound of soft rainfall on the leaves and trees. The birds were an amazingly diverse choir, tweeting and humming and cooing and singing me out of sleep into emerging daylight.
The Berkshire Hills in Massachusetts are a locus for my life. They provide a genuine home for American musicians at Tanglewood in Lenox, where in 1979 I met my wife Jan. Her mother was born in Pittsfield in 1928 and her grandparents are buried there. Her aunt and uncle still live in New Marlborough, her old Cousin Andrew is a farmer in Sandisfield and young Cousin Rebecca is getting married on Saturday in Great Barrington.
But as I heard the rain fall softly I remembered, with birds and rainfall my soundscape as I awoke, music by John Cage inspired by the old colonial composers and Henry David Thoreau.
When Betty Freeman showed me her photos of Cage with Seiji Ozawa I told her of the many concerts I’d played with Ozawa at Tanglewood and she generously gave me copies of a few of her photos from the Symphony Hall rehearsals of Quartets. I had played a performance of the piece in Los Angeles with Stephen “Lucky” Mosko and Cage was an inspired presence at all the rehearsals.
35 years have passed since I was first at Tanglewood. These photos of Cage and Ozawa appeared to me as I awoke as a deep memory, a combination of two worlds, connecting me to two cultures, Asian and Western, Western and Asian, that I have come to know well and that these photos by Betty illustrate so movingly.
I am now no longer a stranger in Japan. I have my wife Jan to thank for that as well. And Boston University, where she met violinist Mitusyo Matsumoto who has remained a life long friend.
And so it was time to take a walk in the forest around Lake Buel, where we are staying before Cousin Rebecca’s wedding. It’s also the site of the former Red Fox Music Camp where Jan’s brother studied long, long ago as a young teenager.
I’ve learned walking meditation, a good practice for absorbing a new path.
I’ll let the forest path guide you and your imagination.
Ferns are abundant on the forest floor.
And the moss on fallen trees is a beautiful rebirth helping animals, insects and mushrooms flourish.
The light-scape created by morning sun was magical.
New England red barn houses are also on the path.
Late spring is a rewarding time for rhododendrons.
Jan knows this area from childhood, stories of her past keep pouring out of this concert there, this summer camp, that road, that general store. She learned to swim in a lake nearby, terrifying her grandparents as they saw their young little princess go into the water without a life vest for the first time, but all was well.
And after a wonderful walk Lake Buel comes into view.
We sat on the dock for quite a while, sharing the peace and tranquility that the Berkshires give us both, me from West Hollywood, her from here, and now both of us looking at our 35th year together this summer. Absorbing thoughts, plots, ideas, passings, rebirths, nature and time.
As we head back to our little hideaway place, a forest clearing beckoned another photo.
I’ll continue my Berkshire diary with a trip to Stockbridge. Jan sang her first Schubert Mass at the First Congregational Church when she was in high school, which was the beginning of her love of music. So walking on the Main Street of Stockbridge, a town that is the world of Norman Rockwell, carries old memories. That I am now connected to as well.
That old proverb is right. In fact cliches become cliches for very good reason. She had to leave Boston and family in New Jersey and New York City and Washington, D.C. to move to be with me in Los Angeles. Talk about a Forbidden Zone. But with her endless curiosity (trust me she can without a hitch self-guide you through the train stations of Shanghai and metros of Tokyo and Taipei and Hong Kong) she summed up Los Angeles quickly upon moving there in 1980.
She came home one day, about her third week as a resident. A light bulb had obviously switched on in her imagination.
“You know, Jeff, everybody in New York City is part Jewish, whether they know it or not. Here in LA everybody is part Mexican, whether they know it or not.”
Our 2 Grammy Awards and 9 Grammy nominations with 4 from the Latin Academy are all connected to Mexico, its composers and musicians. Jan has good instincts.
But that old cliche, reconstructed for my story, still applies.
You can take the girl out of New England, but you can’t take the New England out of the girl.
And that’s a good thing….
See you soon in Stockbridge!
Best, best, best,