Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place…
– T.S. Eliot, from Ash Wednesday
I spent last weekend in the Berkshires, a region of western Massachusetts near the northern end of the Appalachian trail. Since 2005 I have spent one or more weekends there during the summer with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, preparing music and performing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It’s 2 hours from where I live, and 1.5 from where I grew up, and it is lovely.
In this year’s final concert of the season, which always features Beethoven’s majestic Ninth Symphony, the orchestra played Ives’ brief tone poem “The Housatonic at Stockbridge”. Stockbridge is a neighboring town to Lenox, where the BSO’s summer home of Tanglewood since the 1930s, and the Housatonic River runs just a few miles away. It’s the definition of a “local favorite.”
The loveliness of this area reminds me of the blessedness of place. We cherish the places we return to year after year, where we share memories with family and those who have become like family. We love the aural reminders of how special a river or village can be. It’s a thrill that a composer more than a century ago bothered to write down what he heard. Sitting on the risers waiting for the choral entrance that would draw us to our feet, I heard the sounds of familiarity in the orchestra, and felt that I was in just the right place.
New England is provincial and beautiful and home. Time is always time, and place is always and only place. Though we may seem bound by those limits, from time to time we are transported by the very rootedness that ties us to the land.