At the opening of the year, a new adventure has opened for me. Berkshires Week is about to expand. I am still trying to take it all in.
It began a week ago, in the slipstream around New Year's Day, when everyone is still half on holiday and time stands still. My editor called me into a meeting, and I came perplexed into a room tight with suppressed excitement.
And he gave me the fulfillment of a dream.
On Jan. 23, Berkshires Week will become Berkshires Week and the Shires of Vermont. The magazine will return, as it runs in the summer, and become year-round. It will run in our western Vermont papers, the Bennington Banner and the Manchester Journal, as well as in The Eagle. I will have an associate editor and the help of staff writers on the Banner and the Journal, as we cover stories from Sheffield to Manchester.
And I will have time -- the time to concentrate fully on the magazine and the website, Facebook and Twitter, sight and sound. I'll have the time to browse Northshire Bookstore, hang out in art studios, walk the grounds at Hildene when the tree peonies are in bloom or Park McCullough House while strings play softly in the carriage barn, sample turkey croquettes at the Blue Benn, toast Grandma Moses' newly redesigned gallery at the Bennington Museum, and plunge into new territory.
Some of that new territory may lie outside the front door. Bronze clock gears in Dalton, Revolutionary War monuments in Lenox, poets at Bennington College, pancakes in Monterey ... the possibilities are endless.
And I'm standing here amazed at my luck. I say this with sadness as we face the closing of the Transcript and the Advocate, though I understand the reasons for all of these changes. And I say it with more thanks than I know how to put into words.
I want to thank Jeff Borak, our arts and entertainment editor, who heard the news with a loud and delighted yes! -- and Lindsey Hollenbaugh, our features editor, who has stood by me as I begin to navigate the change -- and Andrew McKeever, Michelle Karas and Jack McManus in Vermont who have welcomed me generously and started to show me around their world.
And most of all Kevin Corrado and Kevin Moran, who have given me this chance.
You all don't know how excited I am. I feel like Bilbo in "The Hobbit," running out the front door without even a pocket handkerchief. I have so much to see and do.
But, readers in Vermont, know that I know your mountains too.
I've talked Rockwell Kent with Jamie Franklin at the Bennington Museum and walked across the fields of Bennington College in the summer dusk. I've tasted homemade bagels at the Crazy Russian Girls' Neighborhood Bakery and clear honey in Arlington. I have Robert Frost's poetry and Dorothy Canfield's "Raw Material" and Margaret Hand's history of the Johnny Appleseed Bookshop on my desk. (I've even slept in a hay barn north of White Water Junction, above a cider press, after playing Star of Meunster while dancing a reel with a set of fiddlers who were all playing too at the same time.)
I'll come exploring.
And I'll come back again. If you've just seen the new Hobbit film, as I did over Christmas, you'll know that Bilbo Baggins keeps his eyes open and braves dragons and crosses over mountains and under them ... and comes home with a notebook under his arm to sit in his own kitchen by the fire, to write everything down.
To all my readers, new and old: At the end of the day, I'll be here. When we have weathered these changes, the magazine you know will be here, and so will I, writing to you.