Ruth Bass: Wishing for the magical Camelot



Sometimes, a bit of Camelot would be a fine thing. Not all that kingly nonsense about a legal limit on how much snow may fall, but just a few Camelotty things like rain holding off till after sundown.

That would lift the spirits of humans and newly transplanted lettuces alike -- most everyone, in fact, except for people on the lawn at Tanglewood, would go for night-rain only.

It matters little when the fog lifts here since it's rarely so thick that it's dangerous. King Arthur wanted fog only at night - we'd actually prefer it in the daytime.

Coming back from Amherst one night, with a visiting Russian journalist in the car, we were suddenly enclosed in the dense fog of Route 9 at the top of Windsor.

"Pea soup," I said, and he said, "What?" So I tried my best to explain that silly idiom. The thick part was easy, but why green? He didn't know and certainly I didn't, either. Then he wondered if I could navigate the pea soup. We made it.


Camelot had its beautiful moments, even when a variety of human appetites threatened to storm the castle. My smallish Camelot would have a law against a glassy driveway, gleaming with scary ice. You can leave the car in the garage, but you can't tell the Sheltie that his morning outings are no go.

At least he's polite enough to take it easy, taking his cue from the unaccustomed ski pole and the inching-along gait on the other end of the leash. Lots of people would like Camelot's law about winter exiting "March the second on the dot," but not me.

When March runs away too early, the shoulder season is mush and mud, bad for skiing, for walking, for driving, for looking out the window.

My Camelot would have lots of eggs but no chickens, more fields than lawns, landscaping on the moonscape that now surrounds the Pittsfield "Municipal" Airport. (The quotation marks indicate that it's not much like other municipal things - you can use most of them, but the airport is more exclusive than the Pittsfield Country Club was in days gone by.)

A hoary redpoll would show up among the 50 or so common redpolls in our yard if this were Camelot. I'd even settle for a pine siskin, but so far these flighty adorable birds are keeping their own company.

Something about the red cap and the black chin strap gives them a bit of a frown, but they chatter cheerfully. My Camelot would have a Fed Ex delivery person who rings the doorbell.

A knock won't be heard over the TV or in the far reaches of the house. But the doorbell goes everywhere. A Valentine box of flowers and a box of ripe plums nearly came to grief because the bell did not toll for us.

A single sheet - well, maybe both sides - for tax returns would be the legal limit in my Camelot. Just put down the income, list the allowed deductions, multiply - and pay. And sign a pledge that you've told the truth.

A bit of Camelot would mean no bad hair days, no cavities and no three-putt greens. It would mean those marvelous snowdrops not buried in snow and a brave daffodil or two by mid-March.

If we were touched by just a smidge of Camelot, the summer rains would slide over instead of through the driveway, a pileated woodpecker would pause on our fence post, the maple trees would shed all their leaves in a pile, the bluebirds would again approve our housing, and no one we know would get shingles.

As for finding a "more congenial spot" for all of this, the king had it quite wrong. We have the Berkshires, and we're pretty sure it's as congenial a spot as any, real or fantastical.

Ruth Bass mows maple leaves and monitors bluebirds in Richmond. Her web site is


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