Ruth Bass | The wonder of a summer day


RICHMOND — Sometimes you have a day. A supercalifragilisticexpialidocious day. Or one without drama or major incident, just nice in a series. That was last Friday, although it had an inauspicious launch when the dog yipped at 6:12 a.m., more than an hour ahead of time.

After that, good things lined up.

First, a long-awaited breakfast at Samel's Deli, where the eggs Benedict are the best of any sampled in Berkshire County and beyond — a lovely Hollandaise sauce that probably no one should eat and a price more reasonable than most places. Then a Richmond Land Trust meeting where the seemingly impossible goal of $125,000 was inching into realization — the town's western slope would gain 340 acres of beautiful forest, headwaters of two crystal-clear brooks and a forever protected Perry's Peak.

The next events might seem mundane, even just plain work, but they were satisfying: The last bit of net tied into place to keep chipmunks and birds out of the blueberry patch, now thick with clusters of green berries and an occasional blue one; the last six tomato stakes pounded in, three for me and three for my daughter, and the plants tied; the discovery of a first bud under summer squash leaves.

Although bone-dry on the surface, the garden finally looked in good shape, unburdened by the thousands of energetic weeds that had thrived during the excessive rain, many of them pulled the day before by a friend's fast-moving fingers and the amazing expertise of two very small boys. One day soon, three weeks late, the pea pods would be plump.

With a third of the next generation here, we looked at the loury sky and stopped making plans for a Tanglewood picnic. The happy substitute was dinner at the Truc Orient Express in West Stockbridge, where we were greeted by Trai herself, a tiny but indomitable woman who fled war in Vietnam and brought Vietnamese food to West Stockbridge 40 years ago.

Just giving her a hug and offering condolences on the recent death of her husband is a reminder of what a profile in courage this woman is and how she and her family made a place for themselves in a small, New England village.

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Ordering the "shaking beef," tender slices buried in watercress and delicately sauced, we shared a laugh. Our server, a tall, young man, said the same thing we always heard in the past from the slightly built, wizened Vietnamese uncle who had usually taken our order: "Very good choice." On one occasion, the uncle had taken the time to explain how his mother made that dish in Vietnam.

Off to Tanglewood, where the day went on being special. Copland and Grieg. As the sun disappeared behind a formidable (but harmless) cloud bank, we sat on the lawn with hundreds of people who popped no corks, opened no plastic boxes, rustled no programs, exchanged no words while the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed Copland's "Quiet City."

They weren't even strolling about. Very popular, the program notes said, but I'd never heard it before. As the trumpet solo soared out of The Shed, poetically pure and clean, we noticed that some unneeded orchestra members, instruments in hand, were standing behind us, just listening. Even the plane overhead made no noise, nor did the night birds sing.

We could have picnicked, it turned out, but we didn't. So we had a little wine and chocolate and enjoyed 23-year-old Jan Lisiecki performing Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor so much that we reversed our decision to go home early and see to the dog.

Good thinking. After intermission came Copland's Third Symphony and, again, the lawn was hushed. The composer put the finishing touches on that work in the Berkshires, just before its premiere in Boston in 1946. Back at the house, we found the unresentful Sheltie sleeping in front of a floor fan, cool and content.

It was a day of nice upon nice.

Ruth Bass is an author and award-winning journalist. Her web site is


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