In America, the aristocratic taste for the ‘simplicity’ of rural living has been democratized into a sentimental passion for all things ‘country.’ But true country isn’t just an idealized antithesis of the city or the suburbs – a place for wooden beams in the kitchen and Adirondack chairs on the lawn and the sounds of crickets in the night, a place where weekenders can wear Wellingtons in the dew. True country is a place entirely of its own, heterogeneous, recalcitrant, unruly, often defiantly unpicturesque, and it’s here to be found in the Berkshires. It’s what escapes imagining on the drive from Manhattan, and it’s what you forget to remember on the drive back. The Berkshires is the kind of place that opens itself to your imagination: You can see only the “country” if you wish, the post and beam barns, the fieldstone fireplaces, the long white fences lined with lilacs. But the trick in these mountains is to open your imagination to the Berkshires. At nearly every crossroad hereabouts, you notice the sound of pneumatic wrenches burring like giant cicadas. Quarries lie hidden behind screens of sumac, and more people in this county have driven a Caterpillar than a Mercedes. Beside an elegant “country" estate, you find an overgrown cabin where in winter the rib cage of a deer hangs from a tree for the birds. You can find the surname of the people who live in that cabin in half the graveyards in Berkshire County and on a nearby pond and half a dozen roads. They were here when Hawthorne visited. Their great-grandmother was born in the kitchen of the house you’re restoring, and they know your woods better than you ever will.
And if that makes you uneasy, well, welcome to the country.
Verlyn Klinkenborg, “The Berkshires,” for New York Magazine