I recently spent a day in Northampton, Massachusetts, to visit family. I always enjoy walking around the beautiful town, taking in the sights and sounds of the unique and colorful characters that populate it. If you’ve never been there, it’s got a lot to offer culturally and historically. A few miles away is the Bard of Amherst’s home (Emily Dickinson). Northampton also boasts the esteemed Smith College with an impressive art museum; nearby is the U of Mass. The Eric Carle Museum is a town away as is the National Yiddish Book Center. Historic buildings abound and many artists and writers make Northampton and its environs home.
But the flavor of the town is something special. For one, it is openly welcome to the LGBT community; special services, stores, classes etc. cater to this diverse group of people. Northampton is also the place to go if you seek alternate medical therapies and specialized diets. At any given market, you can buy food that satisfies one who is Vegan, Macrobiotic, vegetarian or any other label you can think of. In fact, there are no “natural” food stores; there are just food stores. The “natural” is implied! The words sustainable, organic and locally grown are used as ubiquitously as granola is eaten and Birkenstocks are worn .
At the local yogurt place, they boast that their spoons are made from recyclable vegetable matter!
I have discovered all of the following alternative therapies advertised in the local papers or on community bulletin boards: homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, aromatherapy, reflexology and Reiki, to give a sample. Likewise, every flavor massage is available from the following: Swedish, deep tissue, therapeutic, shiatsu, neuromuscular, Thai, acupressure, craniosacral therapy and tantric.
So what comes to mind when one thinks of a town such as this? Pleasant, healing and loving thoughts; actions that are good for our bodies and for the environment; not being wasteful nor wantonly exploiting resources.
Imagine my surprise, then, while strolling Northampton’s lovely downtown streets when, on a warm day in June (85 degrees), I walked into a craft store through an open door and into air conditioning! Hard to fathom. A town that eschews plastic bags, that cringes when a visitor drops a used water bottle into the trash bin rather than the recycle container, that is proud of its “Renew, Recycle, Reuse” logos on their to-go bags. Air conditioning on and the door open!? I gingerly approach the manager and inquire about such an action, surely an inconsistency in this town! I get the typical corporate response: “It’s more welcoming to our customers.” I approach the topic with hesitation while my husband pretends he doesn’t know me, and ask, “Do you mean that you think a customer is incapable of seeing that your store is open and turning the knob on your door?” She is dumbfounded (surely no one has questioned this policy before). My final comment is, “When I think about Northampton, the words that come to my mind are organic and sustainable, not wasteful and consuming.” I walked out shaking my head with disbelief, my good vibes shaken, my respect for this lovely world of Northampton shattered.