Hands-on celebrations for Valentine week

Imagine sitting side by side with someone. You are young (and woefully inexperienced at anything related to this exercise, except for making bread rise.) He is a quiet, gentle man in a clay-spattered t-shirt. You are sitting in front of an electric pottery wheel, and he is teaching you to center a lump of clay.

You have wedged it, kneaded it, thumped it into the rough-textured center of the wheel and sluiced it with water. You set your hands over the clay so that as the wheel spins you can press lightly with the heels of your hands, and you have to get the balance right.

If you can get the clay settled firmly and spinning smoothly, then you can guide it upward into lighter shapes. You are new at this. He puts his hands over yours to show you the way.

Amateur potters shape clay at an Arts Night Out event in the studios at IS183.
Photos courtesy of IS183

Amateur potters shape clay at an Arts Night Out event in the studios at IS183.

On February 24, Berkshire Art Center will open their studios for a date night. I just read their press release, and it stirred an old memory. I’m looking back with a rueful smile at a much younger self. But if you’ve never tried throwing clay with someone you love — friend, parent, child, partner — I’m here to recommend it.

As it happens, I’ll spend this Friday and Saturday night with two people I love, and they have a lot to do with the way I think of this holiday. My parents will celebrate their 45th anniversary this summer, and they’re visiting this weekend. I’m hoping for woods in the snow and Zimbabwean dance music on marimba and some good talk.

That’s how I grew up thinking of this holiday — a measure of brightness and silliness in the cold, a time for cheerful messages and pancakes for breakfast.

So I were on my own I’d be thinking much the same way. Valentine’s Day is an odd holiday — some people find it silly, some serious, some elating and some frustrating. And I find it a useful prod to get outside.

Summer in winter

Full Well Farm comes to the Plant Connector in North Adams to offer their first dried flower crown workshop, to brighten up the second half of winter.

Full Well Farm brings wreathes of rosemary and dried flowers to the North Adams Farmers Market.
Photo by Kate Abbott

Full Well Farm brings wreathes of rosemary and dried flowers to the North Adams Farmers Market.

It’s the core of winter. We’ve been snowbound for a month. This quiet time, falling snow, spare outlines of branches, smoke-blue hills and wood fires has its own beauty, and I need this calm and clarity. Falling snow has a tangible magic in it.

But winter keeps us in. And if shoveling the driveway for the third time in a week isn’t enough to work off of steam, we have more choices. The community is waking up. At the height of the cold, quiet season we have a weekend of dancing and music and fire — Mardi Gras, single malt scotch, sea scallops.

They’re not all for couples. Around here the hearts seem to show up on children’s cards and the flowers in a Japanese garden. For evening events we can get printmaking, art and film, Hip Hop and homebrew in the 10×10 festival and a live party with the Zambezi Marimba Band. In other words, they’re wide open. This is the weekend we dig ourselves out and dance.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

If you’d like to see the website grow, you can join me for a few dollars a month, enough for a cup of coffee and a cider doughnut. Members get access to extra stories and multimedia, itineraries a bookmark tool. Let me know what you're looking for, and we’ll explore together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

BTW Berkshires