Al’s Gardens

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Today was the annual Deerfield Arts Tour.  Eighteen artists and craftspeople in Deerfield open their studios for the weekend, showing their painting, photography, custom furniture and woodworking, ceramics and jewelry.  Last year David and I only got to two of the studios, my friends Kathy and Al.  I had talked about both Al and Kathy to David, as they’re both accomplished ceramic artists with unique styles, and I knew David would connect with their creative sensibilities. 

But last year it was a cold, dismal and rainy day so I didn’t get to show David Al’s garden.  Today was glorious — cloudless and crisp.   We drove under yellow and orange maples and russet oaks along the half mile woods road Al built to get back far enough into the woods to create his home.  Along the road are occassional ceramic houses and tiny castles that Al crafted, sitting atop granite outcroppings as the road twists and climbs up to his open land.  Decades ago Al cleared these acres, creating fields that ripple over the hummocked landscape.  He’s built two houses (the first one burned), a studio, numerous sheds, and now has a large kiln building.

But most spectacular is his garden.  With hand stacked stone walls reminiscent of the high walls in Wales, arches built from curved tree limbs and woven branch trellises, walking by and through Al’s garden is a delight.  Form, function, variety, and the obvious hand of long attention and eye for composition makes Al’s garden, yard, terraced walkways and plantings of trees a whole piece of art in itself.

“This is a life I didn’t live,” David said as we walked up towards the walled vegetable and flower garden.  When we arrived, David had stood on the slight rise where the cars were parked, looking over the expanse of slope down to the stone walls and then up to the house on a higher hill.  A maple tree was screaming red against the blue sky.  “This is what staying in one place can create.”

We opened the gate in the stone wall and walked along the central path of the garden.  A trellis heavy with grape vines created a green tunnel, led into the open, and then under the curved arch entrance on the other side.  We walked up the hill to the studio to find Al and look at his ceramics.  When Al saw me I got a big smile and a bigger hug.  Then he turned to David.  “You’re still together?” he said, smiling more.  “I’ve been wondering all year.”

“Yes,” I said, “and you?” 

“My David is downstairs,” he said and now I was smiling.  Last year when David and I arrived I introduced the two of them and Al said, “I have a David too, he just left.”  Al and his David had just met weeks before, and Al was obviously happy to have a partner again.  Like me.

Today we all went out in the yard behind the studio so Al could show us the path to the high ridge on his land that looks down on his pond.  The shade was cool, the sun warm.  Al told us about the trip he and his David are taking in two weeks to Spain.  I stood in the sun, running my hand along the curved and twisted rim of a three foot clay vessel standing on a stump.  It had rain water in the bottom, colored leaves floating on the surface. 

Art, sun, leaves, another year of love and a life in a garden.  It was a good afternoon.  We bought two mugs for our morning capuccinno.

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