Great Halls & Great Spaces in the Pioneer Valley

Mash Notes to Paradise by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Mash Note No. 21: On Great Halls and Great Spaces

Photo credit: Sarah Werthan ButtenwieserThe day after Christmas, my daughter Saskia and I took the grandparents to the Eric Carle Museum. For the most part, we followed Saskia’s lead: a juice box and pretzel snack in the cafeteria, a book perusal session in the library, and a puppet show. In turn, she gave us a few minutes in the galleries—and about five minutes longer than she wanted in the shop.

But when I go to the Carle, the truth is my favorite spot to spend a little time is in the Great Hall. I love the way the light comes in if it’s sunny and the way it feels light if the day is overcast (and let’s face it, many prime museum days are predicated on the fact that it’s overcast, if not worse). I like the expansiveness that space offers, not simply a physical spaciousness, but also the imaginative leap of faith that was required to dream the museum and to find the land and to create the plan and to break ground and on. Ten years after it opened, I still can feel the promise when I walk through that particular hall. I still feel exhilarated by its trajectory.

That my daughter feels entirely comfortable there is icing on the cake. Or shine on the apple. Or something.

❥ Everyone’s Valley has these places, the ones that just slow you right down to happiness. I have more, like the stretch from science buildings and boathouse past the pond at Smith College when I take the loop uphill. I like that I watch seasons change across the water and into those woods and that when students have morning classes, I always am reminded about what 18 year-olds look like.


Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah is a writer, who lives in Northampton with her husband and four children. She contributes to Preview Massachusetts Magazine, as well as other publications and writes a parenting blog Standing in the Shadows at the Valley Advocate. She moved to the Valley to attend Hampshire College—and found the Valley such a nice place, she stayed!

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