OPEN  – Please adhere to social distancing while at the Sanctuary and we advise everyone to wear a mask while visiting.  

June 2020 Newsletter

What’s Inside:

We Are Open!

It is with great joy and excitement that we announce we have re-opened Three Sisters Sanctuary! We are following the state protocols for businesses in this time of the COVID-19 Pandemic and have posted the required steps we must take. In turn, we have also posted the requirements for ALL visitors: Social distancing must be maintained (6 ft. apart or more) and masks must be worn. 

At this time, we are not allowing picnics on the Sanctuary grounds in order to provide the most available space for all of our guests. Until we can safely allow picnics, we suggest using nearby D.A.R. State Forest or Belding Memorial Park in Ashfield which are scheduled to reopen on June 7, 2020.

Weekends have become a bit crowded during the higher volume times between 12-4pm. Please consider visiting us on one of the quieter days of the week, Monday through Friday. Admission is $10, free for children 12 and under, and the Sanctuary is opened from 8am-Dusk, seven days a week. 

Please be respectful of Richard M. Richardson’s private residence and do not walk on the house steps or decks. Also, we ask that you refrain from touching the many art pieces at the Sanctuary and the personal items and mementos at the Dragon’s Den. Thank you!

GoFundMe Update

Thank you for your continuing support of Three Sisters Sanctuary’s Go Fund Me campaign! It has been vital for us as we have struggled with the loss of funds from the cancellation of our entire season of events this year. Every penny that has been raised has gone to maintaining the grounds and gardens and we are eternally grateful for your donation.  If you are able, please continue to support us and share us with your friends. GoFundMe

With humble gratitude, Richard M Richardson

Black Lives Matter

Three Sisters Sanctuary was created as a place to lay down burdens, release grief and stress, and embrace the healing powers of art and nature. A place to find renewal and restoration, peace and harmony which must be nurtured and strengthened in order to expand and grow in our lives, in our communities and in our world. 

We stand in solidarity with all who seek change to the grave injustices in our society, so heartbreakingly and graphically exposed in the violent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and too many others spanning centuries of deep-rooted, systematic racism and prejudice. Yes, Black Lives Matter. Together, we join hands with all non-violent protesters. We add our voices to the chorus demanding action and change toward equality and justice. Through words and deeds, we must work tirelessly to transform social structures of oppression into ones that lift and sustain us all.

Events & Happenings

Call for Volunteers

Three Sisters Sanctuary needs volunteers! Do you love to garden? How about gardening in a magical landscape where delight abounds at every turn? Standing stones, a gurgling water garden, a dragon labyrinth, whimsical sculptures, and a serene wetland are just a few of the Sanctuary’s wondrous features. 

June is possibly the busiest month in the gardens of the Sanctuary and your help is needed! If you would like to volunteer- a few times a week or just once a month- we would love to have you as part of our gardening team! 

Please contact us at [email protected] to sign up and for more information.

Meet Our Interns

We are excited to have two interns from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst working with us!

Neeharika Aniruddh is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Music along with an Arts Management certificate. She loves to be creative, enjoy nature and spend time with her cat. She is working towards a portfolio career which includes performance, teaching, and social justice work. “One day, I hope to live in a house on an animal sanctuary with a backyard as beautiful as the Three Sisters Sanctuary!” states Neeharika.

Annie Lawrence is a UMass Amherst student going into her senior year next fall. She is studying Social Media Marketing through the BDIC (Bachelor Degree with Individual Concentration) Department with a dual degree in Journalism. In her spare time, you can find her making jewelry or cuddling her guinea pig, Alistair. “My plans after college are to work in outreach for nonprofit art organizations so that I can share my love for the arts and engage others in the joy that art has to offer us all,” shares Annie.

Both Neeharika and Annie are focused on assisting us with our social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Go Fund Me, YouTube, TikTok), online presence (TripAdvisor, Google, Yelp) and our website. Wonderful to have you both onboard!

In the Gardens

Gardening at the Sanctuary with Cesi

by Cesi Marseglia

The month of June is ushered in by late-blooming lilacs and the pale greenery of eager daylilies at Three Sisters Sanctuary. Heart-shaped hosta leaves fill out and dapple the ground in a muted jade. As June progresses, the hostas send up shoots and begin to flower, their tall spikes cascading with pale, delicate and fragrant bell-shaped flowers. Lupine spires also stand tall, punctuating the garden beds with lilac blossoms.

Toward the end of the month, the butterfly garden is alight with things to see. Pink waves of echinacea flowers and smaller, yellow black-eyed Susans provide a colorful backdrop to the Maypole. Pollinators hum and flit from flower to flower. Elsewhere, hydrangea blooms weigh heavily on their branches, making them sag lazily. The verdancy of summer settles in the Sanctuary. Lingering sunlight of the long days lends the illusion that this luscious season somehow outlasts the others. 

Before the dry heat of July begins, the planting season draws to a close. In this time, there is much to be done. Planting and transplanting lilies, creeping phlox, sedum, and hostas ensures a lively, yet connected landscape for the following season. Many plants must be divided and thinned; fast-growing weeds must be tackled to encourage growth of the preferred plantings.

Everywhere you go in the Sanctuary in June, you are charmed by the sight of something you hadn’t noticed before. A sturdy succulent growing from an impossibly small crevice. A lithe vine pouring over the side of a ledge, softening the stones with a light caress. Barn and tree swallows spinning in the air, diving for airborne insects to feed their not quite fledged chicks. There seems to be no shortage of things to do and to see around the Sanctuary in busy June! 

A Walk With Richard

By Richard M Richardson, Environmental Artist
Creator and Caretaker

Another weekend spent working on the new garden and I am always reminded that there is so much more time involved than I initially anticipated. But to build areas that are meant to connect and embrace other boundaries takes time and much thought: the initial layout, what plants will work, what stones are needed, how traffic flows….

So much of it is just standing back and staring at it. Hours go by, sometimes days, and I continue to weigh out how to make it successful and if what is gradually emerging matches my vision. During these difficult times that we’re all living through, working in the Sanctuary is such a relief for me. It allows me to get respite from this stay-at-home order although, of course, I’m still in my own backyard.

We are building pathways that start from the new entrance. These paths will be very gentle and easy to walk on. All of the walkway stones will be hand-picked and the paths will be curved in order to allow a nice flow. Curves have much more esthetic appeal and are so much easier to navigate than straight lines. Once again, we dug down at least 8 inches. In this particular case, we also laid down a material to prevent the weeds from coming through, then set the stones on top and filled in with pea gravel. 

The fact that all the stones I use at the Sanctuary are already at hand on the property is truly a gift. Not only would we be paying for labor and machinery, we would also be paying for materials. Our main materials, these beautiful ancient stones, are the gift that the land gives back to us as it is continually transformed into the ever-evolving Three Sisters Sanctuary. 

It’s clear to me that every part we work, combined with the many years we have labored, that the land is becoming increasingly vibrant, more grounded and more mature. It takes my breath away as I look at the big picture! It sends me into places that are enchanting and spiritual as I walk through the Sanctuary and marvel, “How did all of this happen, when did all of this happen, which lifetime is this happening in?”  All of that sounds a little flippy, but I say with sincerity my love for this piece of property is so intense that it gives me goosebumps on a regular basis!

The new gardens are now primarily stonework and lots of plantings are needed to soften the edges and bring them together. We could truly use a group of gardeners to work with Cesi and myself. We are reaching out for volunteers so that the gardens can come to life much more quickly. We already have the plants on hand so it is just a matter of getting help with the transplanting. New borders need to be installed in this new Illusions garden, the Dragon’s Den needs more additional moss and the new Labyrinth needs more plantings. Please see our call for volunteers in this newsletter and sign up! We would love to have you work with us!

My biggest boost came on Monday, May 25, 2020, when we were allowed to re-open and once again share the beautiful Three Sisters Sanctuary! Seeing others enjoy the Sanctuary is so wonderful and absolutely makes my soul levitate with joy! My love of the land and love for the community fills my heart to the brim! Welcome One and All!  Let the Healing Begin!

Meet The Artist: Michael Melle 

 by Dawn E Dobson

Michael Melle is a homegrown Western Mass artist. Growing up in Pittsfield, he discovered an early passion for painting which eventually led him to the University of Massachusetts and a degree in Art. There he studied the masters, classic techniques and art history while honing his unique style. 

After graduation, Michael Melle moved back to the hill town area, settling in Plainfield. He worked as a postman for 26 years. “A perfect day job for an artist,” he mused. Walking and staying fit by day, his imagination could run unencumbered as soon as the work was done. He continued to create in the studio on his property. Many of his drawings and paintings are distinctly surreal. 

There always seems to be a moment or life experience that clicks with artists and lifts them further along on that magic carpet ride of creativity. For Michael Melle it was in 1991 and a local scarecrow contest. A last-minute entry at the behest of a neighbor sent Melle scrambling for materials and within 24 hours, just at the deadline, his scarecrow emerged and with it a whole new artform and passion. 

Yes, Melle’s scarecrow won that contest and as an artist he scored as well. His hay, wood and wire sculpture set him on a yellow brick road of discovery that has become an intrinsic part of his portfolio. The fabrication requires an intense dedication to the ongoing study and matrix of recreating the human form.

“It starts with going into the forest and foraging for pieces of wood,” states Melle. “Those pieces of wood are then chosen for their likeness to bones and limbs.” Melle’s keen eye translates sticks and branches into a skeleton, hinged together with soft, heavy wire. Hay is then added and wrapped to form muscles and flesh as the limbs are articulated into realistic poses. Dozens of “scarecrows” later, there is no question that Melle has found a remarkable niche in sculpture. 

His work is thought-provoking and emotive. The forms are so surprisingly and curiously life-like that observers feel an innate kinship with these hay figures. And Melle builds on this. He poses and dresses the figures as if they are models frozen on the stage of life. 

And that stage, the imaginative setting, is an integral part of Melle’s art. His hay sculptures are at work in fields, bent low harvesting crops. They are at leisure, as his rendition of the Melville family at Arrowhead, a snapshot from the 19th century in an open wagon, complete with life-size straw horse and family dog. They are in the midst of crisis, immigrants fleeing persecution, mothers clutching children, elderly men carrying their meager belongings. 

The figures touch us because they are so unmistakably human. Melle’s uncanny gift of recreating the human form with found bits of wood from the forest, hay and wire is amplified by his attention to detail- period clothes and real props, down to the fresh oil paints on a painter’s palette. 

Most of Michael Melle’s hay sculpture are displayed seasonally as the New England winters are harsh on the components and clothing. He has exhibited and held hay sculpture workshops throughout Western Massachusetts as well as Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. His three iconic dancing figures at the Sanctuary, symbolic of the “Sisters,” have delighted visitors for years and his past exhibit of hay children around the maypole brought a touch of whimsy to the gardens. We look forward to hosting him again in the future! www.michaelmelle.com 

From the Community

This month we would like to highlight a comment from one of our Facebook Friends, Karen M Powers: “I just wanted to tell you what an inspiration your garden has been to me. In these uncertain times, I don’t want to let things go unsaid. So thank you for creating this wonderment. I do stuff like this in my little garden too… and when people say I’m strange… I can say, ‘I’m not the only one,’ so thank you for that.”

Thank you, Karen, for writing!  What an incredibly dull world it would be for us all if we did not have our uniqueness to celebrate! 

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