Happy Valley

In January of 2019 I made a painting I call Happy Valley. It’s 6 by 8 inches, and made with acrylic paint on watercolor paper. It now lives in a private collection in New York.

“Happy Valley” is a pet name for the Pioneer Valley region of Western Massachusetts, which is a wonderful place to live.

Three Rivers

Ode to a sleepy little village in Western Massachusetts.

Three Rivers is a sleepy little village in Western Massachusetts, a few miles down the road from where I live. Right in the middle of the village, the Ware River and the Quaboag River (pictured above) flow together and form the Chicopee River, thus giving the place its name. I’m not sure why it wasn’t called “Four Rivers”—less than a mile away the Swift River flows into the Ware River.

Many years ago in an earlier chapter of my life, I had considered moving here. At the time I was in need of a home base that would allow reasonable access to both Boston to the east, and the heart of the Pioneer Valley to the west. The plan never materialized—I ended up living in Easthampton for the ensuing dozen years. But over the years Three Rivers stayed lodged in the back of my mind as a little bookmark or touchstone of a “road not taken.”

Recently I had some business to do at a nearby hospital. As a result, I had occasion to pass through Three Rivers a few times over the course of a month. I took advantage of the opportunity to get out on foot, and I explored and reminisced a bit. I wondered again what I ever saw in the place.

One could say that Three Rivers is a bit depressed, economically and culturally. There’s not much going on here. There are many seemingly empty storefronts. But the local liquor store seems to stay afloat. Like many towns in the area, it sports a couple of dilapidated 19th century mills that mingle with modest homes and tenement houses in varying stages of disrepair.

But as unassuming and downtrodden as Three Rivers is, there is still something magical about it. I mean, come on—the place has three rivers in it! (Four, if you count the Swift.) And it’s somebody’s hometown, so it must be special. I’ll bet there are many people living here who actively appreciate the lack of culture and hubbub.

A few miles downstream the Chicopee River flows into the Connecticut River, which eventually flows on into the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic Ocean evaporates, and it rains in Three Rivers. The cycle repeats. It’s all one water, really.

Confluence of three rivers
Confluence of three rivers, punctuated by a railroad bridge