Small Town News
Tribute To Ann Browning
IN HIS REVIEW of Ann Hutt Browning's 2009 poetry collection, Deep Landscape Turning, Doug Holder wrote, "In all these poems her long lines are built on the blank page like edifices she would build on land."
This month, as we mourn the loss of Ann Hutt Browning, Ashfield's beloved resident, advocate, artist and community volunteer, Holder's review speaks to Ann's distinctive and enduring talent: the ability to build connections between people, landscapes, and art.
Last month, Ann died at a health facility in Greenfield, surrounded by her husband, Preston, and her four adult children.
Since Ann and Preston established Well-spring House in 1998,I have been privileged to be one of the returning residents who visit Ashfield and the house a few times every year.
Ann and Preston settled in Ashfield following Preston's retirement from the University of Illinois. As an architect, Ann had a reputation for designing and creating buildings which connected and blended the indoors with the natural environment. If there was one story that Ann loved to tell us residents, it was the tale of how a realtor once drove her up that long avenue to check out the old carriage house that sat behind the line of blue spruce trees along Main Street. In this apparently nondescript building, Ann Hutt Browning envisioned her latest dream: a retreat for artists and writers.
And what a dream it is. About his stay at Wellspring House, one writer and resident wrote: "It's a beautiful dream-come-true, and the spirit behind it-the vision shared by the Brownings-permeates the place."
Now, 13 years later, from Manhattan to Maine, from Oregon to London, so many of us Wellspring House residents have come to regard the house and the town of Ashfield as our creative and spiritual home.
Ann and Preston have made Wellspring House into much more than a place to come and work. However busy things got, Ann always remembered every resident's name. She introduced newcomers to repeat residents. Also, when local friends popped by or visited, they, too, got (and still get) introduced to us pass-through residents. The Brownings inquired (and inquire) about your current project, share their own works-in-progress -- always with the assurance that they are there for anything you need.
There's a spot in the house that typifies and distinguishes the Brownings' careful and gracious hospitality. It's the table in the kitchen where they have created an ever-changing library of interesting articles, local trail maps, work by previous residents, the Brownings' own writings, and, of course, poetry and articles by and about their four adult children. In essence, that table is the place where the local meets the visitor, where the poetic meets the political, and where the Brownings showcase and share their affection for their adopted community of Ashfield.
In Ashfield, Ann served as warden in the local Episcopal church and as a member of the town Finance Committee. She also served on the Town Center Planning Committee, and was in charge of raising funds for buying privately held open land, now the Town Common.
In Preston's words, Ann has left this world for "the destination of those human beings whose lives have been marked by courage, compassion, vision, and fidelity to the quest for psychological and spiritual wholeness for all earth's inhabitants."
Courage. Compassion. Vision and fidelity. For Ashfield visitors and residents, these are Ann Hutt Browning's long and lovely gifts to us.
More from The Ashfield News