Signs of Spring: Robins, Daffodils and the President

It has been one totally bizarre week.

While our friends in the Northeast were preparing for their early February blizzard, here in North Carolina we rebounded from a two-day ice storm to then endure a flash flood that submerged one of our fields and both our pastures, making our two graying quarterhorses very nervous as they slowly mucked their way to a shrinking sliver of high ground.

But by Friday, as I was driving up to the Grove Park Inn to measure a possible space for one of our Small Group Discussions, I spotted a flock of robins picking their way across one of those same fields that just a few days earlier had been under three feet of water. A few miles away I slowed just to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me, but, yes, indeed, it was a bed of daffodils, soaking in the sunshine as their tight, Grueby green buds were literally bursting into blossoms.

News of the robins and the early daffodils must have soon reached Washington, for we awoke the following morning to headlines announcing that President Obama had selected Asheville as the opening stop on his kick-off tour following his State of the Union address this week.

Asheville has always been a liberal, Democratic island in a sea of conservative Republicans, and we do have an astonishing array of architectural masterworks, from cabins to castles, stately Georgian to frivolous Deco, a French chateau dubbed Biltmore, and the Arts and Crafts mecca we affectionately call the G.P.I.

But Barack Obama keeps coming back like he’s got a punch card from 12 Bones and he’s shooting for his free rack of ribs.

I really don’t mind. Asheville people have gotten so accustomed to President Obama coming that most don’t take off work to go see him like they used to. He’ll always get a warm, enthusiastic and supportive welcome here, but all I could think was, “Thank God it wasn’t during the Arts and Crafts Conference.”

But, then again, perhaps that wouldn’t have been so bad. We saw the president wielding a paint brush a few weeks ago, so why not slip him into Dennis Bertucci’s “Stains, Dyes and Finishes Workshop” or let him play with some wet clay in Lisa’s pottery class? Being from Chicago, the early studio of Frank Lloyd Wright and once home to Teco Pottery, Kalo Silver and Tobey Furniture, he might well display a natural tendency toward the Arts and Crafts philosophy of quality over quantity, sincerity over sham, durability over economy, and craftsmanship over crassmanship.

He would get a kick out of Andre’s opening seminar “Innovators, Imitators and Barnacles” and would have abundant empathy for the story Nonie Gadsden will be telling of the struggles of the young women of the Saturday Evening Girls Pottery, girls who were literally pulled off the streets of Boston for their own protection and taught how to decorate the art pottery we now cherish.

But all of the media frenzy and the security teams would be a hassle, so we’ll not regret the passing of our two ships in the night, especially as we warm ourselves before both fireplaces in the Great Hall, share stories of the ones that got away, embellish the tales of those that didn’t, rekindle friendships from our previous gatherings, and draw new friends into our national Arts and Crafts family.

So, dig your way out of those New England snowdrifts, remind your friends, family and co-workers where you will be next week, and come help make this “the most important weekend of the year for Arts and Crafts collectors.”

Until next Monday, when I kick-off my daily behind-the-scenes report from deep inside the 510-room historic Grove Park Inn,

Have a great week!