Diane Atkinson

Diane Atkinson, owner of An Tao Acupuncture and Wellness, will offer a free online tutorial in Chinese calligraphy on Sunday through the library, and a free class on supporting emotional health through Chinese medicine concepts on Wednesday. (Courtesy photo)

It’s no secret that most people were not sad to see the year 2020 go, welcoming the arrival of 2021 with open arms. Social media and marketing campaigns trumpeted various versions of the slogan, “New year, new me!” and hopes were high for turning a fresh page after a tumultuous year. Yet the realists, even those stubbornly nursing idealist outlooks, knew that a simple turning of the calendar page was not going to miraculously evaporate the problems of the previous year.

But on Friday, we get another crack at the new year with the arrival of the Lunar New Year. Thursday evening’s new moon marks one of the most important holidays in China, the Chinese New Year, and to celebrate the holiday, the Wilkinson Public Library is offering an online class today (Sunday) from 4:30-5:30 p.m. featuring Chinese dumpling making and a Chinese calligraphy tutorial by Diane Atkinson of An Tao Acupuncture.

On Wednesday, Atkinson will also offer a free online class on Chinese medicine concepts for a healthy emotional life, with a focus on processing anxiety and fear.

“Everyone needs distractions from the pandemic. We like to think we offer ones that are fun, educational and connect people with other members of the community,” said Laura Colbert, adult programs specialist at the library, noting that the Lunar New Year in particular is “the major holiday in a huge swath of the world,” celebrated by 2.5 billion people globally.

Atkinson, who has felt a deep, unshakable affinity for the Chinese language and culture since she was a child growing up in the Texas Panhandle, became fluent in the language during and after college, when she lived in China for three years upon graduating. When she began experiencing chronic health issues in her 40s, she turned to acupuncture, which not only landed her on the path to healing but also rekindled an interest in Chinese medicine traditions.

“It really brought together all my years of interest,” she said.

Atkinson earned a master’s in acupuncture from the Seattle Institute of East Asian Medicine, and after many years in the Seattle area, she returned to Telluride, where she graduated from high school in 1980. At her practice, An Tao Acupuncture and Wellness in Mountain Village, she prefers a classical approach in the discipline to treating a wide range of ailments from the physical to the emotional, even offering cosmetic treatments.

“One of the jumping off points for Chinese medicine is that we are not separate from nature,” she said. “Just like you wouldn’t look at a tree or an elk or an eagle and think that it was somehow separate from nature, we are just as much a part of nature.”

This approach provides a unique lens for taking into account a person’s environment, personality, health factors, diet and lifestyle when assessing an ailment to determine a holistic course of treatment. The same is true for using Chinese medicine techniques to cultivate a healthy emotional life, with the physical and the emotional spheres understood to be inextricably connected.

In the upcoming class through the library, Atkinson will target techniques to support a “balanced and harmonious emotional life.”

“We’re going to talk about how we can support our kidney system, stomach, pancreas and heart to be able to manage anxiety and fear,” she said. “There’s a very physical connection. Emotions are not only in your head, but in your tissue and organs, and certain organs are responsible for digesting certain emotions.”

Whether the Lunar New Year finds you with the desire to digest emotions or dumplings, or perhaps try your hand at the Chinese calligraphy characters for “spring,” these free classes via Zoom also offer a way to simply connect with others, one of the holiday’s most important tenets.

In Chinese culture, “it’s a very important time for connecting with family,” Atkinson said of the holiday.

Given the online nature of the offerings, connecting with family or friends by enjoying an online class is more possible than ever, and may bring in the new lunar year with a little more harmony, connection and balance.

For more information, visit telluridelibrary.org.