By Andreas Schuschke
As part of our family summer vacation I had occasion to travel by myself by car from Beaver Run to Denver while the rest of my family traveled by plane. So, on a Monday morning I stepped into our car and drove 16 hours straight, about 1000 miles, crossing the as yet not so mighty Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa, to the small town of Newton, Iowa, where I spent the night in a motel. Before going to sleep I went to a diner for a hearty dinner. The diner was very close to the motel, so I decided to stretch my legs a little. It was a beautiful, clear night, and I looked up eagerly in search of the stars, as I had seen Venus shining brightly as the evening star above where the sun had just set, while I was still driving. But alas, barely any stars could be seen as the whole area was lit up by tall, bright lights, gas stations and the like – an ‘oasis’ of commerce in what seemed to be otherwise a pretty rural landscape in Iowa. I recognized that my journey that day, which only 200 years ago would probably have taken weeks to complete, accompanied by possibly severe hardships of a kind I can’t even begin to imagine, constituted a kind of ‘travesty’ very much in line with what I found at that rest stop in Newton.
The next day I continued on into Nebraska, crossing the Missouri River in Omaha and then entering properly into the prairies of the Midwest. I exited the interstate onto US-26 on my way to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, where I was planning to meet some very special friends, whom I shall introduce shortly. Soon, the highway, which ran mostly straight as an arrow, was joined by train tracks and for the next hour and a half I passed train after train after train – seemingly miles long, hauling what appeared to be hundreds of containers – running along the tracks. My friends in Scottsbluff later told me that these are coal trains carrying coal from mines in the West eastward to the cities of Omaha, St. Louis and the like, and then returning for more.
My friends in Scottsbluff are Beth and Nathan Corymb, who spent many years in Camphill Village Minnesota (CVM) and Camphill Village Copake (Copake), founding and establishing Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seed Initiative, before making the move out West to start Meadowlark Hearth Farm – a close to 500-acre biodynamic farm in western Nebraska. This was my second visit with them, and I remember them telling me on my first visit that 500 acres is really on the small side for a Nebraska farm! They have a herd of about 60 cows for meat and milk, a sizable vegetable garden, and of course their special seed business, all of which they maintain as a CSA. Beth told me that they have received seeds from Japanese and European friends, but since they can only import very little biodynamic seeds, they see their main work in establishing seed growth there on their farm in the Heartland.
Both of the times that I came to visit them on my travels to Colorado I experienced true ‘Camphill’ encounters as they shared with me their vision and passion about trying to build Community as well as making at least some small contribution towards the Earth and the elemental Beings in the Heartland. Beth told me about the importance of seeds in healing the Earth (I wish she would write an article about that!) and Nathan goes once a week into the hills adjacent to their property to observe and acknowledge the presence of the wildlife there, as apparently only very rarely another human being otherwise enters these hills. Since the beginnings of the farm they have struggled to attract like-minded co-workers to help them with the myriad tasks associated with running the farm
Through our conversation that evening the image arose in me of the American heartland, so rich, fertile and full of natural resources, having been subjugated in unimaginable pain and suffering through the ever-expanding and intensifying methods of wresting these resources from the Earth, like meat-production, coal extraction and fertilization to name but a few. So, here I found another kind of ‘oasis’ of true and spirited care for the Earth out of the ideals of Camphill as expressed in Dr. König’s first Memorandum. I experience in Beth and Nathan still a hint of the kind of ‘frontier ruggedness’ that I experienced in reading all the wonderful depictions in the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Nathan and Beth in the Spirit of Anthroposophy rooting in the Heartland, intend that their broken treaty land will be taken out of the commodity market, transferred to something like Agrarian Commons and made available to multi-generational Community-minded souls who have a passion for growing seed out of a whole farm. They are holding that picture up to the Angels in hopes that a new Anthroposophical community will be born bearing open pollinated seeds through a threefold social endeavor at Meadowlark Hearth. Time is short – write to Beth and Nathan if you are available! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The next day in Denver I had the great pleasure of meeting Francis Leighton, who also spent many years in Camphill places, such as Beaver Run, CVM and Copake. She told me a little bit about the Angelica Village initiative in Denver that she now supports on a volunteer basis. The founder (Renata Heberton) has the vision of providing shelter and a viable Community life for refugees seeking asylum and undocumented immigrants, particularly minors, as well as homeless families. While not outwardly associated with the Camphill Movement, Francis’ descriptions struck me as very much in line with the Camphill impulse.
So what is it about the Heartland of this mighty continent? I myself have not studied much about this great region, which can roughly be traced by the Missouri-Mississippi watershed, but other Camphill friends have told me that it has been considered as an important geographical area for the work of Anthroposophy to take root, prompting the decision to establish the headquarters of the Anthroposophical Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Even more interesting is the etheric connection that can apparently be traced through the flow of water streaming down out of the Missouri-Mississippi river system into the Gulf of Mexico and then via the Gulf Stream across the Atlantic Ocean to meet the rivers of Middle Europe, especially the Rhine River. I imagine this as a sort of giant flow-form, with the etheric forces of the waters shifting back and forth across this beautiful curved causeway, establishing a strong etheric link between Middle Europe and the Heartland.
Some people have shared with me their view that, so far, the success of Anthroposophical initiatives taking root in the Heartland has been limited at best. While such a view may be debatable, especially with regard to the wide-spread existence of Waldorf schools across the continent, including the Heartland, as far as the Camphill Movement is concerned, there does seem to me some truth in this viewpoint. I stand in awe of how Camphill Village Minnesota has and continues to brave the odds by building Community so far away from the next Camphill place, and I celebrate the emergence of Raphael Village in New Orleans, but comparatively speaking my sense is that the Camphill Movement on this continent is more concentrated along the East and West Coasts. I heard a little bit from Beth and Francis about the attempt of a few Camphillers to establish a Camphill Village in Colorado, which unfortunately didn’t succeed.
Given this and the hardships experienced by Beth and Nathan, and also recently again by CVM, is it maybe worthwhile to pose the question as to what hindrances there have been and continue to be for establishing Camphill in the Heartland? Personally, I find this a question of potentially great relevance for the Camphill Movement in North America, because every time I traverse this region and talk to people like Beth I feel something resonate very deeply in my being. It is maybe easy to point to outer factors, such as the political divide in the country, etc., but I wonder whether this isn’t something that needs to be contemplated more on the spiritual level? If there is indeed such a great etheric link between Middle Europe and the Heartland, then we in Camphill should take note, as it is my understanding that the upholding of the original intentions of the Middle European impulse is one of the great spiritual tasks of Camphill.
Just to be clear, I am not advocating a rush to found many new Camphill initiatives in the Heartland (although, given everything I have written so far, it would be of great importance for all of us to carry CVM, Raphael Village, Meadowlark Hearth Farm, Angelica Village and any other such initiatives in our consciousness and be ever aware that help is needed!), but I do feel that the spiritual background outlined here might deserve our consideration. Concretely, I wonder whether there are people interested in engaging in spiritual research on this question, and inwardly and outwardly accompanying the Camphill activity that is taking place in the Heartland (to which I count all of the above-mentioned initiatives, even though some of them are not officially associated with the Camphill Movement of North America). If you are interested, please contact me, and maybe we will have something to report again in the future!
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