At the Wednesday Study Group in Vancouver, we realized that the light was leaving us, and Patricia invited us to visit the Cascadia Society, a Camphill community, to see the houses before it was too late. We quickly grabbed our belongings, bid farewell to Michael with great thanks for his hospitality, and made a date with Monica to meet back at her house later.
As a bit of background, the first Camphill community was formed by Dr. Karl König in Scotland in 1939, working with children with developmental disabilities. Camphill is now an international movement of therapeutic intentional communities that serve both children and adults. In these life-sharing communities, each person is able to bring forth his or her gifts, sharing in responsibility for the whole. Though each Camphill is unique, they share a vision of “relationships of mutual respect, education and (or) meaningful work, real participation in community life, a stress-reducing rhythm of daily activities, seasonal celebrations, a rich artistic and cultural life, natural therapies, and acceptance, individual recognition, and dignity for everyone.”
In 1964, Dr. König spoke about the task of such communities:
“We need to join together again in communities, but such communities that are not governed by bonds of blood but by spiritual principles that incite us to strive together and work for each other. There a mood can be set where adults and children can live in unison; important and not so important people, able and not so able but nonetheless in reciprocal appreciation of the dignity of the individual. Only when a new style of community is formed in this way will it become possible for children and young people to reach an expression of their true being out of which their individual contribution can ensue.”
The Cascadia Society is an urban Camphill within Vancouver’s North Shore. As its mission, “The Cascadia Society for Social Working contributes to society by creating opportunities for people of all abilities to fulfill their potential through living, learning and working in community.” The community includes several residences and a day center for adults with special needs. Those adults are joined by coworkers who are committed to working out of anthroposophy in care of the human spirit.
We arrived to the community at dusk, moving quickly from place to place to catch a glimpse of the beautiful outside spaces just before the last light of day had fallen. Patricia was full of life as she strode down the street, guiding us from house to house. Behind one home, there was a thriving garden in what used to be a city alley. Behind another, there was a stone mosaic of the zodiac, created by the community.
Patricia shared with us that her hope is for Cascadia to be more a part of the community, and we could see that she was really making it happen! She hopes to get young people to use their hands again. While there is a drug problem in the immediate surroundings as well as a mentally ill population, Patricia said, “We cannot just be islands.” This group has connections to the local Rotary Club, and the mayor’s sister is a neighbor.
The being of Ita Wegman is strongly behind everything at Cascadia, we learned. In addition, each house has someone behind it. Once inside Kaspar House (named for Kaspar Hauser), we met more coworkers and companions. Some came down from the upstairs bedrooms to greet us, and several people were busy working in the kitchen. Among them was Ruth Tschannen, a trained eurythmist who lives and works in the community. She has led several eurythmy performances with the group, and we got to see beautiful books documenting the events. The pride in the room was palpable as we turned the pages to see what the community had created together. As Ruth spoke, the young man sitting next to her, Fred, made eurythmy gestures with his hands. So beautiful to see him moving throughout the whole conversation! He was so animated with his hands and his spirit and in right timing, gently and flowing. Everything being said he acted out fully!
Ruth is originally from Switzerland, and her grandfather saw the first Goetheanum being built. When she was nine years old, a friend of her family said that she would be a eurythmist. Today she is, but by 14, she wanted to be a priest. She was learning Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, and her Greek teacher was an anthroposophist.
She went to apply for a job with an anthroposophical book seller, who asked her if she knew what anthroposophy was. At the time, she did not know much, but she was able to rely on her Greek to quickly make a direct translation. She responded, “Easy. It’s the wisdom of the human being.” With that, she got the job. When her first customer arrived, it turned out to be her Greek teacher!
At age 14, she visited the Goetheanum in Dornach. She saw a eurythmy performance with Else Klink when she was 19 and wrote to her Greek teacher that she planned to become a eurythmist. When Ruth was 23, she wanted to learn English, so she set out by bike to a Camphill in England. Ruth only wanted to give back. She experienced the community to be like the castle of Parzival. There she worked as a gardener, a basket maker, and a cook. Eventually, Ruth moved from England to Beaver Run in Pennsylvania and then to Cascadia. She now does eurythmy there in the garden.
Barbara Mundy has been at Cascadia for three years, her first experience in a Camphill community. She is in charge of Sophia House across the street from Kaspar House. She was at Emerson College in a bread making workshop with Warren Lee Cohen, sculpting with bread. For her first anthroposophical study, she took up How to Know Higher Worlds at age 54. She was interested in nursing and massage, and started a massage training at age 55. It was at the Park Atwood Clinic that she discovered community. Everyone was helping each other. When the clinic closed, the people were scattered. She met Ruth on Easter Sunday, and she invited her to Cascadia.
The community is thriving in the arts. For the Living Gold conference, they offered a eurythmy performance of “The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily.” While the work already happening at Cascadia is tremendous, the coworkers hold a vision of further considerations. How to redeem gang money is a question that lives in the group.
There is the hope of really joining with the surrounding community, but living near drug dealers poses a unique challenge. Ruth shared about how she learns so much from Susan, one of the companions, who walks by with a wave and a smile. Hearing this example, Susan smiled with a radiant light. There was Susan teaching us all to be more humane with every person.
Inspired by the potential we met at Cascadia and in Vancouver, we asked Patricia if she might consider hosting a conference on creating community outreach. She comes with such joy and trust for what can come into being with a sense of “Of course we will receive the money needed!”
As we were leaving, two of young ladies were having a playful push to be first to the teeth brushing. Both with gentle determined smiles, they quietly backed up to the door to move the other out of the way with the most beautiful sibling-like antics! They meet each other with such enthusiasm.
Perhaps most beautiful about our time in Cascadia was to witness the relationships between all of the people. For our visit, spontaneous as it was, everyone joined together in the living room, piled onto the couches. Everyone, coworkers and companions alike, was a part of the conversation. Everyone was engaged, each listening to the other. We felt such a welcoming spirit from every person there. Elizabeth even received a marriage proposal from one of the young men. It was like a big family as each cared for the other. The love between them was clear, and there is so much to learn from them! This was clearly a house of karma, and Kaspar House it was named!
Visit Cascadia online here http://www.cascadiasociety.org/ to learn more about this community.