It was my destiny to be raised on a farm in a rural setting for a good segment of my early life. A handicapped brother brought it about that this was the best setting for him to grow up in. As a sibling, I then accompanied the consequences of this significant and needed course of events. The result was a life in a rural setting where there was much in the way of gardening, truck gardening, orchardry, small farm husbandry and quarrying of sandstone. The location was a few miles north of Oberlin College on Oberlin Road. In this area of Ohio there were more crops under glass than in any other area in the world. Our neighbor had a quarter to a half acre under glass, a half acre of greenhouse. Greenhouses abounded. In addition, the small farming community which we were close to was known as the “Sandstone Center of the World”, Amherst, Ohio. This was a community of about 1800 souls with many who were farmers, small dairymen, orchardists or quarriers. The farm on which we came to locate had four sandstone quarries within its confines and more located nearby. The hill on which I grew up was called “Greenhorn Hill”. The hill was created by the quarrying of the sandstone and was so named because Hessians from Germany came there to live to quarry. They were “greenhorns” as they knew nothing about quarrying. The time of the greenhorns was the turn of the century. By the time we came to live on the small farm, the hill was all sand and the houses had been dismantled.
A cultural center, Oberlin College was not far from this small farm where there were gardens, orchards, animals and quarries. The little farm mirrored the general agricultural environment. At a greater distance, to the north of the farm, there was a good sized industrial center. One of the largest seamless pipe mills in the world was located in the industrial center and there the father of the family worked as an engineer, while the mother, a physician, cared for the ill of the industrial center. Though the industrial center was at a distance, it never seemed to be. The smell of sulfur from the Bessemer furnaces was a constant reminder of the industrial activity considerably more distant than the small farming community or the cultural center of a college town. The northerly winds brought the sulfur fumes home. When breezes did not bring the smell of iron making to the country the skies were yellow with sulfur released from iron ore by the Bessemer process. At night the sky would glow with the fire of the furnaces, burning the iron ores into the purity of steel. Thus life in the country was mingled with that of a modem industrial center. Nonetheless, the prime influence on this farm was the land, (sand and sandstone), the vegetation (garden vegetables, grain fields, hay fields, com fields and woods) and animals (chickens, ducks, cows, horses, pigs, and a few sheep).
Much of my early life was spent mingling with the farmers and the people of this community. As I was an individual interested in the lives of those who lived in the community and I attended the public school, I was able to have many experiences with those who lived there. As a youth I could not make out different types of human beings who lived there, however, the population there tended to see one another in the light of man’s relation to nature.
There were those who were cattle-ists. The farmers who had animals tended to be noted as such, and particularly when a farmer had a bull. There was something special about the farmer with the bull. Either the farmer had to go to other farmers to breed their cows or farmers with cows came to the farmer with the bull. As a boy it was a regular task to take the cows for breeding. A kind of special aura surrounded the farmer with animals. They seemed friendly and welcoming. The breeder farmers were more so. Something of the animal element seemed to rub off on the “man with the bull”. One of the young boys in the neighborhood, a very kind and gentle soul, was quite inappropriately named “Fitzer the bull”. Those who portray the bull as the angry and fearsome beast fail to note that a whole herd of cows, a number of milk farmers, a whole community of farms with cattle, come to associate with this animal, the bull. As the cow, the female, comes to nourish many in a community, so the bull comes to help that something of an associative spirit, a cooperative spirit arises around the reproductory process. In this particular community, not only the “bull-man”, but the veterinarian supported the element of associativeness and a sense of fratemality. The man who attended to the illnesses of the animals, the veterinarian, was in this farming community spoken of with a devotion and a respect given to few others. Many physicians might be envious in this day and age. I doubt that my mother, who was a physician, received the respect and devotion of old Dr. Leimbach.
This little sketch suggests that the man with a relation to the animal evolves something quite unique in relation to the animal. Something of a social associative element comes into the life and the soul of such a human being. The social-associative, the deep reliance on life and nourishment in relation to one another, could be contemplated as arising from the animal, particularly the animals who give milk, nourishment. In our area milk animals were not seen so much as beings to be slaughtered, even though there was a slaughter house next door, hidden half in the woods. Something of a kingdom of nature would seem to be rubbed off, as it were, on man. This kingdom helped that men came to men.
A second member of this nature community, this farming community, was the gardener and particularly the orchardist. Those who attended the orchards, some to the exclusion of other forms of work with nature, bore quite a different stamp in their being. They tended to be concerned with the problems of life and particularly what each should have for himself. Some of our orchardists, one family in particular, could be typified as fighters for human rights. This particular family had six children, all rather gifted. For years this family left an indelible mark on the community. Even several years ago when I returned to that community which had totally changed, after a forty-seven year period the influence of this family could still be noted. This family was a fixture and a kind of institution in the whole area.
There were many orchards and the course of summer was accompanied with a plethora of fruit that flowed from all sides. As young farm boys we could spend a segment of the day in a fruit tree, eating to the heart’s content. Sweet cherries were a particular delicacy in that region of the country where the farms were so near to the great Lake Erie.
Those who have taken care of orchards know of the sense of independence and a kind of sacred devotion that can develop in relation to the tree. The seasons and the weather all have to be lived with. The independent existence in the world is not so easily assured. The late frosts, the over heated and dry summers, the early fall and winters, all come to bear on the life of the tree. One has to struggle to carve out a place on the earth for the orchard, in the midst of this mighty domain of the sun and the cosmos. Trimming the trees is like getting a hair cut. It is deeply personal, and one comes to feel a very personal relation with the trees one tends. The cuts of one year carry over to the next. The form and dimension of the tree is determined by man. Something of the singular and the personal comes to be involved, but all is subject to the mighty events of the cosmos. There is nothing like the worry of a heavy frost when the blossoms are frilly opened on the apple tree in spring. The smoke pots to save the fruits from freezing in the orchards speak to the other end of the season. A continual effort at maintaining a space in the world is a great necessity for the devoted orchardist.
He who has made efforts for the rights of his fellow man, might come to a similar experience as he who cares for an orchard. In the great cosmos of flowing events, all that lives in the light of God’s domain has to be tended and cared for so that existence is assured.
The orchardist from this perspective has a very different orientation in the world than that of the husbandman. The latter brings souls together, the former tries to see that each has a place in existence in the mighty world where God exists.
The third nature man, the third kingdom man, I came to know less well, but his presence was to be felt through those who were the children. The third man was the quarrier. He was the man who lived with the kingdom of the mineral. Those who to this day quarry the sandstone from that part of the earth live a kind of separate life. From the time of the last quarter of last century on into ours the sandstone quarries of that neck of the woods were worked. In that area of Ohio, around the Am- herst-Sandusky area along Lake Erie, there is much sand stone. Quite large quarries exist, many of which are no longer worked. The sandstone tends to be soft so it is not in such demand. There was a time, when the stone was shipped to New York to build buildings and construct sidewalks. Cleveland, Ohio was also a recipient of this stone, where until recently, sidewalks made of the sand stone from these quarries could be found. Those who are the workers in the quarries, who spend their life at taking stone out of the earth, are yet another cut than the husbandman or the orchardist. These men build their little solitary houses around the varied sized quarries. In the town which still has quarries at work to this day, the quarries are rimmed by little houses. Those who quarry and the children from these families are of a rather independent mode. Most inhabitants from this farming area are from Amherst, but those from the quarry works belong to South Amherst. The quarriers have to have their own identity. Something of the quality of independence and a degree of isolation rings into the hearts of those who work in the earth to remove a stone that, as it were, has descended from the outer reaches of our planetary world.
If any one has had the occasion to spend time among the quarries, what can be seen is that many quarries come to be filled in with water. Sometimes the wall of the quarry rises a hundred or more feet above the waters. Below the water, the stone wall may descend another hundred feet. The water that fills these quarries is not only rain water, but waters of very fresh springs. This means that in summer the waters are as clear as crystal—clear and cool. In winter, the waters freeze with difficulty because of the springs. In summer, on a clear day with a few clouds in the sky and the sun over head, the water can reflect the heavens to such an extent that one does not know whether the heavens are above or below. In such a circumstance, one’s own position in the world is a given. One’s stance between the heavens above and the heavens below can be sensed to the core of one’s bones. There is little question of one’s existence in this world except as a solitary being. The walls of stone, the rising walls above the water, the descending walls below the water, all stand there in the fresh water springs and pure waters all around as a testament of the permanence of existence and one’s own existence. The sense of individuality, and one’s sense of freedom sounds though the air of the quarries as a bird sings or as a youth yells out to dive into the waters.
At times, daredevil divers scale the walls to dive into the cold clear waters. The skilled divers can perform a swan-dive, so that there is an upward arch in the dive, before there is a straight descent into the waters. The sense of freedom in the air, in the act of a swan, can live in the mind’s eye as a gesture which is unforgettable. All this is possible because men have labored to remove the solid of the earth. The mineral mastered makes space for the independent individual to find a place on the earth. Even though the quarry is one of solid stone, with labor, the soul can wing its way in a flight of free play in the space created by the excavation of materiality.
I would hope that with these depictions, the role of nature in the lives of men might be contemplated. This is helpful as when social forms are contemplated from the perspective of a spiritual science we can consider that social forms can arise out of our relation with the three kingdoms around us. As nature has receded this is not so easy to see. If we read of man’s relation to nature and what this can give, as offered out of the researches by Rudolf Steiner, these rather unsophisticated experiences can be seen in another light. In the lecture cycle noted above, on the spiritual scientific basis of social forms, just this nature relation is pointed to. Social organs are the creation of man as the result of his relation to nature. This we can gain from the work of Rudolf Steiner. Man can be creative out of nature. Man’s creation, the creation of social forms and social activities, is a higher form of nature than the one we can face as a given. We can consider man as a creative agent in the midst of nature, creating on a higher level than that which is created by nature, or such is a possibility. If man, through his relation to his archetype, can find his divinity, then something of the divinity can be thought of in the creation of social organs, a social organism. Something of a lofty idealism can ring through the activities to be considered in the forming of a social organism. It is fairly obvious that it is all to easy for the lack of idealism to become a foundation for social activity and the creation of social forms. The lack of idealism in social life is apparent from all sides in our day.