Reflections from a visit to the Goetheanum

From Lugano we drove through Switzerland to Dornach, near Basel. It was evident everywhere that the Swiss understand the importance of trees in the landscape and in managing water catchments. In Dornach we met with Hans and Ineke Mulder who took us around the Goetheanum, the world centre for Anthroposophy. The Goetheanum is an amazingly organic building. Rudolf Steiner, who designed this and the first Goetheanum, was an incredibly insightful and prolific human being. His merging of spiritual insight and scientific thought covered many disciplines. I’m not an anthroposophist but I do have an open mind. I see a lot of value in what Steiner shared, particularly when expressed through living examples such as Sekem (see post “Sekem, Egypt”) in Egypt and Poggio di Camporbiano (see the posts “A week in Tuscany” and “Poggio di Camporbiano, a very resilient farm”) in Italy, and of course through the education of our daughters at Taikura Rudolf Steiner School in New Zealand. With the multiple challenges and potential crises that we are facing around the world, we need to be open to what Steiner and others have presented to the world. We cannot solve the many problems we have through the narrow, rational, thought that has created them.

The Goetheanum, Dornach
The Goetheanum, Dornach

A view from southern Switzerland

On the afternoon of 5 June we drove north to Milan, arriving in the dark. The next day we crossed the border into Switzerland. Our destination was Lugano, where we were going to stay with the Galli family, who hosted Emma for three months. After a couple of days enjoying Lugano we went for a walk with the Galli family on Saturday (9 June). We drove from their home up into the hills, above the forest line. We then walked to the site of an ancient Celtic settlement looking out towards Lake Lugano. The Celts migrated into Switzerland during the period 500 B.C. to 400 A.D. From this site we then walked up to the summer house of a local farmer. We stopped there and talked a while over some wine. I hadn’t expected this encounter but realised that here was an opportunity for another farmer interview. I arranged to come back today to film an interview with him.

Looking out towards Lake Lugano from the site of an ancient Celtic settlement. The water catchments around the lake are all forested, with strict rules relating to harvesting of trees
Looking out towards Lake Lugano from the site of an ancient Celtic settlement. The water catchments around the lake are all forested, with strict rules relating to harvesting of trees

Renzo was not born to a farming family, but became a farmer nearly 40 years ago. His motivation was to live and work with the land, with the natural world. He and his family are alpine farmers. During the winter period they move down to their winter house and their stock are housed. In the summer period they move to the summer house, above the tree line, where the animals are able to free range on the herb pastures. Renzo talked about the dramatic reduction in snow cover that they now experience every winter. The winter rest period, which he considers important for the earth, animals and people, is no longer as it was. The climate is changing and nothing is predictable in the way that it was in the past. This is very unsettling and I think stressful for a family that has worked very hard over a long period. They are already farming organically. Renzo said what more can they do than they already are, working and living in a very balanced way?

There is a long history of winter rest and summer grazing in high alpine areas of Switzerland.  This is beginning to change with higher temperatures and significant reductions in snow cover
There is a long history of winter rest and summer grazing in high alpine areas of Switzerland. This is beginning to change with higher temperatures and significant reductions in snow cover
Renzo, a man who came to live and work with nature 40 years ago and is now finding that he can no longer follow the seasonal rhythms of the past
Renzo, a man who came to live and work with nature 40 years ago and is now finding that he can no longer follow the seasonal rhythms of the past