Rhythm in community life

Written by Odile Carroll

I think that any person who has ever had Heartbeet touch his or her life in any way for any length of time has struggled at one point or another to adequately explain its being to the outside world. I find that my success in doing this often depends on how much time and patience my audience is willing to give in hearing my attempt at defining Heartbeet’s wonderful and multifaceted existence.

I can say that I am now at a point where I’ve realized that one of the best ways to describe Heartbeet is to refer to aspects of life at Heartbeet itself. One of the myriad memorable conversations I had this summer occurred one afternoon with Eric, next to the compost pile I was helping William and Jessie prepare. We were talking about the greater significance of the preparations used by biodynamic agriculture, but I realized later that we could also have been talking about any aspect of Heartbeet’s community life. Eric spoke of the necessity of winter in the development of the roots of plants, the dreamlike state of summer, and the transitions in between. He emphasized, above all, the importance of rhythm in the cycle and development of a garden. However, the transcendence of this moment was really connected to the fact that he could easily have been speaking of any of the core values of Heartbeet as a community. Those values are lived also in a cyclical way: each living being in the community is also evolving in their own individual growth, thereby contributing to a larger space that, in turn, allows other individuals to grow and change so that they can then contribute their own gifts to the community.

Odile (r) with Renna
Odile (r) with Renna

I have been volunteering on and off at Heartbeet since I was 14 and a freshman in high school, and I just turned 22 last week and am about to enter my senior year in college. The longevity of our relationship has made me exceptionally grateful to have been an observer of Heartbeet’s growth and transformation from a cozy, ten-person community to an incredible 45-person community, with four houses and a plan for a community hall well under way. Managing change and transition is a consistent challenge for the community, but what is ever-present at Heartbeet is the anchor that rhythm, routine and core values and philosophies provides all members of this unique therapeutic space. Coming back for the first time in a few years, I have a heightened awareness of the complex meaning of the different roles each individual holds in this community. Much like the roles that the rain, the sun, the gardeners, the insects and the biodynamic preparations hold in the development and harmony of the garden, Heartbeet could not be Heartbeet if a single aspect of its rhythm were eliminated or greatly altered. As a community, Heartbeet challenges a conventional mentality that overemphasizes individual autonomy and achievement with its proven success as an environment that thrives on shared living.

As always, I am so grateful to be welcomed into the space each time I return, and I still struggle to find the words to adequately express my appreciation to a community that has defined a significant part of who I am and continues to support my development as a human being in this world.