Music after dinner. Photo by Jennifer Joy Jameson.
The Seed and the Story is a weekly column exploring folklife, sustainability, oral history, human rights,and community in Yell County (and surrounding areas), Arkansas.
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I recently took part in the 2nd Annual Meadowcreek Roundtable, a weekend of wonderful discussion, music, films, and food in rural Stone County, Arkansas. Organized by dear friends, fellow folklorists, and frequent co-collaborators, Rachel Reynolds Luster and Mike Luster, the gathering brings together cultural workers from a variety of fields and regions with the common goal of exploring avenues for community-based cultural renewal and sustainability.
Our group grew from last year and this year included the organizers of M12, a collective of artists, designers, and creative professionals based in Colorado on the American High Plains; Matthew Fluharty, the creator and editor of the Art of the Rural; David Haenke of the Ozark Area Community Congress; Filmmaker Sarah Moore Chrychel; musician and audio engineer Allison Williams; Maegon Mayes of Ozarka College and (bread baker extraordinaire); Jennifer Joy Jameson with the Country Music Hall of Fame; Molly Bollick working with Community Partnerships organization in Pennsylvania; Sarah Carter who has a singing voice of gold; Joshua Lockyer a bioregionalist at Arkansas Tech University, and many more.
Meadowcreek Swimming Hole. Photo by Jennifer Joy Jameson.
Meadowcreek, both the place and the idea, was an equal participant in the gathering. Located on 1500 acres of beautiful Ozark National Forest, Meadowcreek was founded by the Orr Brothers in 1979 as an intentional community striving to operate as a model, as Mother Earth magazine stated in 1982, “of how human settlements in the future might both exist in harmony with their surroundings and offer meaningful lifestyles to their inhabitants.” Over the years Meadowcreek has taken on many roles and is now referred to as the Meadowcreek Initiative, an organization devoted to “sustainability, education, and wildlife preservation.” With its beautiful swimming hole, dense vegetation, and buildings that blend into the trees, Meadowcreek is a continual reminder of what people can do when dedicated to living a more sustainable life, close to the land, and working towards greater democracy for all.
Meagon with one of the amazing spreads of local food. Photo by Rachel Reynolds Luster.
With Rachel planning the menus, we cooked all our food on site, bringing much of it in from smaller scale farmers in our region. The conversations (and even singings!) in the kitchen and around the table were some of the best, a reminder that eating together can truly build bridges and open doors. One of the highlights of the weekend was watching Sarah Moore Chrychel’s film Witch Hazel Advent: A Story of an Ozark Poet. The film explores the life of her grandfather, poet John Rule, as he makes a home for himself, and his poetry, after losing his wife to illness. Filmed mostly in the fall, the Ozarks become a symbol for a richly nuanced and meaning-filled life layered with both joy and sorrow.
David Haenke and Mike and Arthur Luster discuss the Ozark bioregion.
David Haenke inspired us with his discussion of the layers of place and the endless web of connection to the trees, soil, and especially the water, our most vital resource. Matthew Fluharty led a great discussion about media, culture, and rural arts, and the folks from M12 gave a great presentation about their work in installment art out west. Rachel Reynolds Luster, always brilliant and inspiring, led a lively discussion about sustainable funding models for cultural work. And I had had the opportunity to lead a discussion about the potentially democratic and holistic nature of community-based research and education and talk about the work of the McElroy House: Organization for Folklife, Oral History, and Community Action.
It would be impossible to fit the magic of the weekend into this short column. Words like “inspiring” or “renewing,” while accurate, feel a bit too generic for such powerful ideas and beautiful souls. I came home feeling energized and rejuvenated, ready to work in the place I call home. In the next few weeks I’ll be putting together a radio piece, so stay tuned for that.
(Almost) the whole crew.