Thursday, October 04, 2012

The idea of order at Icaria

I've been trying to figure out this morning why the view from Icaria seems to nourish clarity, but not having much success. It seems to have something to do with utopian aspiration expressed with great simplicity within the soutwest Iowa's landscape.

Our state's landscape shifts subtly driving an hour-plus west of Chariton on U.S. 34 as trees thin, the horizon flattens and rolls away in the distance and sky becomes more of a player. There is less distraction, as beautiful as our more wooded and hilly distractions may be.

Turning off 34 onto gravel east of Corning, then back to the French Icarian Colony historic site on a long lane between not-yet-harvested fields of soybeans and corn, a cloud of feeding swallows swept toward us from the Refectory.

The swallows were with us all morning, swooping and darting outside the windows, as representaives of several small museums compared notes and visited with Sandi Yoder, down from Des Moines and wearing her hat --- one among many --- as executive director of the Iowa Jewish Historical Society.

I do not sit still joyfully for long periods of time and so became an occasional distraction, jumping up to go outside and walk around now and then, considering the northerly view into the East Nishnabotna valley.

And the community gardens, the Icarian Cemetery and the Icarian schoolhouse --- the only other building now on acres with multi-million-dollar interpretive center aspirations but for now almost pure and certainly evocative.

After a French picnic lunch and more talking, we drove on into Corning to look around --- then home. Some day, this place is intended to become a place to illuminate Etienne Cabet's communialist egalitairan dream and his religion --- one that aimed to reduce Christianity to its essence with "neither superstitions nor ceremonies" and "fraternity as its only creed."

That dream vanished beneath the prairie and just now is starting to rise again as an academic exercise. But the site as is has magic, and hopefully that won't be lost.

You can read more about the French Icarian Colony here in another post, written after an earlier visit.

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