by Karen Arnett
I lived at Grailville for nearly two years in 1992-93. I quit my job to participate in a residential program there called New Women, New Earth. At the time, I was a freight pilot, shuttling cargo on night runs across the midwest.
New Women New Earth was life changing for me. A dozen or so women ranging in age from 18 to 65 shared five months of study on core ideas of justice, peace, sustainability, earth-based spirituality. We learned about “community” by living together and sharing meals and morning worship. We worked in the garden and connected with the land.
The program introduced us to progressive organizations around Cincinnati: Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, IMAGO, the Women’s Research and Development Center, the sustainability work of Sr. Paula Gonzalez at Mt. St. Joseph College.
I was new to Cincinnati at the time, and this helped me to put down roots and established a network that made me want to call Cincinnati my forever home.
I am not a religious person, but the time spent at Grailville was the beginning of a new life for me, one lived with conscience and connection. It cut through the sense of isolation I felt as an occupational transplant to this area. The experience was nothing less than profound for me.
At the end of the program I arranged to stay on and worked in the farm and garden for the next two growing seasons. We improved the soil using organic methods, and grew excellent food not only for use in the Grailville kitchen but also selling it locally. The land and connection with the 300 plus acres was a major draw. As a lifelong suburbanite, this connection with the land was a real awakening.
Like me, countless people in Cincinnati and beyond have spent transformative time there in various programs and retreats. I think the land was a big part of what drew people here. Grailville has been a beacon, a respite, an opportunity for stepping outside the regimen of our lives, if only for a few hours, a day, a weekend, a month. So many of us thought it would always be here, as a beacon. The many programs, the Buddhist retreats, the bioregional conferences, the networking around organic farming, the seasonal rituals, the writing programs, the labyrinth…. In all of this, the land was the core aspect, fostering renewal of spiritual life and facilitating personal growth. Where else is it possible to be near our urban center and yet immersed in the peace afforded by so much land, so much of nature?
It’s clear that a place like Grailville is unique in southwest Ohio. It is an intact farm repurposed from conventional farming for nurturing wholeness of mind, body and spirit. It’s irreplaceable once destroyed.
The Drees company will predictably name the new development after some aspect of Grailville, but this treasure will be irrevocably gone. Once the rich soil is bulldozed away, and once the sturdy buildings are demolished, it can never be regained.
I am one of innumerable people who are devastated at this looming destruction. I am holding onto a sliver of hope that wise minds will recognize the incalculable treasure that it is, and not allow Drees or any other builder to destroy it for short term gain.