Resident Spotlight: Christa Montano

As a young man, the chemist Rudolf Haushka once asked Rudolf Steiner a simple/not simple question that had been tormenting him for years (and with which he, in turn, had been tormenting his teachers): What is life? Steiner’s answer: “Study rhythm. Rhythm is the bearer of life.”

I was reminded of this remark while speaking with Christa Montano a few days before she completed her ninetieth year this past month on Christmas Eve. For Christa, the keys to life are movement (which is surely related to rhythm) and lifelong learning (which is surely related to movement).

Born in Germany and practically trained in chemistry—she was a lab technician at different times in her life, once in a large candy factory—it was really movement, especially modern dance—that inspired her and that initially brought her to this country.

But, from the beginning, she was always on the move. Proceeds from her candy factory job in Germany were used to obtain a Vespa at the earliest opportunity. Anyone who has observed Christa glide into the Tourmaline dining room for lunch should have no trouble imagining her, as a young woman, motoring through traffic on a sunny spring afternoon, independent and intent on her destination. She loved that Vespa, and her straightforward explanation of her desire for it suggested, for me, a deeper truth: “When you don’t have a vehicle, you don’t get anywhere.”

And so modern dance was the vehicle that brought Christa to America, to New York City, to both teach dance and to study with the best dancers she could find—major figures such as Mary Wigman and Harald Kreuzberg. And it was love and marriage that would inspire more movement—out of the city, to Hartford, Connecticut, and into the role of mother, which she continues to cherish and regard as one of the greatest blessings of her life, of which she counts many.

A longtime handwork teacher at the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Spring Valley, New York, Christa remains a doer. Her nearly lifelong daily exercise routine, instilled in her at a young age by her mother, and her abiding interest in anthroposophy as a path of self-education, keep her limber in body and in spirit. Her deep satisfaction and joy in life simply radiates from her heart-warmed smile and can be contagious, a wonderful gift for this or any community. “As long as you learn, life is worthwhile,” she told me. “There’s so much to do, there is no boredom,” and “at Camphill Ghent the people are interested in the life around them,” so she feels a kinship with her community in this regard especially. “When you have movement, and can move to where you want to go, you can master life.”