I’m sure that lots happened this last week here at Dancing Rabbit, but all I can think about is singing.
Christina here, bringing news of drums, voices, and circles.
Before I moved to Dancing Rabbit, singing was barely a part of my life. Sure, I sang to the kids to get them to sleep at night and I sang in the car all the time. But I’d been told sometime somewhere that I wasn’t a good singer, and so I never really sang with or around other people.
When I came to my first visitor session, I was by myself. I heard that there was this thing called “song circle,” but I was too timid to go. I remember walking by the Common House that night and seeing people sitting around on the couches and chairs in a loose circle and singing. It looked intriguing.
I decided that it would be a good experience for the kids—educational and all that. So when I came back for my second visitor session, this time with the whole family, we decided to check out this song circle thing.
When we finally moved here, early last February, the kids and I kept showing up on Wednesday nights at 7:45, sitting in those couches and chairs, and learning new songs. The way it usually works is someone starts off by requesting a song. We all do our best to sing it, or learn it if we don’t know it. We then go around the circle, and everyone has a chance to request what we sing. There are a few stronger singers, and there are some who are not always (or often) on tune. There are also a few who are good at leading and teaching new songs, and some who forget the words every week.
There wasn’t any big revelation for me, or a moment when I realized how important singing had become in my life; it was more of a gradual change. But one day, I found myself looking forward to Wednesday night, making lists of songs to request, and walking around singing the new songs I’d learned all week long.
Fast forward to this past weekend. Alyssa decided a few months ago to organize a weekend singing retreat here at DR. The idea was that we would spend a day and a half learning new songs and eating together and not doing much else. Because Alyssa is a master organizer and has a great talent for making things happen, she rounded up over 30 adults and I think 11 kids, from the tri-communities as well as from La Plata and further afield. Housing was arranged, meals were coordinated, tea and snacks were set up, and chairs were placed in a circle again, this time in La Casa.
So, we spent Friday afternoon and night and Saturday morning and afternoon—and a bonus kid session on Saturday night—learning new songs. The amazing song leaders who had traveled in for the retreat kept the energy high and the intentions focused. We sang rounds and harmonies and danced in circles and lay on the floor on mats. We learned African songs and Norwegian songs and folk songs and brand new songs that had been written by a friend of a friend. We sang sad songs and joyous songs and silly songs and hauntingly beautiful songs. We shared lots and lots of good food—so much that there was enough for an unplanned dinner on Saturday night. My throat was aching by Saturday lunch, and my head was full of many many new songs.
This might sound like a lot of singing—and it was. On Sunday I felt that strange mental hangover that I feel after a big holiday or vacation is over.
Obviously, community can exist without singing, but I’ve been told that many communities have singing traditions. It’s interesting to think about why this is—I’m pretty sure that none of my friends back in mainstream life have anything of the sort in their lives.
For me, there are a few things I love about this specific kind of singing.
It’s super cheap entertainment. In fact, it’s usually free. Not that I refuse to ever spend money on things that are fun, but I definitely do resent the idea that I think is pretty common in mainstream life that you have to spend money to do anything exciting—going out to dinner, seeing a movie, even driving to a friend’s house all cost something. But walking over to the Common House on a Wednesday night costs nothing but the time.
A bond is created when people are sharing their voices in song. It’s partly another example of a time when we work together to achieve something. It’s also the fact that there’s nowhere to hide—you have to make eye contact at some point— no devices or even songbooks to hide behind.
I get out of my head for the time being. It is not easy for me to stop thinking—about what I have to do today, what I haven’t done yet, what I already did, what we’re having for dinner, or whether or not the clothes are dry yet. But when I’m singing a song at song circle, I am totally there. It’s enough to think about the words of a song that I silence all those other thoughts for a little while, but it’s not so much that it becomes a stressful task in and of itself.
Watching my kids sing is one of the greatest joys in my life. Looking over to see their sweet relaxed faces, totally focused in the moment and enjoying themselves, is really quite incredible. They are just so pure and innocent in that moment.
There are many many reasons why we moved to Dancing Rabbit, and for the most part, those reasons are still relevant to our decision to stay. But it’s also fascinating how many things I love about living here that I hadn’t even anticipated. Singing is one of those. I’m hooked now, and I don’t intend on stopping any time soon. Even if I am off-key (most of the time).
Want to sit in circle and sing with us? One great way is through our Sustainable Living Visitor Program! The first visitor session of the year starts April 16th, and spots are filling up! Apply to visit Dancing Rabbit now!