Land Day Reflections: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Dancing Rabbit celebrated its 18th anniversary Saturday with a family-oriented wiffle ball game.  Here, young Emory gets ready to swing while Brent pitches. The score? Who cares? Photo by Dennis.

Dancing Rabbit celebrated its 18th anniversary Saturday with a family-oriented wiffle ball game. Here, young Emory gets ready to swing while Brent pitches. The score? Who cares? Photo by Dennis.

Eighteen years ago seven dreamers, armed with a plan, two old computers and a lot of optimism, purchased 280 acres in rural Scotland County, Missouri. There wasn’t much here at the time — a machine shed, an old pole barn that had been used to house pigs, a pond with a leaky dam and a lot of eroded soil.

With a lot of hard work, creativity and laughter, things look a lot different at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage today. There have been at least 24 buildings constructed, mostly by hand with renewable and sustainable materials. We have planted thousands of trees, acres and acres of native grasses and forbs, amended many acres of depleted soil for our organic gardens, and met hundreds of new friends.

This is Alline reporting for Dancing Rabbit, in celebration of our 18th Land Day.

On the first Saturday of each October we gather to celebrate Land Day, to honor the day the land was purchased. We try to have something for everyone. This year featured our Land Day ritual, a ceremony where we share the history of Dancing Rabbit through stories, keeping memories alive through oral tradition.

There was also an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, with Hassan at the stove flippin’ flapjacks as fast as we could eat them; a land walk with a surprise tea party out at what we call “the old homestead”; a game of Ultimate Frisbee and a game of wiffle ball, which we love because anyone can play; a potluck dinner; and lastly songs and more stories. Whew!

Walking through the village yesterday I did an informal survey of what Rabbits liked best about Land Day, and why. When I asked eight-year-old Zane to choose his favorite part of Land Day, there was absolutely no hesitation — “PANCAKES!” he exclaimed. “All you can eat pancakes!” Then he thought about it for a moment and added “…and all of the dessert at the potluck dinner…oh, and the sliders!” I think it’s safe to say we have a future gourmand in our midst.

Jordan, a Mercantile work exchanger (also referred to as a “wexer”) agreed with Zane: it was the pancakes, hands down.

Aspects of the ritual ceremony were favorites of many. Kale, Ironweed wexer, was touched by the stories from the ritual: “They help me feel more connected to everyone here.”

Ted enjoyed “the stories of calamity, and reminders of how we were able to fix things by working together.” He’s right about multiple calamities – Ma’ikwe’s roof blowing off, the two-story Skyhouse building almost collapsing into the cistern in the middle of a thunderstorm, Ironweed’s turbine blowing down… In retrospect they make for entertaining stories, but at the time were frightening and challenging. It is helpful to reflect on how, even in the bleakest of times, we came together to solve problems, and were able to do so precisely because we were working together.

Nathan was impressed that we were able to tell the stories without any props, notes or founders, demonstrating that our community is old enough to have a true oral tradition.

Kurt appreciated the personal nature of the calling of the directions; he mentioned what a lovely job Bob did with his presentation of the South, evoking warm winds and warm people.

Erica, one of our newer members, remarked how after the ritual she felt lucky that so many people had worked so hard to build our little village: “They’re not even here but we still remember them, and what they did.”

Cob mentioned that he learned new parts of the Dancing Rabbit story this year when Stan from Sandhill recounted what it was like for their small community before DR arrived: “Like-minded folks were few and far between; many of their friends were at least 50 miles away.”

Here at DR we will always be grateful for the groundwork that Sandhill did, enabling DR to settle here in Scotland County and helping us so very much, especially in the early days. It is a blessing to have neighbors like our friends at Sandhill (whom we love and respect)!

Other Rabbits mentioned how much they enjoyed the land walk, which was led by Thomas. Way out on the land the walkers encountered a surprise tea party hosted by Katherine, Mae and Althea, who jumped out at new arrivals and shouted “Happy Land Day!” When asked what her favorite part of the day was, Althea giggled and said, “Hiding!”

Mae, recently returned from a trip to New York, said with a sigh, “I’m just glad to be home.”

Thomas took the opportunity to climb the old windmill, although he did say it is getting more difficult each year – the platform is no longer at the top, and the entire structure is covered with Virginia Creeper. I don’t really believe that he’s deterred much – I’m looking forward to watching him climb it for at least another 20 years…

Vick cheerfully said he liked the wiffle ball the best, because it’s easy and not strenuous. Nik loved the song circle, others said “the pancakes were awesome” and “this place is really rad and we’re creating it together!”

I couldn’t say it better myself!

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Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us  (dancingrabbitaticdotorg)  .