Having been born in 1951, I guess I could be called one of the old codgers of Dancing Rabbit. I was raised in Kansas City, Missouri so our move here in 1999 wasn’t the huge geographical change that my wife, Alline Anderson, experienced. It’s interesting to look back and see how all the events in my life have led to this moment in time.
In 1976 I became very disillusioned with city life in general and Kansas City in particular. Here is a metropolitan area that epitomizes the virus that we have come to know as suburban sprawl. Looking for a better way, I loaded up a trailer and headed “back to the land.” In northern Minnesota I found a rocky, hilly little farm where I set about trying to build community and live more sustainably. The farm grew to include miscellaneous friends and family members (seven adults and three children). We did a pretty fair job of it actually, peaking at a point where we were providing about 80% of our own food. But alas, two of the three couples on the farm divorced and thus was the beginning of the end of an 11-year era.
Looking for new adventures, I did a stint in Africa with the Peace Corps where I taught building mathematics and carpentry practicals in a vocational college. While in Uganda I was once again struck by how incredibly wealthy America is and how we squander our gifts – I found I was quite content living in a third world country on a simple diet with minimal possessions and conveniences. The $100 per month I was earning seemed an obscenely large amount of money compared to what my colleagues were raising their families on.
Upon returning to the US I moved to Minneapolis where I completed my Bachelor’s degree at the age of 43. (Yes, I guess it did take me a while.) Being a slow learner, something happened one day that was to, once again, change my life and ultimately lead me here to Dancing Rabbit. Although I had been a card carrying member of the Sierra Club for many years and had gone on service trips to the boundary waters canoe area of Northern Minnesota, I had never made a trip to the area the club had taken it’s name from. Such is fate. In June of 1993 I participated in a backpacking trip to the Donner Pass area and it was there I met the love of my life, the assistant leader. From the start I could see how Alline’s love for nature and her environmental ethic was in perfect alignment with my own – not to mention her taste in music! I went on a trip she led the next summer, and in July of 1994 spent some time in the Bay Area as her guest after the trip. After maintaining a seven-month, long distance relationship between Berkeley and Minneapolis, I moved to the Bay Area. On September 14, 1997, seven months after proposing on Valentine’s Day (OK – I’m a hopeless romantic) we were married and I started, without a doubt, the most fantastic, rewarding, exciting and challenging chapter of my life to date.
Using a term borrowed from a friend of Alline’s, my life in Berkeley was sprinkled with “fairy dust.” The first temporary job I took turned into a remarkable career position with a wonderfully green division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory called the California Institute for Energy Efficiency. I loved the people I worked with, I loved our life in Berkeley and became active volunteering with groups such as the Bicycle Friendly Berkeley Coalition, where I sat on the board of directors for most of fours years. But there was something missing. I felt like I was trying to stem the tide of societal sewage with a mop and bucket. Sprawl was still out of control as was air pollution (evidenced by the stinky little industry behind the loft where we lived) and… well all the rest – no need preaching to the choir. Although I love California, the San Francisco Bay Area and Berkeley in particular, I felt like this still wasn’t quite the answer for me. Alline and I became very frustrated with inflated housing prices and the fact that although our social calendars were full, we lacked a sense of community. In my frustration one day I remembered a catch phrase I had heard or read somewhere – “sustainable community” – and did a web search. Browsing through the numerous hits, “Dancing Rabbit” caught my eye. Alline and I excitedly devoured every line of the web site, discussing it most every evening. We both agreed that if DR was everything it appeared to be, it was exactly what we were looking for. (Alline was actually a bit reluctant at first but I’ll let her tell her own part of that story.) We began begging the Rabbits for a short-notice late-season visit, they finally relented and we visited for a week in February. It didn’t take us long to realize that the folks we met did indeed match up with our impressions from the web site, and we requested membership. The following four-month period was a whirlwind of activity. Giving notice at work, drawing up house plans, packing, selling, giving away…and in June of 1999 we made the move.
Dancing Rabbit… sustainability… eco-village… here I have found my tribe – I have found my people. We seem to be living in a dream but it’s our dream. I am awakened every morning by the sun and the singing of birds (OK, and the mooing of cattle) and not by an alarm clock. When the day is done and the sun sinks low, so do my eyelids. I putter along through the days from task to task in a natural progression, largely without deadlines or schedules. We’ve been living in our little “mostly finished” cottage since the winter of 2000 and I wonder if I’ll ever really finish it—I keep starting new projects like the award winning Milkweed Mercantile! We opened in April of 2010. Our website is www.milkweedmercantile.com. Come give us a visit! We’d love to pamper you and show that sustainability doesn’t have to be about deprivation.