My “Prehistory” and Childhood
Once upon a time, the train lines had guys who stood outside, come rain, snow, sun or large metallic objects and waved their arms to signal the trains whether the could come on or stop or switch tracks, etc. One of those guys was a lad named Richard who was wickedly bright and loved language. Eventually, Richard—ever loyal to the trains and train people—worked his way up to being the editor of the country’s biggest union newspaper and became one of those crazy “American success stories”.In another part of the country, a guy named Fred was working his way through medical school. His sister had died in a ridiculously preventable gun accident when he was a teenager and it inspired him into a life of service. He already liked science and had taken up bird banding at a young age. That hobby would be handed down to both his sons, and in turn to their children, along with the service ethic.
These two guys were my grandfathers, and there are days when I see myself more clearly than anything else as their granddaughter.I was raised by their children: a clay artist with solid working class notions about the world and an idealistic ecologist who actually did save a small corner of the world by being his father’s meticulously careful scientist son. My childhood was an odd mix of typical college prep-ness, strands of self-sufficiency training and a biology lab. I followed my dad around, banding birds, camping and playing field assistant, and my best, longest standing friend was/is my mom. I was the only girl in my generation on either side of the family, and I basically shunned domesticity in favor of playing football with the guys and contemplating what big important stuff I was going to get to do with my life.
Major Themes as an Adult
I ended up at Dancing Rabbit through the convergence of three themes in my life: sustainability activism/teaching, community living and spirituality.
Sustainability: At the age of 20, I dropped out of college to take my first professional eco-activist job, as the assistant canvass director for one of the PIRGs. It was a big fat lesson in burnout and I discovered I don’t have the stomach for confrontational, enemy-making politics… but I never did manage to get the activist bug out of my system. I leaned into education instead and have almost always since then been involved in some kind of teaching.
Spiritual and Personal Growth: At 24, after years of searching for a way to express my deeply-felt spirituality in a way that would satisfy a natural scientist’s daughter’s brain, I was blessed with stumbling upon a course called Avatar and starting, in earnest, my quest for growth, connection and self-less service. While my path has taken me away from Avatar, I am grateful for that work (which lasted 15 years) that helped me become more self-responsible, appreciative and empowered. I’ve also always had a strong pagan-esque relationship to the land and waters of the midwest, and currently feel held by the lovely, rolling land I live on.
I’ve also discovered a strong affinity for Buddhism. In 2010, I was diagnosed with chronic lyme disease, after nearly a year of going physically downhill with a “mystery illness”. Facing my mortality in my early 40’s was helped immensely by Buddhist practice and study, as well as by becoming part of the chronic lyme community. I created a blog about my and other patients’ experiences, which also helped me feel less powerless while being bed and couch bound for the better part of two years when I was at my sickest. Never have I been more grateful for having a real community around me than during those years, and now that I am back on my feet, being able to serve that community feels like a real gift.
Community Living: At 26, pregnant with my son, Jibran, I landed in my first Intentional Community. Once there, I feel like I had found my calling: here was a place where you could really walk your talk! Since then, I’ve been part of 7 different groups and have tried just about ever flavor of community living: spiritual and secular, rural and urban, income sharing and not: you name it, I feel like I’ve had a foot in it. I got involved in 2001 with national networking as part of the Fellowship for Intentional Community and have done various volunteer and professional roles for them, currently as a Board member. Nearly 2 decades in to my IC journey, I’m more convinced than ever that we have a great thing going for folks who really want to live their values.
Along the way, I learned how to cook (and my grandmothers’ stopped rolling in their graves) got passionate about consensus and other forms of participatory democracy, and married my mentor, long-time FIC organizer and group process guy, Laird Schaub. I also had a second child—a girl named Ananda who I birthed for some really close friends to adopt (talk about community building!) I now have a very cool relationship with my birth daughter that is a little like being a grandparent. In 2007, I published a book about the intersection of spirituality and environmental activism. And in the fall of 2014, my son Jibran started his freshman year at Shimer College… and I count his transition as a community education success story.
My current roles in life include serving as the Executive Director of Dancing Rabbit’s nonprofit and doing regular public speaking on behalf of DR, the Intentional Communities movement as a whole and, ultimately, the health of our planet. I still love teaching and outreach work, and am grateful to Dancing Rabbit for providing such a great container for me to do my work. I also have discovered a deep love of teaching consensus and other group process topics, and have a very part time consulting practice.
Home, Home on the Range?
I returned to Dancing Rabbit in 2008 after many years of circling around, living here for short stints, visiting… visiting again… Since returning I’ve built my own natural home, helped us develop a consensus-inspired Village Council system and facilitated many meetings. And cried some tears… shared a lot of hugs… laughed a lot… in other words, it’s a full life!
Dancing Rabbit is home for me because it embodies the things I value most from my blood family and life journey: balancing the practical with the idealistic, acting rather than complaining, leading with inspiration rather than anger, working things out through communication and compassion rather than power-tripping… all the while staying clear-eyed and real about the very real pain and suffering in the world, and knowing that we can, in our own small circles, impact things in a positive way. Having companions for this life is about as good as it gets, and I am very, very happy to be here.