Conservation and love of the green, natural world is the earliest joy I can recall. My father loved mammals and birds and all natural history, and from both parents I got a conservationist value for trees and preservation. Forest floors and trees just felt good, made me happy. In high school and college conservation and ecology got to be something requiring action, and eventually something to make the focus of my education. I had never given a thought to farming as a child; I later discovered this was because farming as the popular imagination saw it had almost ceased to exist, become invisible. When I first learned about organic farming, and started apprenticing on small farms, my life changed entirely. Farming was an excuse to be surrounded by that green life always, to foster it, to see it grow and transform before my eyes.
Early in college, while working at a Quaker camp called Farm and Wilderness in Vermont’s Green Mountains, I also picked up a Peterson’s guide to wild edible plants and started learning to identify (and eat) everything I saw. Before long that became a wide-ranging urge for self-sufficiency, the desire to be able to do everything I possibly could for myself, without relying on a culture that already appeared too far gone down a dark road to turn back. Self-sufficiency; farming; the two complemented each other perfectly. The only thing missing was people–most farms were pretty lonely places, and the economics seemed pretty bleak, going it alone as a farmer.
I went to Berkeley for college, and before long found the student co-ops. For three years I lived in a vegetarian coop called Lothlorien with 60 other people, and aside from giving me the best “hippy living” stories to tell, it was also my family, the first time I’d ever felt truly at home on my own. Sharing labor, sharing food, sharing joy and sadness and everything else–it just made sense somewhere deep in my consciousness. I developed a dream of starting my own hippy commune, knowing that my student community, no matter how tight, was highly transient and impermanent. We would farm, grow all our own food, make all our own fun, build all our own houses, live in joy and peace.
While in the midst of that communal co-op life, I attended a communities conference in northern California, where I first met Tony and heard him talk about Dancing Rabbit. The next summer I was on a communities trip cross-country with my girlfriend, but despite our strong intent to visit DR, it didn’t work out because of scheduling. To start the new millennium, we homesteaded on her family’s place in the Sierra foothills of northern California, raised chickens, planted fruit trees and gardens, and raised an orphaned oriole, but sadly we were no longer in love, and two people on a lonely mountainside was not enough. Just before leaving on a trip the next winter, I realized I’d been too long absent from community (a year and a half already!), and in a fit of inspiration knew I wanted to be at Dancing Rabbit.
I wished to live a unique life. As a child I had sometimes glimpsed a disparity between the entertainment that popular culture offered, and a hollow feeling I got that none of it would fulfill my curiosity and spirit. DR would open the door to that unique life.
I was an intern at DR in the summer of 2001, and felt instantly at home. I also met and fell deeply in love with Sara, another intern and now my life partner, and all the pieces seemed to be falling into place. The only problem was, there’s no ocean in Missouri. Last year we lived across the street from the ocean on the coast of Maine, where my family had just bought land, and parts of it I loved, but in the end we were lonely. While Sara was gone on a trip, I realized I could spend the next ten years trying to start my own community, or I could move to DR (ocean or no ocean) and start living the life I wanted to live right now. After that, there was no turning back; following a winter’s journey south of the Equator, we moved here in April. Here I am, building my own house, raising my own chickens, soon to be planting my own gardens and orchards and everything else I always wanted to do, but I’m not alone any more.
There is one more piece of my puzzle yet, without which I would not be here. In studying Chinese and Russian in high school, I developed a fascination for faraway places, other lives I could only imagine. Starting with two summer trips to China and then one to Russia and the Baltic in high school, I have traveled much farther than I would ever have thought possible as a kid. I spent a semester in China midway through college, and then traveled through Southeast Asia, where I’ve returned a number of times. India was very hard on me, but amazing nonetheless; Nepal I loved. Greece and Turkey seemed like living canvases of human history; something about Western Europe felt extremely familiar. Every place I visited exuded a tantalizing cultural longevity I’d never known. Last winter Sara and I touched down in Thailand and Borneo, then spent two months in Australia and New Zealand (which felt a little more youthful, like our own culture), dipping through Fiji on the way home. The more I traveled, though, the more urgently I wanted to be still, to find my own home, rather than forever looking at how other people in other places lived their lives. Traveling has been a tremendous education–there are so many astounding colors and smells and tastes to be found, so many shades of beauty but in the end I only wish to sit by my own fire in my own little house and be at peace in my own place. I still want to travel, trying to find more meaningful ways to interact with other cultures, like farming. But being able to truly come home from such journeys will make those experiences infinitely more rich. Life here is by no means quiet, but my heart and mind are finally at peace–I have found my home.